Rebel Without a Cause
|Rebel Without a Cause|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Nicholas Ray|
|Produced by||David Weisbart|
|Screenplay by||Stewart Stern
Irving Shulman (adaptation)
|Story by||Nicholas Ray|
|Music by||Leonard Rosenman|
|Editing by||William Ziegler|
|Distributed by||Warner Bros.|
|Running time||111 minutes|
|Box office||$4,500,000 (US rentals)|
Rebel Without a Cause is a 1955 American drama film about emotionally confused suburban, middle-class teenagers. Directed by Nicholas Ray, it offered both social commentary and an alternative to previous films depicting delinquents in urban slum environments. Over the years, the film has achieved landmark status for the acting of cultural icon James Dean, fresh from his Academy Award nominated role in East of Eden and who died before the film's release, his most celebrated role. In 1990, Rebel Without a Cause was added to the preserved films of the United States Library of Congress's National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant."
The story of a rebellious teenager who arrives at a new high school, meets a girl, disobeys his parents, and defies the local school bullies was a groundbreaking attempt to portray the moral decay of American youth, critique parental style, and explore the differences and conflicts between generations. The title was adopted from psychiatrist Robert M. Lindner's 1944 book, Rebel Without a Cause: The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath. The film itself, however, does not reference Lindner's book in any way.
Warner Bros. released the film on October 27, 1955, less than one month after Dean's fatal car crash.
Shortly after moving to Los Angeles with his parents, 17-year-old Jim Stark (James Dean) enrolls at Dawson High School. He is brought into the police station for public drunkenness, and when his mother, father and grandmother arrive at the police station to retrieve him, conflicts in Jim's family situation are introduced. His parents are often fighting; his father (Jim Backus) often tries to defend him, but Jim's mother always wins the arguments. Jim feels betrayed both by this fighting and his father's lack of moral strength, causing feelings of unrest and displacement. This shows up later in the film when he repeatedly asks his father, "What do you do when you have to be a man?"
While trying to conform with fellow students at the school, he becomes involved in a dispute with a local bully named Buzz Gunderson (Corey Allen). While he tries to deal with Buzz, he becomes friends with a 15-year-old boy, John, nicknamed Plato (Sal Mineo), who was also at the police station the same night as Jim. Plato idolizes Jim, his real father having abandoned his family, and experiences many of the same problems as Jim, such as searching for meaning in life and dealing with parents who "don't understand". Jim meets Judy (Natalie Wood), whom he also recognizes from the police station, where she was brought in for being out alone after dark. She originally seems unimpressed by Jim, saying in a sarcastic tone, "I bet you're a real yo-yo." She is apparently the property of Buzz.
Jim goes on a field trip to the Griffith Observatory. There he sees a dramatic presentation of the violent death of the universe. After the show, he watches as the thugs slash a tire of his car; then Buzz challenges him to a knife fight, in which Jim is loath to take part until the gang taunts him as a "chicken" (coward). He reluctantly takes part in the fight and wins, subduing Buzz by holding his switchblade up to his neck. Both Jim and Buzz receive slight injuries while fighting. The thugs challenge Jim to a "Chickie Run" with Buzz, racing stolen cars towards an abyss. The first one who jumps out of the car loses and is deemed the "chicken". The "game" ends in tragedy for Buzz when a strap on the sleeve of his leather jacket becomes looped over a handle on the car door, preventing him from jumping out before the car goes over the cliff.
Jim tries to tell his parents what happened, but becomes frustrated by their failure to understand him and storms out of the house. When Jim is seen trying to go to the police by some of Buzz's friends, they decide to hunt him down, and harass Plato and Jim's family to try to find him. Judy and Jim go to an abandoned mansion; Plato finds them there, as he was the one who originally told Jim about the house. There they act out a "fantasy family", with Jim as father, Judy as mother and Plato as child. The thugs soon discover them, and Plato brandishes his mother's gun, shooting one of the boys, and shooting at Jim and a police officer, in a clearly unstable state.
Plato hides in the Observatory, which is soon besieged by the police. Jim and Judy follow him inside, and Jim convinces Plato to lend him the gun, from which he silently removes the ammunition magazine. When Plato steps out of the observatory, he becomes agitated again at the sight of the police and charges forward, brandishing his weapon. He is fatally shot by a police officer as Jim yells to the police, too late, that he has already removed the bullets. Plato is wearing Jim's jacket at the time, and as a result, Jim's parents (brought to the scene by police) think at first that Jim was shot. Mr. Stark then runs to comfort Jim, openly weeping for Plato's death, and promises to be a stronger father, one that his son can depend on. Thus reconciled, Jim introduces Judy to his parents.
Warner Brothers had bought the rights to Linder's 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 Brando test. The screen test is included on a 2006 special edition DVD of the 1951 film A Streetcar Named Desire.
According to a Natalie Wood biography, she almost did not get the role of Judy because Nicholas Ray thought that she did not 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?!"
Irving Shulman, who adapted Nicholas Ray's initial film story into the screenplay, had considered changing the name of James Dean's character to Herman Deville, according to Jurgen Miller's "Movies of the '50s". He had also originally written a number of scenes that were shot and later cut from the final version of the film. According to an AFI interview with Stewart Stern, with whom Shulman worked on the screenplay, one of the scenes was thought to be too emotionally provocative to be included in the final print of the film. It portrayed the character of Jim Stark inebriated to the point of belligerence screaming at a car in the parking lot, "It's a little jeep jeep! Little jeep, jeep!" The scene was considered unproductive to the story's progression by head editor William H. Ziegler and ultimately ended up on the cutting room floor. In 2006, members of the Lincoln Film Society petitioned to have the scene printed and archived for historical preservation.
The film was in production from March 28 to May 25, 1955. When production began, Warner Bros. considered it a B-movie project, and Ray used black and white film stock. When Jack Warner realized James Dean was a rising star and a hot property, filming was switched to color stock and many scenes had to be reshot in color.
The film received accolades for its story and for the performance of James Dean and the young stars who appeared, among them teenagers Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo and Dennis Hopper, along with Nick Adams and Corey Allen.
The film holds a 95% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Awards and accolades 
- Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor – Sal Mineo
- Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress – Natalie Wood
- Best Writing, Motion Picture Story – Nicholas Ray
- BAFTA Award for Best Film
- BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor – James Dean
American Film Institute recognition
- 1998 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies #59
- 2005 AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes
- "You're tearing me apart!" - Nominated
Empire magazine recognition
- Ranked 477th on list of the 500 greatest movies of all time in 2008.
Cultural influence 
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (September 2012)|
Television and Film 
- In The Simpsons episode, "Take My Wife, Sleaze", a parody of Rebel Without a Cause became an inspiration for Homer Simpson to form his motorcycle gang, even though he watched it with his vintage 1955 Harley-Davidson motorcycle he won at a '50s nostalgia cafe earlier in this episode.
- In The Sopranos episode, "Big Girls Don't Cry", Christopher Moltisanti's acting instructor assigns Chris and several classmates—whom she terms "rebels without causes"— to enact the scene wherein Plato dies and Jim cries over his friend's body. The scene (which evoked in Christopher feelings about his alcoholic mother, Joanne Blundetto Moltisanti, and deceased father, Richard (Dickie) Moltisanti) touched Christopher so deeply that it inspired him to cry (and to later punch the student who played Jim's father in the scene) and his emotionally true acting impressed Christopher's teacher and classmates.
- In Terence Malick's film Badlands (1973), various characters note that the lead character reminds them of James Dean. The lead characters in Badlands—Kit and Holly (Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek)—mildly echo those of Jim Stark and Judy (Dean and Woods). A Mercury Eight also appears in the film.
- The movie Cool As Ice is supposed to be a remake of Rebel Without a Cause.
- In the show Futurama, the outfit of Philip J. Fry is based on Jim's outfit.
- In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Prehibernation Week", SpongeBob says, "They're tearing me apart." in reference to the games that he and Sandy had been playing. This is a reference to Jim's line, "You're tearing me apart," when Jim's parents are arguing at the police station and have different opinions about Jim.
- In the 1983 film Christine, the character of Arnold "Arnie" Cunningham is intended to gradually resemble James Dean's character throughout the film, particularly his hair and trademark red jacket. This may be due in part to the urban legend of Dean also owning a haunted car.
- The Looney Tunes Show episode "Rebel Without a Glove" came from the movie title.
- In 1995 Nonesuch Records issued an album of music from both East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause by the London Sinfonietta, conducted by John Adams.
- The German musician Prinz Pi's album Rebell ohne Grund (2011) is named after Rebel Without a Cause.
- Rap Group Public Enemy made a song called "Rebel Without A Pause".
- Bonnie Tyler in 1986 made a song called "Rebel Without a Clue".
- The Bellamy Brothers in 1988 made a song called "Rebels Without a Clue".
- The phrase "Rebel without a clue" also occurs in the 1989 song "I'll Be You" by The Replacements, which inspired Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers to include it onto their 1991 song "Into the Great Wide Open".
- Track 5 on the Every Time I Die album, The Big Dirty, is named "Rebel Without Applause".
- Locnville made a song named "James Dean".
- Joni Mitchell included clips from Rebel Without a Cause in her concert film, Shadows and Light, recorded in 1979 and released in 1980.
- Shenandoah mentions Dean and Wood in the song "I Want to Be Loved Like That". The beginning of the song states: "Natalie Wood gave her heart to James Dean/ High school rebel and a teenage queen/ Standing together in an angry world/ One boy fighting for one girl."
- In Sleeping with Sirens' 2010 album With Ears to See and Eyes to Hear, there is a song called "If I'm James Dean, you're Audrey Hepburn". In their acoustic EP they released afterwards, there is the acoustic version simply called "James Dean & Audrey Hepburn".
- 'The Top Box-Office Hits of 1956', Variety Weekly, January 2, 1957
- Variety film review; October 26, 1955, page 6.
- Harrison's Reports film review; October 22, 1955, page 170.
- "Rebel Without a Cause". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
- "Empire's 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time". Empireonline.com. 2006-12-05. Retrieved 2012-08-13.
- Frascella, Lawrence and Weisel, Al : Live Fast, Die Young: The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without a Cause. Touchstone, 2005. ISBN 0-7432-6082-1
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Rebel Without a Cause (film)|
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Rebel Without a Cause|
- Rebel Without a Cause at the Internet Movie Database
- Rebel Without a Cause at the TCM Movie Database
- Rebel Without a Cause at AllRovi
- Rebel Without a Cause at Rotten Tomatoes
- Behind the Scenes of Rebel Without a Cause: James Dean, Sal Mineo, Natalie Wood—Living Fast, Dying Young, in Life and Onscreen
- "The Making of Rebel Without a Cause by Sam Kashner A Vanity Fair piece about Nicholas Ray with a particular focus on Rebel.
- "Rebel Without a Cause" by Raymond Weschler