(3.4.1924 – 1.7.2004)
Marlon Brando's iconic performance in The Wild One (1953) as outlaw Johnny Strabler, gang leader of Black Rebels Motorcycle Club, dressed in a classic leather jacket and riding his own 1950 Triumph Thunderbird 6T, caused consternation to Triumph's US importers of the time.
According to the book, "Triumph Motorcycle In America", Triumph's US importers, Johnson Motors, objected to the prominent use of Triumph motorcycles in the film, as the subject matter was renegade motorcycle gangs taking over a small town. Ironically enough, however, the current Triumph factory now uses images from the film to advertise their motorcycles.
Apparently, Elvis Presley was highly inspired by Brando in The Wild One and imitated his looks, thus sparking off the whole sideburns craze.
James Dean was also inspired by The Wild One and Brando and based his persona much on Brando's role as Johnny. James Dean bought a Triumph TR5 Trophy motorcycle to mimic Brando's own Triumph Thunderbird 6T motorcycle from the film.
Appearing opposite Brando was Lee Marvin as a rival gang leader. One story even maintains that The Beatles took their name from the motorcycle club led by Lee Marvin, the Beetles, as referred to in the Beatles Anthology.
So I watched The Wild One again last night, I've seen it maybe 5-6 times over the last 3 decades, and it still retains the same element of cool, even if the characters don't seem as 'bad-ass' as they did when I was a kid :)