It’s Me-Me Monday and time to share something I like. How about Easy Rider (1969)?
A man went looking for America. And couldn’t find it anywhere.
Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper starred in the movie. Their characters were named Wyatt and Billy, ostensibly after Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid. Wyatt (Fonda) is the idealistic dreamer, appreciative of help and always willing to help others. Billy (Hopper) is more cynical, often paranoid, and obviously out for himself.
The plot is simple enough.
Wyatt and Billy (Fonda and Hopper) smuggle cocaine from Mexico to California, where they sell the cocaine for a big bunch of money. They plan to meander east and arrive in New Orleans for Mardi Gras. After that, they’ll retire to Florida and live like kings for the rest of their lives. Below is the trailer:
The best laid plans don’t always work out. The social tensions of the late 1960s impede the protagonist’s journey to a perfect America. Each destination–the hippie commune, the farm, the jailhouse, Mardi Gras–presents contrasting views of ideals.
The open landscapes and the heroes riding their iron horses makes Easy Rider feel like a western. It’s more than that, though. It’s a biker movie. It’s a road movie. It’s a statement.
The statement is well represented by a scene early in the movie in which Wyatt (Fonda) takes off his watch and throws it on the ground. It’s like he’s shedding all convention, all expectations, and is headed wherever the road may take him.
The time theme runs throughout the movie. Even though Wyatt (Fonda) has thrown down his watch and all its constraints, he learns he’s still expected to keep a schedule. At one point he says, “I’m hip about time.” Wyatt seems to question if he’s really left anything behind.
Jack Nicholson plays George Hanson, an alcoholic ACLU lawyer. His character adds some comic moments to to the movie:
For an independent film of the day, Easy Rider grossed huge money and is considered groundbreaking. Its mix of drug use, hippie communes, and bikers repeatedly question where one finds freedom and individuality.
The film was added to the Library of Congress National Registry in 1998.
Easy Rider’s soundtrack featured music by Steppenwolf, The Byrds, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, and The Band. Bob Dylan wrote the first verse of “The Ballad of Easy Rider.” Roger McGuinn of the Byrds completed the song and performed it in the movie.
Since it’s Me-Me Monday, I’ll share my favorite song from Easy Rider:
Trivia: The motorcycles used in Easy Rider were stolen before the significance of the film was known. It is believed they were stripped down and sold for parts. Many replicas of Captain America’s chopper exist today.
Easy Rider appeals to me because I love the idea of riding an endless road on an iron horse. The idea of no longer being hip about time seems an impossible dream.
I imagine the wind stinging my face and the sunlight burning down on my skin. The smells of oil and asphalt and exhaust are heady perfume as the yellow stripes flash by. The engine’s roar and the whine of the tires on the road become a whole rhythm unto themselves.
I’m always lost in the romance and simplicity of it. That is, until it rains.
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