Cast & Crew
In 1970, professional motorcyclist Mert Lawwill, the winner of the 1969 American Motorcycle Association's Grand National Championship, sets out to defend his title for another season. To be awarded the winner's "No.1" license plate, a cyclist must compete in twenty-seven national races held across the United States. Among the several hundred AMA members, less than fifteen have the ability to win the plate, including Lawwill, Jim Rice, Dave Aldana, Dick "Bugsy" Mann and Gene Romero. Lawwill, who lives in California, spends eight months on the road racing and averages 1,000 hours per year tinkering with his bike. At the Columbus, Ohio track, Lawwill slits his tires with razor blades for better traction and tapes layers of plastic sheeting over his face guard so that he can peel them off as they collect dust. When Lawwill's throttle cable breaks, however, he loses the race. A series of subsequent breakdowns dim Lawwill's chances of winning the championship, which will be awarded in Sacramento at the last race of the season. Among the tracks on which the racers must compete, the one in Daytona Beach, Florida is considered the "Big Daddy" of the AMA circuit because of its steeply banked sides, which when ridden at high speeds, subject the riders to an intense centrifugal force. Quite different from championship racing is the world of motocross racing in which riders such as actor Steve McQueen and motorcycle shop owner Malcolm Smith compete over rough and tumble terrain, through mud and over mountains, making motocross one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. Smith, whose favorite expression after completing a grueling ride is, "that was really neat," is considered one of the best. Smith also competes in the International Six-Day Trials in El Escorial, Spain, for which the racers cover more than 200 miles a day in six days, during which they must reach appointed check points at an exact time or be penalized. In addition to being faced with temperatures ranging from twenty to eighty degrees, and elevations stretching from 2,000 to 8,000 feet, at the end of each day, the riders must compete in special tests to earn bonus points. Although the European racers, who are paid a salary to compete, are favored to win, Smith bests them all. Back in the United States, Smith and McQueen enter the Elsinore Grand Prix, a hundred-mile race in which the riders must complete three loops that run from the town of Elsinore, into the foothills and back. Approximately 1,500 riders assemble at the starting line in the tiny town, and as the competition begins, Smith takes a commanding lead, passing some riders as many as three times to win the race. McQueen, who has entered the race under the name "Harvey Mushman," finishes tenth. Ice racing is probably the most esoteric form of competition depicted in the film. In Quebec, Canada, cyclists don leather masks to protect their faces from the cold and pepper their tires with two-inch spikes to create traction on the ice track, on which they reach speeds up to eighty-miles-an-hour. In Sacramento, the location of the final race of the Grand National circuit, only Aldana, Romero, Rice and Mann are in the running to win the championship. Mann, who has broken his leg in a previous race, removes his cast to compete. After finishing a heat, Rice spins out, crashing his motorcycle, and is carried to an ambulance. One hour later, as the main race is about to start, Rice steps out of the ambulance, climbs on his bike and joins the competition. Shaken by his injuries, Rice slips to last place, and after Aldana totals his bike and Mann catches his shoe in a hole and wrenches his foot, Romero wins the race. Placing sixth, Lawwill must relinquish his No. 1 plate to Romero. Later, in Salt Lake City, Smith scales the hill called the "widow maker," so named because its forty-five degree angle has prevented anyone from reaching the top. Although Smith fails to reach the peak, he becomes the only competitor to ride his bike all the way back to the bottom. Smith and McQueen join the California Mojave Desert race, held every Sunday, during which amateur and professional riders alike tackle a hundred miles of desert terrain, dodging rocks, mine shafts and desert brush. At the end of the film, Lawwill, Smith and McQueen forsake competition for the pleasure of taking a spin across the countryside to the ocean, where they fashion circles in the sand as their motorcycles crisscross the beach.
Dick "bugsy" Mann
On Any Sunday
Brown was known primarily for documentaries that - along with the music of The Beach Boys - raised widespread awareness of the formerly cult sport of surfing and practically made it an American institution. The most famous of these was The Endless Summer (1966) and its less successful 1994 sequel. Brown had been making surfing films since Slippery When Wet (1958). But with The Incredible Pair of Skis (1967) and On Any Sunday, he branched out into other territory, culminating in his view of extreme sports in The Edge (1975).
Brown's documentary method, especially in the earlier surf films, was sometimes criticized for his non-purist approach. But his work here in the non-fiction arena imparts an excitement and immediacy to the experience that earned the film a Best Documentary Feature Academy Award nomination. He depicts every type of motorcycle competition, from asphalt track and drag races to cross-country and hill climbing.
McQueen was also one of the major backers of this film. And the music was written by Dominic Frontiere, the Emmy-winning composer of many TV themes and scores like The Outer Limits (1963) and Stoney Burke (1962). He also wrote for film, mostly in the action genre, and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score for the Bruce Willis movie Color of Night (1994) and won a Golden Globe for The Stunt Man (1980).
In an interview with Chris Neumer of centerstage.net, Brown recalled why we wanted to make On Any Sunday: "We were in Japan in '63, I think, and at that time everyone in Japan was riding around on little motor scooters. Then when I got home they just imported the first ones to this country and I got one of those and started riding around....And it all sort of evolved from there. From the little Honda Stetson to the Triumph, I went through several different bikes. I thought man this is a lot of fun. It started initially just to get up in the hills and ride the dirt roads and all that. All the surf guys around Dana Point, you know, Hobie and Gordon Clark..they all got interested so we all started riding and racing and doing different things. The more I got into it, the more I realized how much fun it was and how nice the people were. There was this huge public misconception of what it was all about."
Director/Producer: Bruce Brown
Assistant Editor: Brian King
Original Music: Dominic Frontiere
Cast: Steve McQueen, Mert Lawwill, Malcolm Smith as themselves
by Rob Nixon
On Any Sunday
Before the opening credits appear, the offscreen voice of filmmaker Bruce Brown discusses the many different types of motorcycle enthusiasts in the United States. Brown's prologue is spoken over images of fat people, old people and young boys riding their bikes and motorcycles. Brown's onscreen credit reads: "Produced/Directed/Written by Bruce Brown." The opening credits are followed by a shot of motorcyclist Mert Lawwill wearing a business suit and surrounded by other businessmen as he crosses a busy street in downtown San Francisco. Although there is a 1971 copyright statement for Bruce Brown Films on the film, it was not registered for copyright. Solar Productions was owned by Steve McQueen. According to publicity materials contained in the film's production file at the AMPAS Library, the title On Any Sunday refers to the fact that motorcycle events are often held on Sundays.
According to the Filmfacts review and an interview with Brown featured as added content to the 1999 DVD release of the film, Brown, who had previously directed several films about surfing (see the below entry for Slippery When Wet), became interested in making a film celebrating the popularity of motorcycle racing after watching the motorcycle jump scene and chase sequence featuring McQueen in the 1963 film The Great Escape (see entry above). Brown, who felt that previous motorcycle films had focused on gangs and lawlessness, approached McQueen, a motorcycle enthusiast, about making a movie that would show motorcycling as a sport enjoyed by both professionals and amateurs. McQueen then agreed to finance and appear in the picture.
According to the July 1971 Variety review, Brown spent two years filming the picture, shooting nearly 150 hours of footage. In the DVD interview, Brown stated that the film was shot in 16mm at a cost of $330,000. A 1974 news item in Box Office adds that the film, which was released in 35mm, grossed $10,000,000. Brown noted that after completing the film, which utilized twelve cameraman to capture the various races, he realized he could have filmed it much more efficiently using a single camera and shooting much less footage. The July 1971 Hollywood Reporter review stated that the film was originally to be released on June 30, 1971, but was recalled for final editing. According to the Variety review, the film was screened at the American Film Institute campus (then in Beverly Hills) on July 12, 1971, two days before its Los Angeles opening. The LAHExam review noted that, when the film opened in Los Angeles, it was played with an intermission.
On Any Sunday was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Feature-Length Documentary. The June 1974 Box Office news item noted that Yamaha motorcycles advanced $3,000,000 to reissue the film, which was to play in forty area theaters and be promoted by Roger Riddell, one of the riders in the film and a friend of McQueen and Brown. In 1981, Riddell and Don Shoemaker, who edited On Any Sunday and served as one of the film's photographers, made a sequel titled On Any Sunday II, directed by Ed Forsyth. Dust to Glory, a 2005 film depicting the Baja 1000 off-road race, was written and directed by Bruce Brown's son Dana and included some archival footage from On Any Sunday. A modern source includes David Evans in the cast.
Released in United States on Video April 8, 1992
Released in United States Summer July 1971
Video includes an all-new 10-minute tribute to actor Steve McQueen.
Released in United States on Video April 8, 1992 (restored version)
Released in United States Summer July 1971