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With Hollywood westerns, a little bit of research goes a long way - in my lifetime, I've had more success with this genre of movie than perhaps any other, all because I do a little research before choosing what to watch. "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1962) is the twelfth of fourteen collaborative westerns with John Ford and John Wayne (the first and ninth, respectively, being "Stagecoach" (1939) and "The Searchers" (1956)). It is perhaps the most beautiful western I've ever seen. Loaded with famous actors, every single major and minor star outperforms in this deceptively sad meditation upon grief, love, and any of a half-dozen other basic human traits, all attending a costume party in what is most likely mid-19th-century Colorado, and cloaked as a moral dilemma involving the death of another human being. Never have I seen John Wayne play a more important part with less screen time than in this film. Jimmy Stewart is clearly the star - he has to be - but it's Wayne who completes this movie, and who transcends himself in a role so touching that you may feel your eyes moisten in what is one of the most poignant endings of any film I've ever seen. A death itself cannot be considered tragic (everyone who has ever lived, has died), but certain deaths are inherently more tragic than others, and when a piece of history is buried alongside an anonymous hero, lost forever to the earth, and made known only to an audience who desperately wants to jump inside the screen and construct a proper memorial - that cannot be considered a romance, or an action film, or even a western; it can only be classified as a full-blown tragedy of Shakespearean proportions. The next time you and your date are hunting around, looking for a movie to watch, remember this thread: "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" is required viewing for everyone who cares about great film.
You have two choices when watching "The Wild One": 1) Watch it through the eyes of older people who lived through The Great Depression and World War II, and were genuinely afraid of seeing society unravel and go to hell in a handbasket, or 2) roll your eyes, and scream aloud, about fifty times, "My *God* this is dated!" "The Wild One" is so dated that it comes across as a parody of itself. The acting is so overwrought, and the dialogue is so corny that it comes across as being about as rebellious as "Rock Around the Clock." One of the leaders of the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club is Jerry Paris, who played the dentist in "The Dick Van Dyke Show" - I'm sorry, but seeing Rob Petrie's next-door neighbor Jerry Helper in a black leather jacket is just not that frightening. Clocking in at just under an hour and twenty minutes, "The Wild One" seems interminable. You have to acknowledge its influence as the first-ever biker flick, and for Marlon Brando influencing both Elvis Presley and James Dean (and hence, the rebellious 1960s). This film is, at once: terrible, important, influential, dated, forward-looking, inane, and ridiculous. Marlon Brando's stunt-double was *so obvious* that it was, at times, laughable, as he didn't look anything like Brando, and the transitions between Brando and his stunt-double were very poorly done, and not edited well at all. If you want to watch a movie for a good time, take a pass on "The Wild One"; if you want to be a good film scholar and watch a historically important movie, then go for it. That's about the best I can do for you - I felt like I was watching an episode of "Route 66," and not a particularly good one, either. --- But there is this legendary quote: Kathie Bleeker: "What're you rebelling against, Johnny?" Johnny Strabler: "Whaddya got?" --- The Hollister Riot, the staged picture of which - in Life Magazine - influenced the whole biker genre.