Guest Author - Amber Grey
When “The Wild One” was released in 1953 it became one of the first, if not the first, to lead the way for many films about teenage rebellion Hollywood released in the 1950s. It is interesting to think how an audience would have thought of such rebel classics if it were not for “The Wild One.” The film sparked an issue, a feeling which was new and gave birth to a whole genre of films that were previously non-existent. Today, some critics find it as not a great film and label it as a cult classic at best, but “The Wild One” has done so much more than a varied group of cult-fans - it has influenced Hollywood, fashion and music.
In fashion, “The Jacket” Marlon Brando wore in the film is an iconic piece of clothing not just for men, but also for women, who like to dress in the motorcycle/punk style. At the time of the film’s production, it had a very limited budget and Brando had to provide his own clothing for his character “Johnny Strabler”. Being the consummate, method actor that he was, Brando studied from bikers and gangs, and the clothes they had worn. He incorporated their gruff, dark style into his own wardrobe. “The Jacket” epitomizes the comfort-ability Johnny has with his “ambiguous” rebellion. In one particular scene, his “ ” is further stated in a famous quip, “What are you rebelling against?” To which Johnny replies, “What’d ya got?” The jacket he wore is a Schott NYC Perfecto 618 and today it is still available for purchase. To further influence of Brando’s “Johnny,” some fans customize the logo of the “Black Rebel Motorcycle Club” gang the same way it appears on the back of Brando’s jacket.
In the music industry, there is a theory that “The Wild One” had something to do with naming one of the most icon musical groups in history. Amongst the many rumors as to how The Beatles became “The Beatles” there is one which involves an ex-band mate of the group, Stuart Sudcliffe. Sudcliffe suggested the name “The Beetles”, after the rival gang follows Marlon Brando’s group, the “Black Rebel Motorcycle Club,” into a one-horse town to make trouble for everyone. Sudcliffe had a fixation on calling the band that name, only John Lennon was the one who changed it from the double “e” to “ea” because they were known as a beat band. The theory is slightly disproved by the fact that “The Wild One” (1953) was banned from the United Kingdom for nearly fourteen years after the film’s release worldwide. It is somewhat unlikely that “The Beatles” had seen the film for inspiration, unless they were told about the plot.
Today, “The Wild One” continues to inspire contemporary directors including Steven Spielberg. In his fourth installment to the “Indiana Jones” franchise, “Indiana Jones and The Crystal Skull” (2008), it was Brando’s character “Johnny” that was Spielberg’s inspiration for Indiana’s son “Mutt” (played by Shia Labeouf). When Labeouf accepted the role as Mutt, Spielberg had him watch three films, “Blackboard Jungle” (1955), “Rebel Without A Cause” (1954) and of course, “The Wild One” (1953), to get the sense of the idolizing figures a teenage boy had in the 1950s. In the film, the first scene Labeouf appears in, is at on a motorcycle with a tight, black leather jacket and a white cap. It is very clear who Mutt idolizes in the first moment you seem him.