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Cycle with the stars in Steven Rea's 'Hollywood Rides a Bike'

February 25, 2012 |  8:30 am


It would be hard to imagine the Oscar-winning film "E.T." without Henry Thomas and his hooded extraterrestrial's bike-riding silhouette against the moon or Paul Newman's classic two-wheeled courtship of Katharine Ross missing from "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid."

Hollywood's friendly affair with bicycles can be traced back nearly a century. It could be an integral part of the main story line, such as in "Breaking Away," or used as a pivotal prop in memorable scenes (the "Do-Re-Mi" sequence in "The Sound of Music") or just objects of pleasure and recreation on studio lots.

BikehighwheelFilm critic and bike fanatic Steven Rea has pulled together a collection of seldom-seen photos of actors and their bikes in "Hollywood Rides a Bike" (Angel City Press, $20), which is a part of the coverage featured in this Sunday's Arts & Books section.

"It's a convergence of two of my biggest passions in life: movies and bikes," said Rea, who rides his early 1970s, Raleigh DL-1, British postman's bike nearly every day to work at the Philadelphia Inquirer and to screenings.

Long before "eco-friendly" became part of our vernacular, studios stocked their lots with fleets of bikes for stars to zip quickly from stage to dressing room. Drawn from Rea's 2010 Tumblr blog "Rides a Bike," the 125 selected images in this book are a mix of candid back-lot shots, actors at their leisure, posed studio portraits and production stills such as B-movie actress Louise Allbritton's cheesecake shot of her tumble in the 1944 comedy "San Diego I Love You." Other notable crashes featured are Doris Day in "The Tunnel of Love" and Jane Fonda in her first film, "Tall Story."

Images span from the onset of talkies (Fred Allen in 1929's "The Installment Collector") to late 1980s (Tom Hanks on a Silver BMX in "Big"), with the majority of images taken during Hollywood's golden age.

More after the jump

"It's been a constant surprise for me to discover how many photos there are of well-known and obscure stars on bikes," said Rea, who at first thought there would be a limited number amount of images. Many of the photos didn't have credits, but some of the photographers acknowledged include Ernest Bachrach, Ray Jones and Mary Ellen Mark.

BikecrashRea combed through cabinets and files at used-book shops, vintage movie stores, such as Jerry Ohlinger's Movie Material Store in New York, EBay and yard sales.

A few rare finds include a photo of Lauren Bacall leaning against a studio bike while having a cup of coffee in 1945, and the usually distinguished director Alfred Hitchcock signaling on a Helium small-wheel folder at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival promoting his penultimate film, "Frenzy."


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 -- Liesl Bradner

Images: Glenn Ford and Rita Hayworth, "The Lady in Question," 1940; Grace Bradley atop an 1890s high-wheel, 1933; Louise Allbritton in "San Diego I Love You," 1944. Credits: "Hollywood Rides a Bike" (Angel City Press)