A rebellious young man with a troubled past comes to a new town, finding friends and enemies.A rebellious young man with a troubled past comes to a new town, finding friends and enemies.A rebellious young man with a troubled past comes to a new town, finding friends and enemies.
Iconic Movie Moments: 'Rebel Without a Cause'
The Fifties was certainly the era for those rebel type films, but Rebel Without A Cause is unique because it deals with these bored upper middle class kids. It's as different a film as The Wild One with Marlon Brando and those working class biker types or the urban school kids of The Blackboard Jungle as you can get. The problems of this crowd just don't seem as serious as those in the other two films.
But because of the quality performances of James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo you do sort of feel for these kids. Dean is a misfit like he was in East of Eden, in fact his parents have just moved because of trouble he'd gotten into in his previous school. Unlike in East of Eden where Dean had this almost godlike father in Raymond Massey who he felt he couldn't measure up to, in Rebel Without A Cause he's dealing with Jim Backus who's an ineffectual henpecked sort with Ann Doran and her mother, Virginia Brissac. Dean himself was raised by an aunt and uncle in Indiana so he could identify with both Cal Trask and Jim Stark. Come to think of it you could include Jett Rink in there as well.
Natalie Wood also has father problems, William Hopper who just doesn't know how to deal with the fact that 'daddy's little girl' is blossoming into womanhood. Her mother, Rochelle Hudson, is one of those who looks like she's suffering a permanent headache and has abandoned the family ship to dear old dad. It's more an absence of mother and Hopper trying to do both roles which he just can't handle.
But Dean and Wood have parents. Sal Mineo is being raised by the maid in his very wealthy home. He's got all the material things, but he's a rather geeky kid who just doesn't fit in. He's also experiencing latent homosexuality in an age where that was the worst thing on the planet to be and no visible gay community to tell you it wasn't. By the way Marietta Canty as the maid is outstanding in this film, she's miles away from the maid roles of Louise Beavers and Hattie McDaniel.
So these three find each other and find a gang of kids who race their expensive automobiles against each other for speed and against each other for daring in the famous 'chicken run' scene. When the gang leader Corey Allen is killed racing against Dean, he becomes a kind of martyr to them and trouble brews for our three misfits.
Both Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo were nominated for Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor. Wood lost to Jo Van Fleet from that other James Dean classic East of Eden and Mineo lost to Jack Lemmon in Mr. Roberts. As for Dean he was up that year posthumously for East of Eden.
It wasn't only James Dean's tragic death that made him a legend. He was getting acclaim for his performance in East of Eden when he was killed on September 30, 1955. His stunning impact came after his death as fans were mesmerized by the promise of things to come in Rebel Without A Cause which came out about four weeks later and with Giant which Dean had just wrapped shooting on. This dead actor had film fans talking everywhere right up to the Oscars of 1957 ceremony where he was nominated for 1956's Giant. If ever a player left the scene with fans begging for more it was James Dean.
Seen today over 50 years later Rebel Without A Cause still remains the ultimate film in teen angst. I think it's destined to be so for generations to come.
- Apr 16, 2008