Black SplatThe Wild One (1953)

"Man, you are too square. I'll have to straighten you out."

The Wild One - Johnny speaks to Kathie Bleeker

Description: Marlon Brando as Johnny Strabler, the leader of a motorcycle gang enlightens waitress Kathie Bleeker (Mary Murphy) in the motion picture The Wild One (1953).

Johnny is the leader of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club (BRMC). One day, his gang cruises in to the small California town of Wrightsville. The townfolks are a bit apprehesive, but Harry Bleeker (Robert Keith), the elderly town sheriff lets them stay.

Stopping off at Bleeker's Cafe, Johnny meets Kathie Bleeker, the lawman's daughter. Although Johnny doesn't like cops, he likes Kathie and decides to stay a while.

Curious about Johnny's lifestyle, Kathie asks, "Well, what d'ya do? I mean, do you just ride around or do you go on some sort of a picnic or something?"

The dark and brooding rebel replies, "A picnic? Man, you are too square. I'm... I... I'll have to straighten you out. Now, listen, you don't go any one special place. That's cornball style."

Snapping his fingers, Johnny concludes, "You just go. A bunch of kids get together after all week. It builds up. The idea is to have a ball. Now if you're gonna stay cool, you gotta wail. You gotta put something down. You've gotta make some jive."

While dancing in the cafe bar, Mildred (Peggy Maley) from the Beauty Shop asks, "Hey, Johnny, what are you rebelling against?" Johnny replies, "Whadda you got?" Then Johnny grabs Kathie and begins to dance, but she declines to continue, however her interest is peaked and she will eventually spend more time with this leather-clad rebel of the road.

When Charlie Thomas (Hugh Sanders), one of the town locals first sees the gang members beginning to get rowdy, he says:

"I've seen hoodlums like this before. If you don't get tough with them the minute they get out of line you're sunk. You're the cop, aren't you? If you can't boot these jerks out there's plenty of us can, even if we have to bust a few heads."

Soon after, The Beetles, a rival biker gang arrives in town. Johnny belonged to the Beetles but he had a falling out and the gang split into two factions. The Beetles gang is now headed by Chino (Lee Marvin).

The Wild One - Chino with Johnny

Waxing nostalgic, Chino says, "I love you. Johnny. I've been looking for you in every ditch from Fresno to here, hoping you was dead...You know I miss you. Ever since the club split up, I miss you. We all missed ya... you miss 'im? yea. The Beetles missed ya. All the Beetles missed ya. Come on Johnny, let's you and me go inside and have a beer."

Johnny and Chino get into a fight when Chino takes Johnny's motorbike trophy. Chino starts the fight with a sucker punch, but, in the end, Johnny gets the upper hand and knocks Chino into the dirt.

But the trouble continues when an impatient Charlie Thomas slowly moves his car through the crowd of bikers and accidentally knocks over a parked motorcycle and injures Meatball, a member of the Beetles. Angry, Chino encourages his gang to overturn Charlie's car. Sheriff Bleeker breaks up the violence and puts Chino in jail. Then Kathie chastises Johnny for not controlling his crew.

Kathie: Fine, go someplace else and cause some trouble.
Johnny: Listen, he put Chino in the can. Why didn't he put that frogface (Charlie) in the can.
Kathie: He was afraid of making a mistake. he was afraid of losing his job. He's the town joke and I'm stuck with him. He doesn't got any business being a cop. No more that you do with that (the trophy). It's a fake. Like you. Well, you've impressed everybody now. Big motorcycle racer. Why don't you take that back and give it to someone that really won it.
Johnny: Say what? Who are you? Some girl who makes sandwiches or something? Your daddy wears a hat and says he's a big, important man. You start to tell me what to do. Nobody tells me what to do! You keep needling me, if I want to, I'm gonna take this joint apart and your not gonna know what hit you.

Later that night, gang members rustle up Charlie Thomas and throw him in jail with Chino. Then the two gangs join forces and begin to intimidate the townfolks and destroy property. At one point, a bunch of bikers chase and surround Kathie Bleeker, but Johnny rescues her and drives away on his motorcycle.

After a long ride in the country, Johnny stops, grabs Kathie and roughly kisses her. Too tired to fight back, Kathie lets him kiss her, but Johnny can feel her disinterest.

"You think you're too good for me. Nobody's too good for me! Anybody thinks they're too good for me, I make sure I knock 'em over sometime. Right now, I could slap you around to show you how good you are and tomorrow, I'm someplace else and I don't even know you or nothing...I wouldn't waste my time with a square like you. What I want to knock my self out for. I'm gonna take you back and dump you."

Finally, Kathie asks Johnny if he will take her with him. She's been looking for a way to get out of town for a long time. But Johnny refuses.

Disappointed, Kathie runs away and Johnny follows after her. But one of the locals interprets a simple love spat as an assault and he rustles up a band of vigilantes. As they beat him savagely, Johnny says, "My old man used to hit harder than that."

Johnny escapes on his motorcycle, but he is knocked off by a tire iron thrown at his bike. Unfortunately, his riderless bike crashes into Jimmy, the old bartender at Bleeker's Cafe, and kills him.

The Wild One - Johnny in Custody

County Sheriff Singer (Jay C. Flippen) arrests Johnny for manslaughter, but luckily, two witnesses appear to clear Johnny of all charges.

While in his custody, Sheriff Singer comments on Johnny and the whole mess he caused:

"I don't get you. I don't get your act at all, and I don't think you do either. I don't think you know what you're trying to do or how to go about it. I think you're stupid. Real stupid and real lucky. Last night you scraped by, just barely; but a man's dead on account of something you let get started even though you didn't start it."

As Sheriff Singer releases Johnny, he says, "I don't know if there's any good in you. I don't know if there's anything in you. But, I'm gonna take a big fat chance... and let you go."

Not expecting such a cool reaction, the Sheriff Singer says, "What's a matter? You been hit on the head so often, you don't know when you're getting a break? At least say thank you." Standing by, Kathie tells the Sheriff, "'It's alright. He doesn't know how."

The sheriff fines the bikers for the damage they caused and then orders the bikers out of the county. But Johnny makes one last vist to the town or Wrightsville to see Kathie.

He enters the cafe, orders a cup of coffee then gets up to depart. But before leaving, he smiles and gives Kathie the trophy stolen from a Carbondale, California motorcycle race at the beginning of the film. Kathie returns Johnny's smile and then he hops on his motor bike and heads out of town.

Note: The Wild One (1953) is based on "The Cyclist' Raid," a short story printed in the January 1951 issue of Harper's Magazine and inspired by a 1947 Fourth of July biker street party in Hollister, California.

The film’s opening title read: “This is a shocking story. It could never take place in most American towns—but it did in this one. It is a public challenge not to let it happen again.” (“again” being a biker gang taking over a town).

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