"I don't know what to do anymore. Except maybe die."
- Jim Stark (James Dean)
27 October 1955
"Delinquency: 'Rebel Without Cause' Has Debut at Astor"
IT IS A VIOLENT, BRUTAL AND DISTURBING PICTURE OF MODERN TEEN-AGERS THAT WARNER BROTHERS PRESENTS in its new melodrama at the Astor, "Rebel Without a Cause". Young people neglected by their parents or given no understanding and moral support by fathers and mothers who are themselves unable to achieve balance and security in their homes are the bristling heroes and heroines of this excessively graphic exercise. Like "Blackboard Jungle" before it, it is a picture to make the hair stand on end.
The foremost of these youthful characters, played by the late James Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo, are several social cuts above the vocational high school hoodlums in that previous film. They are children of well-to-do parents, living in comfortable homes and attending a well-appointed high school in the vicinity of Los Angeles. But they are none the less mordant in their manners and handy with switch-blade knives. They are, in the final demonstration, lonely creatures in their own strange, cultist world.
Screenwriter Stewart Stern's proposal that these youngsters would be the way they are for the skimpy reasons he shows us may be a little hard to believe. Mr. Dean, he says, is a mixed-up rebel because his father lacks decisiveness and strength. "If he only had the guts to knock Mom cold once!" Mr. Dean mumbles longingly. And Miss Wood is wild and sadistic, prone to run with surly juveniles because her worrisome father stopped kissing her when she was 16.
As for Mr. Mineo, he is a thoroughly lost and hero-searching lad because his parents have left him completely in the care of a maid.
But convincing or not in motivations, this tale of tempestuous kids and their weird ways of conducting their social relations is tense with explosive incidents. There is a horrifying duel with switchblade cutlery between the reluctant Mr. Dean and another lad (Corey Allen) on a terrace outside a planetarium, where the youngsters have just received a lecture on the tininess of man. There is a shocking presentation of a "chicky run" in stolen automobiles (the first boy to jump from two autos racing toward the brink of a cliff is a "chicken" or coward). And there's a brutal scene in which three hoodlums, villainous schoolboys in black-leather jackets and cowboy boots, beat up the terrified Mr. Mineo in an empty swimming pool.
To set against such hideous details is a wistful and truly poignant stretch where in Mr. Dean and Miss Wood as lonely exiles from their own homes try to pretend they are happy grown-ups in an old mansion. There are some excruciating flashes of accuracy and truth in this film.
However, we do wish the young actors, including Mr. Dean, had not been so intent on imitating Marlon Brando in varying degrees. The tendency, possibly typical of the behavior of certain youths, may therefore be a subtle commentary but it grows monotonous. And we'd be more convinced by Jim Backus and Ann Doran as parents of Mr. Dean if they weren't so obviously silly and ineffectual in treating with the boy.
There is, too, a pictorial slickness about the whole thing in color and Cinema-Scope that battles at times with the realism in the direction of Nicholas Ray."
"When an actor plays a scene exactly the way a director orders, it isn't acting. It's following instructions. Anyone with the physical qualifications can do that." - James Dean Above, James Dean and Natalie Wood
Warner Brothers had bought the rights to the book, intending to use the title for a film. Attempts to create a film version in the late 1940s eventually ended without a film or even a full script being produced. When Marlon Brando did a five-minute screen test for the studio in 1947, he was given fragments of one of the 1940s partial scripts. However, Brando was not auditioning for Rebel Without a Cause and there was no offer of any part made by the studio. The film, as it later appeared, was the result of a totally new script written in the 1950s that had nothing to do with the material Brando screen-tested with. The screen test is included on a 2006 special edition DVD of A Streetcar Named Desire.
Marlon Brando reads for an earlier version of Rebel Without a Cause
"Natalie Wood was a seasoned vet when she made the big teen splash with Rebel Without A Cause. Her moppet resume seems to have jinxed her in the eyes of director Nick Ray, who wanted a fresh face for her role. Upstart cast members were suspicious of her "Old Hollywood" links (she'd worked with Bing Crosby after all), so she had to overcome a degree of prejudice there. This first grouping shows Nat with her cigarette poised over what appears to be a waste can full of discarded film strips (good thing they'd made the transition to safety film by this time!). Is that a reefer behind Jimmy Dean's ear? Kinda looks like one. He's checking out today's call sheet. Let's see, are there any seasoned character actors who can prop me up and make my self-conscious performing look good, like Albert Dekker, Raymond Massey, and the others did in East Of Eden? Nick Adams is quietly speculating as to whether director Ray might let him wear that silly hat on screen - Nick'll do most anything for attention, you know." More
The three main stars of "Rebel Without A Cause" all suffered premature deaths under tragic circumstances. Dean, a car crash, soon after, aged 24 in 1955, Mineo, a stabbing-murder, aged 37 in 1976, and Wood, a mysterious drowning, aged 43 in 1981.
According to a biography on her, Natalie Wood almost did not get the role of Judy because Nicholas Ray thought that she didn't seem fit for the role of the wild teen character. While on a night out with friends, she got into a car accident. Upon hearing this, Ray rushed to the hospital. While in delirium, Wood overheard the doctor murmuring and calling her a "goddamn juvenile delinquent;" she soon yelled to Ray, "Did you hear what he called me Nick?! He called me a goddamn juvenile delinquent! Now do I get the part?!" - Wikipedia
Judy: "All the time I've been looking for someone to love me. And now I love somebody. And it's so easy. Why is it easy now?"
Jim: "I don't know; it is for me, too."
Judy: "I love you, Jim. I really mean it."
Jim: "Well, I'm glad."
Filming Locations Revisited video
A short video of locations at the Griffith Observatory then and now compared with clips from the film.
"An actor must interpret life, and in order to do so, must be willing to accept all the experiences life has to offer. In fact, he must seek out more of life than life puts at his feet." - James Dean
Screen Tests for "Rebel Without a Cause"
Rare footage not seen in the film - described as 'gay' by YouTube poster, others would just see it as Dean's 'method acting'.
Awards for Rebel Without a Cause
"The film received only three Academy Awards nominations (without wins): Best Supporting Actor (Sal Mineo with the first of two unsuccessful career nominations), Best Supporting Actress (Natalie Wood with the first of three unsuccessful career nominations), and Best Motion Picture Story (Nicholas Ray). It wasn't nominated for either Best Picture - won by the short, unassuming romantic drama, Marty (1955) - or Best Director for Nicholas Ray. Ironically, Dean was not nominated for his role in this film (although it eventually became his iconic career role), but was nominated instead for his Best Actor performance as insecure, tortured, neurotic loner and unappreciated son Caleb "Cal" Trask in his first major film role, East of Eden (1955). He was also nominated as Best Actor in the next year for his performance as Jett Rink in his third and final film, Giant (1956), filmed in the summer and early fall of 1955 and released in 1956 - a year after his death". - Filmsite Read More
"I think the one thing this picture shows that's new is the psychological disproportion of the kids' demands on the parents. Parents are often at fault, but the kids have some work to do, too." - James Dean
"Being an actor is the loneliest thing in the world. You are all alone with your concentration and imagination, and that's all you have." - Dean
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"Being a good actor isn't easy. Being a man is even harder. I want to be both before I'm done." - James Dean