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Posts Tagged ‘Easy Rider’

Easy Rider Poster at Sunset Gower Studio

Easy Rider Poster at Sunset Gower Studio

Last spring I happen to be in Hollywood on a work gig and got a Sunset Gower Studio tour.  Sunset Gower has been part of the Hollywood film history since there was a Hollywood.

While wandering through the writers’ suites and the studio lot I walked down this hallway and came across an Easy Rider poster.  The Sunset Gower sound stages were used for the movie.

No one could have predicted that Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda’s small budget film, fueled by motorcycles and amazing music would redefine pop culture.

In fact, it’s impossible to even think about this film without the opening riff of Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” echoing in your head.  In the movie industry, it’s rare that a film and its soundtrack break through to the masses.  Easy Rider was an incredible success commercially and culturally (it inspired an entire genre and a hundred knockoffs), and the impact of the soundtrack was revolutionary.

“The idea was to have the music which accompanies the cross-country cycling scenes reflect current times,” Peter Fonda told Rolling Stone in 1969. By compiling prerecorded tracks and music specifically created for the film to make a “musical commentary” and companion to the movie.

IMG_2785Additionally, the Easy Rider soundtrack laid the groundwork for Michelangelo Antonioni’s Pink Floyd-led Zabriske Point the following year and nearly every classic film soundtrack of the next four decades, from Singles to Forrest Gump to Drive.

The soundtrack paints a picture of the counterculture on the brink of the Seventies.   Steppenwolf’s get-on-your-bike-and-ride anthem along with the bluesy dealer epic “The Pusher,” and the classic cuts from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Holy Modal Rounders and the Byrds (whose Roger McGuinn also scored the film) makes an epic film.

As the story goes, Bob Dylan was recruited by Peter Fonda to pen the film’s theme “Ballad of Easy Rider,” (soundtrack) and after jotting out a few lines, told the actor to give the lyrics to McGuinn to flesh out.

Photos taken by author and courtesy of Sunset Gower Studio and Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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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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Just when you thought Hollywood was done with questionable biker movies (Ghost Rider) along comes an oily jeans, bandana’s pulled real low over foreheads, tattooed up bad boyz, full of angst looking to intimidate or harass anyone within ear shot type film.  It’s unlikely this one will change the street level viewpoint of outlaw biker “clubs” being solid, totally innocent, citizen and humanitarian’s of the world.  Rather it’s a mash-up of Kill Bill charters a motorcycle club as a “beat down” form of entertainment?

The encounters in “Hell Ride” are like a sporting event from the Gladiator.  Billed as a throwback to the Sergio Leone “spaghetti western” day with motorcycle revenge and retribution they leave out the fact that there might be some gore since Quentin Tarantino produced the film.  Larry Bishop wrote and directed the story about this bunch of old guys in need of the “3-B’s” (bikes, babes, beer) riding around and along the way they shoot and knife a bunch of people.  The only thing missing is Dylan’s recording of “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)”!  You can preview the movie HERE.

Lending star power credit as a real biker movie, Easy Rider legend Dennis “Scratch” Hopper stars as a rival member of the satanic biker gang.  I guess he took a break from the “Dreams Don’t Retire” advertisements.  Either that or his investment advice from Ameriprise Financial has him working for “scraps” as 60 is the new 35, right?!

I do like Michael Madsen who starred in “Reservoir Dogs” and that was a well written movie.  Hell Ride was released on the opening day of the Olympics and reviews suggests a very quick ship to DVD (without going Blu-Ray!).

With all the issues and tensions in the U.S. on outlaw biker “clubs” it’s clear that Hollywood subscribes to the idea that “fiction is often the best fact”.

Film poster courtesy Third Rail.

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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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The Easy Rider Bike Show is happening Saturday, January 12th at the Clark County Fair Ground (Vancouver, WA.).  Although it varies, most Harley events remain constant with lots of custom and restored motorcycles.  The event flyer states we’re likely to see a custom builder, a few vendor booths and if we get lucky booth babes hawking wares or providing giveaways.  

See you there!

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