Jack Nicholson on a ’45 Flathead Harley Bobber (with Springer forks) in “Rebel Rousers”
This could very well be one of the coolest shots ever, from one of the absolute worst biker flicks ever made– Rebel Rousers. Shot in 1967, it actually had a pretty decent cast– Jack Nicholson, Bruce Dern, Diane Ladd (Dern’s wife), and Harry Dean Stanton. The film was shelved and then dusted-off in ’69, when Nicholson’s star power was boosted by the release of Easyrider, and all of a sudden Rebel Rousers seemed like a sure thing hit release. Trust me, just watch the trailer after the jump, and that’ll be all you’ll ever need to see of this flick. Jack Nicholson’s get-up and Harley are the only memorable bits– Nicholson looks like a 60’s psychedelic tribute to Lee Marvin’s iconic, misfit biker character Chino from The Wild One. Gotta love the stripes. They both also rode Harley Bobbers on screen– Nicholson on a ’45 HD Flathead for Rebel Rousers, and Lee Marvin tore it up on a ’49 or ’50 Flathead in The Wild One.
Bruce Dern and his custom BSA pre-unit twin from Rebel Rouser’s
13 Rebels MC member Ardin Van Syckle. We’re talkin’ standup guys, not hoodlums– former flyers and servicemen in WWII looking to keep the rush alive. They were solid citizens who loved the sport and brotherhood of riding– accomplished racers, builders and all-around honorable men.
1953’s iconic biker flick The Wild One starring Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin, was loosely based on two actual California motorcycle clubs of the day having a highly charged clash in the small town of Hollister, CA. Brando portrayed 13 Rebels leader Shell Thuet, while Lee Marvin’s character “Chino” was based on “Wino Willie” Forkner of The Boozefighters. Fact is– the gangs were not rivals (although “Wino Willie” was an ex-member of the 13 Rebels— asked to leave actually for rowdy behavior) and the Hollister incident never happened, at least not to the extent that LIFE magazine or The Wild One portrayed it. Yeah, some guys drank and drag raced a little– it happens. What else happened was a counterculture was born– rolled Levi 501 jeans, boots and leathers (Hello Schott Perfecto!) became the uniform that rebels and bikers lived in, and that polite society demonized.
LIFE magazine’s infamous 1947 staged photo that fueled the Hollister biker stories and legends.
Lee Marvin in his iconic role-- Chino from 1953's The Wild One. Marlon rode a Triumph (his own) but Lee and his brood rode Harleys. Lee Marvin was 10X cooler and had more natural biker vibe than the posturing Brando-- even though it was his first experience on a bike.
I’m a huge fan of Lee Marvin– as well as Jim Jarmusch, Tom Waits and Nick Cave. If I had the looks, this would definitely be the club for me. From the website–
Jarmusch is the founder of The Sons of Lee Marvin, a humorous ‘semi-secret society’. Members of the society reportedly include musician Tom Waits and actors John Lurie and Richard Boes, all of whom have worked with Jarmusch on several occasions. Nick Cave has also “been included”, and John Boorman has been “given a card” as an “honorary member”. (Thurston Moore, Iggy Pop, Josh Brolin and Neil Young have at various occasions been rumored to be members as well.) The entry criterion for the club is that the person must have some physical resemblance or plausibly look like a son of the actor Lee Marvin — as such, women are not allowed to join. The club supposedly meets occasionally to watch Lee Marvin movies together. Its members perpetuate the joke in the media.