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Posts Tagged ‘Captain America’

Harley-Davidson has always held a certain fascination for the monied elite, from Wall Street bankers to Middle Eastern oil sheiks.  They all ride on the essence of the freedom brand.  Since the motor company jettisoned more employees over the holidays it’s now dabbling in a bit of capital resource-allocation and looking for Hollywood’s crucial role in revitalizing the companies pop culture standing. 

We live in a world of brands.  Think Zoo York t-shirts, or Jukijama sneakers.  It’s a thirst for fame. 

Savvy celebs are trying to fuse entertainment and social networking, closing the gap between performer and fan. Even hip-hop “musician’s” using their often limited musical footprint to expand into merch have far exceeded t-shirts and turned to alcohol concoctions to sell “cool”.  So, can we really blame Harley-Davison for flexing their marketing muscle and trying to close the gap with youth in order to survive?

The key is authenticity. 

Harley-Davidson has to choose associations that are credible and organic if they wish to succeed.  Why?  Because the essence of Harley-Davidson is freedom—outfitting confident individuals to assert their true independence.  All their products under the brand reflect this rock-solid individuality.  It’s like an Armani suit.  Sure, you could say it’s part of your wardrobe, but it’s more than just a business suit.  It’s a state of mind. 

In the latest example of cementing their mainstream outreach Harley-Davidson has joined up with Marvel on the official 2012 The Avengers movie promotion.  You can watch the official Avengers movie trailer (HERE).  Little information is available on exactly what the promotion is, but here is a sign-up page (HERE) to enter information and become one of the first fans to know about the promotion.

If you’re thinking this is déjà vu all over again.  You’re right!  Marvel previously partnered with Harley-Davidson on Captain America: The First Avenger movie.  Captain America rode a Harley-Davidson replica of the “Liberator”, a classic H-D motorcycle that was used by U.S. Service Men and Women during World War II.   For the Captain America promotion, Harley-Davidson launched an interactive site and ran a sweepstakes with a customized H-D motorcycle as one of the prizes. They even made Captain America posters available at dealers, and auctioned off a bike signed by the Hollywood elite in the movie to benefit Disabled American Veterans.

For The Avengers, maybe they’ll be riding a new CVO Road Glide?!  The teaser states “You could be immortalized in Harley-Davidson and Marvel’s, The Avengers history.”  Are we talking about funeral’s and a headstone?!

If so, maybe we need to lean into those $10,000 imported padded shoulders of that Armani suit because just like The Avenger it serves as a defensive role and deflects nearly all ill-infused assaults from all manner of scumbags, hangers on, wannabees and true movie biz powerhouses.

Photos courtesy of Marvel and H-D.

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Not the “Captain” you were thinking.

It’s called product placement and I’ve blogged about it previously HERE and HERE.  It’s all about socializing Harley-Davidson on the big screen.

Sure we know that Harley-Davison has used product placement in the past, but these days it’s up to the Davie Brown Entertainment Team to make sure it’s a core part of a marketing push into film/entertainment.  And as we’re told countless times each night on TV commercials… entertainment can sensationalize the excitement and thrill of riding a motorcycle to the point of moving people to the dealers to check it out, right?

Disregard that only 3% of the U.S. consumers own a motorcycle.  It’s the other 15-20 million individuals in the U.S. being targeted and the hope is to generate a desire to buy one. But, I’ve gotten way ahead of myself…

This bit all started at the outset of WWII, where the U.S. Government gave H-D an assignment.  Design a motorcycle that could withstand desert conditions. You see the Germans were already using a desert-ready BMW motorcycle in the North African campaign and we didn’t really have anything to respond.

Harley-Davidson’s response was the 1942 XA.  It had horizontally-opposed flat twin engine (750), a shaft final drive a hand operated clutch with foot-operated shifter and a “wet-sump” design circulated oil from the pan underneath the engine, protecting the oil from sand.  It also had heavy-cleated tires to provide traction against shifting terrain.  The contract was cancelled early due to war combat moving out of North Africa and only about a thousand XA’s were ever built.

It was also in about the same timeframe, during and around World War II that the Model WLA was produced to U.S. Army specifications.  Called the 45 solo type, due to its 45 cubic inches (740 cc) engine and single-rider design. The same engine, in a slightly lower state of tune, also powered the three-wheeled Servi-Car (the “G” family), leading to the “solo” distinction.  During World War II, Harley-Davidson produced and dispatched approximately 90,000 WLA motorcycles overseas to support the war effort. The motorcycle was affectionately known as the “Liberator” by U.S. Service Men and Women.

Private Robert J. Vance

Quick to recognize a product placement opportunity, H-D (via Davie Brown) worked with Marvel Studios to recreate five replica bikes which is tied in to the July 22nd release of Captain America: The First Avenger.  In addition, Harley Davidson has launched an interactive web site that showcases the hero’s vintage ride and offers fans a chance to win a one-of-a-kind custom motorcycle.  Cool.

Lastly, the northwest has something loosely connected with this movie…Private Robert J. Vance, from Portland, Oregon, had his photo taken while riding a motorcycle as a messenger of the 33rd Armored Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division in the fields of Normandy in late July, 1944 on a H-D WLA.

Photos courtesy of Marvel, H-D WLA Service Manual (large .pdf) and U.S. Army Signal Corps

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movie_posterIt’s iconic.  “A man went looking for America and couldn’t find it anywhere.”

Forty years later Sony Pictures prepares to re-release (on October 13th) a newly digitized version of “Easy Rider” on Blu-ray disc and leverage movieIQ technology which allows fans to access relevant cast and crew trivia online.   At the same time, Kerr Leathers, a Salem, MA., company has an exclusive contract to produce replicas of the Captain America leather jacket which Fonda (Wyatt) wore. As one of only a couple American leather makers left,  Kerr also has the contract to produce other anniversary memorabilia, including Fonda’s vest and T-shirt, a CD of the movie songs, and commemorative posters.

The original leather jacket was designed and manufactured by Clarice Amberg of ABC Leathers in South Gate, California.  In 1971, ABC Leathers was bought out by Bates Manufacturing and later the company was renamed Bates Industries.  Currently its Bates Custom Leathers.  Bates is owned by two women, Dawn and Dana Grindle. At the time, ABC Leathers made two jackets and one set of pants for the movie.  The movie secured private financing of $440K and grossed over $19 million.  You can hear Fonda speak about the jacket HERE (.wmv file)

Kerr Leather "Captain America" Clothing

Kerr Leather "Captain America" Clothing

Millions of baby boomers who relate to the movie will undoubtedly line up to obtain one of only 3,000 Captain America jackets to be made.  All are signed by Fonda, and will retail for $459. In a brilliant coup d’état, all of the gear will be sold by Harley-Davidson dealers worldwide.  In addition, each of the dealers will receive a Fonda autographed American flag on one jacket, which will be raffled off for the dealer’s favorite charity.

And speaking of the American flag — the original, one-and-only American flag patch worn on the back of Wyatt’s motorcycle jacket, was sold in 2007 for more than $89,000 by Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas, TX.  The flag was featured prominently throughout the movie.  Fonda kept the jacket after production wrapped, and wore it until the jacket wore out. He then saved the patch, framed it, and then decided to make some of the memorabilia available to fans.  Ironically, for a film so fervently anti-establishment, the Department of Defense pin that adorned the jacket was valued at over $15,000. 

The launch of the re-released movie on Blu-ray is set to coincide with the 26th annual Love Ride during California Bike Week (October 23 – 25).  As the population ages it’s common these days to see commemorative clothing and products hit the market.  Nostalgia sells.  The last time Kerr Leathers first produced an “Easy Rider” commemorative jacket was for the film’s 25th anniversary in 1994.

Photos courtesy of Kerr web site.

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Easy Rider Replica Bike

Easy Rider Replica Bike

Not the fictional character who appears in comic books, but I’m talking about the classic motorcycle movie Easy Rider which marks the 40 year anniversary this week.

About two bikers (Fonda and Hopper) who travel the America landscape to experience freedom of the open road from the seat of their motorcycles.  Fonda played “Captain America” and his bike is one of the most recognizable motorcycles in history.  Stories vary, but according to the H-D Museum there were two choppers used in the film.  There is some irony in that both were created from H-D FLH police motorcycles.  One was destroyed in the making of the film and the other mysteriously disappeared from the movie set.  By some accounts there were a total of 4 motorcycles used which 3 were stolen.

Jack Nicholson played an alcoholic ACLU lawyer, George Hanson.  One of his more memorable comments after observing that Americans talk a lot about the value of freedom, but are actually afraid of anyone who truly exhibit it was:

“This used to be a hell of a good country.  I can’t understand what’s gone wrong with it.”

Ten years ago for the 30th anniversary celebration Fonda and H-D collaborated to build an exact replica of the California chopper which is now featured in the H-D Museum.  In 1998, the movie was added to the U.S. National Film Registry have been deemed culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.

I posted previously about producer William Hayward, his role in the movie and his unfortunate death.

Photo taken at H-D Museum during 105th Anniversary Celebration.

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I read an article about the Harley-Davidson Museum which was accompanied by a photo of the “Captain America” bike in the movie Easy Rider (1969). 

It’s unclear if the film was essentially a western with bikes replacing horses or a post-classical Hollywood male-bonding LSD joy ride.  No matter what your viewpoint, the film was added to the U.S. National Film Registry as having been deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” 

However, this post isn’t about how everyone should go down to your local video store and rent Easy Rider to be a rebel.  It’s about how some family’s are severely touched by demons and despair in large quantities that’s unequal to the general population. 

For example, earlier this year the Easy Rider producer and lawyer, William Hayward died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.  He was 66-years old and the suicide occurred in a trailer where he was living in Castaic, CA, an unincorporated area near Los Angeles.

William “Bill” Hayward was the youngest of three kids and born in 1942.  His growing up years were chaotic. There were several moves between California and Connecticut with the last to Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1948 after his mother, Margaret Sullavan was divorced from Leland Hayward. Sullavan wanted her children to have “normal” childhoods, and isolated them from the “evils of Hollywood”. The children lived in a separate house with a nurse (nanny) and a cook. A tutor taught Hayward and his siblings at home for the first few years of their life. When they were older, his sisters, Brooke and Bridget attended Greenwich Academy a private girls school, where Jane Fonda was a classmate. Bill Hayward and Peter Fonda attended Brunswick, a boy’s school around the corner from Greenwich Academy.  Interestingly is the fact that Sullavan was married to Henry Fonda for less than a year in 1931.

In the fall of 1953, the Hayward children (Brooke, Bridget and Bill) all left home to attend boarding schools. Brooke attended Madeira, a private girls school in McLean, Virginia; Bridget went to Gstaad, Switzerland and Bill to Lawrenceville in New Jersey. Brooke attended Madeira her junior and senior years, graduating in 1955 going on to Vassar and Yale.

Bill’s mother, Margaret Sullavan died of an accidental drug overdose January 1, 1960. At the time, both Bridget and Bill were patients in a mental asylum, Austen Riggs in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and Menninger’s in Topeka, Kansas, respectively. In October 1960, Bridget Hayward died of a drug overdose just 8 months after her mother. Leland Hayward died in 1971 at home, after an extensive hospital stay following an unsuccessful surgery.

At one point and according to Brooke Hayward’s bio, she was married to husband number two, Dennis Hopper, 1961-1969; they had one child, a daughter, Marin. And as you likely know Hopper worked closely with Peter Fonda (a long-time Sullavan/Hayward family friend) and Bill Hayward on the movie Easy Rider.

Bill Hayward also produced “Haywire” (1980) for CBS, an account of his mothers suicide based on a memoir by his sister Brooke.  In Haywire, Brooke wrote of a conversation she had with Bill in which he said if he ever committed suicide, he would do so by shooting himself in the heart….which is exactly what he did.

This was a family whose talent was unfortunately outshined by its demons.

 

Replica “Captain America” bike photo by Randy Leffingwell and courtesy of the 1969 Easy Rider film.  Photo taken at the Harley-Davidson Museum.  (the two originals were destroyed during filming, according to museum literature).

Haywire book courtesy of Amazon.com

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