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The Wheel Thing: Motorcycles star in summer movies

Replica of Marlon Brando's 1950 6T Triumph Thunderbird with publicity stills from the film.
Replica of Marlon Brando's 1950 6T Triumph Thunderbird with publicity stills from the film.
Midnight Bird via Wikipedia

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In 1953 the motorcycle industry saw a nice bump in sales after Marlon Brando rode a Triumph 6T in the film, The Wild One.

This summer, cycle makers are hoping a crop of action films featuring hot bikes will boost their business, which has been dicey since being hit hard by the recession.

Maybe the sight of Scarlett Johanssan astride an electric Harley-Davidson will spark some interest. She's riding the Harley in The Avengers: Age of Ultron, which opens tomorrow.  The studio that produced the film, Marvel, has a long relationship with Harley. The film maker and bike maker have worked together on franchies including the Iron Man and Captain America series, with Harley designing special models, and often teaming up with Marvel in cross-promotions.

In the Mission Impossible series, as has been noted, Tom Cruise will always pick a bike over a car if he has the choice. His character, Ethan Hunt, used to prefer a Triumph, but in this summer's release, Rouge Nation, he's atop a screaming German superbike, BMW's S 100 RR. And he's not alone.  The bad guys ride them, too.

Don't feel bad for Triumph.  Some of their models show up in the latest installment of Dinos Gone Wild, Jurassic World.

As long as we have cars, nothing will probably replace car chases in action films.  But motorcycle chases can be every bit, or even more exciting.  The actors are exposed, and it's a lot easier to pull off stunts with 450 lb. bikes than it is with muscle cars tipping the scales at almost two tons.

Listen to The Wheel Thing with Susan Carpenter, auto and motorcycle critic for the OC Register, every Thursday on Take Two.