With The Wild One airing this Friday on TCM, it seems like a good excuse to post on this blog some previously unpublished thoughts. Readers of Lee Marvin: Point Blank are already familiar with Lee Marvin’s thoughts on the role; producer Stanley Kramer’s thoughts on the film’s controversy; the headache of working with Brando AND Marvin and most interesting of all, what the actual bikers depicted in the film thought of Lee Marvin’s performance.
The film has indeed held up fairly well over the years, thanks in large part to Marvin’s performance. It’s legacy has become even greater thanks to the influence it has had creating the genre of biker films, the emulation by Hell’s Angels founder Sonny Barger, and a strange effect it had a young British musical group that would become the most famous rock band of all time.
Lee’s first wife, Betty, was one of my earliest and most influential interviews and her observations and experiences were amazing. Below, are a few previously unpublished thoughts on her ex-husband and his then co worker, Marlon Brando from 1995…..
Betty: I found similarities in what Brando was saying about acting and what Lee felt. I know the time we spent together, Brando, Lee and I, I would be hearing them, they were very much in accord. Personally, there was also a mutual respect there.
Dwayne: I heard, depending on who you talked to, they either showed respect for each other or they didn’t like each other, there was a rivalry.
Betty: Brando lived next door to us. When they did The Wild One, he was our son’s babysitter. We were together all the time. Brando taught me to play bongos on the peanut butter jars. We did things together. They were different in some ways in that Brando, compared to Lee, was very childlike. Brando was the one who would make Lee laugh. He’d tell me that they would drive to the studio and he’d tell me later, “Do you know Bud was trying to pick up a girl at the red light?” He was like a kid, flirting.
Dwayne: He’s still like that. Did you see him on Larry King?
Betty: I liked him on Larry King because I liked his honesty. I also think he’s very bright. He’s precocious. He’s very bright and..
Dwayne: Very manipulative too.
Betty: Oh he always did.
Dwayne: In the The Wild One, I think Lee was one of the few actors who wasn’t blown off the screen by Brando.
Betty: Not at all…..You just saw that adrenalin pumping. Also, They were both young actors, but Lee had a maturity that Brando didn’t have yet. Brando was kind of a kid next to Lee. Lee was like the adult in that gang. Remember, he was like the older guy.
Dwayne: A lot of critics felt he was to old for the part..
Betty: He was perfect.