Marlon Brando as Johnny Strabler, outlaw motorcycle club leader
Central California, Summer 1953
Film: The Wild One
Release Date: December 30, 1953
Director: László Benedek
“Hey, Johnny, what are you rebelling against?”
This famous exchange originated among the actual biker gangs that producer Stanley Kramer had brought on set to play themselves. When Kramer asked what it was they were “rebelling” against, a member cracked back to him, “Well, whaddaya got?” The line so encapsulated the culture and attitude of bikers during the era that it was incorporated into The Wild One, though the question is posed by Mildred, the platinum blonde beauty salon operator that one of Johnny’s boys picked up in a bar.
Inspired by actual events over a rambunctious fourth of July weekend in Hollister, California, in 1947, The Wild One was based on Frank Rooney’s short story “The Cyclists’ Raid” that appeared in Harper’s magazine in January 1951. It was swiftly adapted for the screen, though the locations involved were changed to the fictional California burgs of Carbondale and Wrightsville, the latter being the “screwball town”—according to Dextro (Jerry Paris)—where most of the action takes place.
The credits are a bit misleading, introducing Marlon Brando to us as The Wild One, though his character Johnny Strabler turns out to be the most restrained of his hell-raising confederates, particularly when compared to the obnoxious pipsqueak Mouse (Gil Stratton), the larcenous, simple-minded Pigeon (Alvy Moore), or rival gang leader Chino (Lee Marvin). Continue reading
Charles Bronson as Arthur Bishop, disciplined but depressed contract killer
Los Angeles to Naples, Italy, Fall 1972
Film: The Mechanic
Release Date: November 17, 1972
Director: Michael Winner
Costume Designer: Lambert Marks
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
After serving in supporting roles for many great Westerns and war movies of the ’60s—including The Magnificent Seven, The Great Escape, The Dirty Dozen, and Once Upon a Time in the West—Hollywood was ready for Charles Bronson to take on leading roles that would establish him as one of the greatest silver screen “tough guys” of all time.
The Mechanic starred Bronson as Arthur Bishop, a skilled assassin whose quiet, luxurious lifestyle is disrupted when he takes on a protégé, Steve McKenna (Jan-Michael Vincent), the hotheaded, sociopathic son of his former boss “Big Harry” (Keenan Wynn) who he was assigned to kill. Arthur begins mentoring Steve after Big Harry’s death, taking the narcissistic young man flying, giving him shooting lessons, and eventually bringing him along for several hits.