"The Wild One," starring Marlon Brando as the mumbling motorcycle punk Johnny Strabler, is so bad that I assumed after catching the film on TCM that Brando made it before the accomplished "Streetcar Named Desire." But according to IMB, Brando appeared in "The Wild One" after his performance as Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams' "Streetcar."
Although Brando barely acts in "The Wild One," and the script by John Paxton, directed by Lazlo Benedek, lacks basic narrative competence, his Johnny Stabler became a pop culture icon. While the clumsy dialogue doesn't even offer much campy appeal, the movie does have a dreamy visual presence with black and white images of the town besieged by a motorcycle gang. It's amusing to discover actors caught in the earnest "message" film, although the message is quite confused. The cast includes a young Lee Marvin as Brando's rival, and durable character actors such as Ray Teal, who later served long years as Sheriff Roy Coffee in "Bonanza."
After dueling with Vivien Leigh in "Streetcar" in one of the all-time top film performances, Brando in "The Wild One" appears with the mediocre Mary Murphy, although Murphy does show more energy than Brando.
Right after "The Wild One," Brando returned to the height of acting brilliance as Terry Molloy in "On the Waterfront." I wonder if he ever cringed at watching himself as "Johnny," with his childish motorcycle cap and leather jacket. "Johnny" is considered one of Brando's iconic roles, but his performance and the film don't deserve their classic status.