Easy Rider: 50 Years Looking for America

Rowman & Littlefield. Nov. 2019. 200p. ISBN 9781493046430. $24.95. FILM
Readers interested in the massive political and cultural shifts of the late 1960s have recently been rewarded with a vast array of 50th-anniversary volumes. Bingen (MGM: Hollywood’s Greatest Backlot) goes further than the typical film study with his examination of Easy Rider (1969), Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper’s groundbreaking movie about a pair of freewheeling bikers making a drug-tinged journey through the American Southwest, set against a backdrop of rock songs by the Band, the Byrds, and Steppenwolf. As with Peter Biskind’s brilliant Easy Rider, Raging Bulls, this concise, thorough work explores how the low-budget project flourished despite the skepticism of mainstream film execs, launched the New Hollywood movement, and transformed the careers of Hopper, Fonda, and costar Jack Nicholson. Bingen sets his book apart from Biskind’s detailed personal recollections of fans of the film who, inspired by the film’s protagonists, embraced biker culture and took to the road themselves.
VERDICT A chatty and comprehensive account that successfully chronicles both the origins of this cult classic and its lasting legacy.
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