Rebel Without A Cause: Curse, Trivia, And More
Released on October 27, 1955, nearly a month after Dean's fatal car accident on September 30, Rebel Without a Cause was a groundbreaking film that portrayed the disillusionment of the post-war American teenager while attempting to shine a light on the less-than-stellar parenting of the era. At the time of its release, the film received mixed reviews, but it was a major hit with audiences. In the decades since Rebel Without a Cause careened into theaters, it's become one of the most important American films of the 20th century. Aside from garnering accolades, the film has left tragedy in its wake and inspired a series of strange imposters, all attempting to recapture its magic.
Warner Brothers tried to make the movie for years
Rebel Without a Cause started with nothing more than a title, albeit a long one. In 1946, Warner Bros. purchased Robert M. Lindner's book, Rebel Without a Cause: The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath, but it took them about a decade to crack the story's code. They didn't know what to do with it until director Nicholas Ray brought them his idea for a black-and-white teen movie in the style of Blackboard Jungle. They asked him to combine his idea with their killer title, which led Ray to focus more on the disillusionment of the American teen and less on their crazy antics.
Natalie Wood only got the part after proving she was a juvenile delinquent
It's hard to imagine anyone but Natalie Wood playing the part of Judy, the love interest of Dean's Jim Stark. Director Nicholas Ray just didn't think the little girl from Miracle on 34th Street had it in her to get up to the required trouble, but she made sure to prove him wrong.
After going out with her friends one night, she ended up in a car accident that left her bloody and bruised. When Ray went to the hospital to check up on Woods, she overheard a doctor referring to her as a "g--damn juvenile delinquent," something she'd been trying to prove for months. She shouted at Ray "Did you hear what he called me, Nick?! He called me a g--damn juvenile delinquent! Now, do I get the part?!"
James Dean is the only reason the film is in color
There's a good chance that if James Dean hadn't starred in Rebel Without a Cause that the film would have been a black-and-white B-movie akin to Teenage Crimewave or Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!, but thanks to the success of East of Eden, Dean was one of the hottest stars in Hollywood. The film went into production on March 28, 1955, and a couple of weeks later, Warner Bros. decreed that the movie needed to be in color. Ray had to go back and reshoot a few scenes in the new widescreen CinemaScope format, which brought out its gorgeous visuals, transforming it from what could have been a great teen movie into a landmark achievement of filmmaking. Still, it would be cool to see the film in a stark black-and-white.
The curse of Rebel Without A Cause
While Rebel Without a Cause was a landmark film, it also carries a history of being "cursed." Each of the film's leads passed away before the age of 45, all of them were under tragic or mysterious circumstances. James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, and Nick Adams each went their separate ways after the film, with Dean passing away first following a head-on collision while driving his Porsche Spyder, "Little Bastard," on September 30, 1955.
More than a decade later, Nick Adams, who played Chick in the film, passed away on February 7, 1968, of an apparent drug overdose. That night, his lawyer discovered him slumped over in his bedroom, completely dressed. While there were no needle marks on his body, doctors ruled his death a suicide.
On February 12, 1976, Sal Mineo, who co-starred with Dean in Rebel Without a Cause and Giant, was returning home from a play rehearsal in Westwood when he was stabbed through the heart outside of his apartment. Years later, his alleged killer was arrested in Michigan after writing bad checks, although he looked completely different from the man that witnesses claimed they saw.
The final victim of the film's "curse" was actress Natalie Wood, who passed away under mysterious circumstances on November 29, 1981. She drowned at the age of 43 while on a boat trip to Catalina with her husband, Robert Wagner, and their friend, Christopher Walken. Wagner admitted that he and his wife had an argument that night but maintains he had nothing to do with her death, and to this day, no one really knows what happened on the boat that night.
The lore of Rebel Without A Cause is as fascinating as the film
While Nicholas Ray finally landed the story for Rebel Without a Cause, he wasn't the first person to write a draft of the film. One of the first passes was written by Theodore Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss. In another world, James Dean could have said that he would not be torn apart on a train or in the rain.
Another famous person who could have been a part of the film was Marlon Brando, another actor known for making pained faces. He gave a five-minute screen test in 1947 in which he read from a script that existed at the time but wasn't the script that Dean worked from in 1955. It seems that testing Brando was just wishful thinking on the part of Warner Bros.
One of the stranger stories about the filming of Rebel Without a Cause comes from Steffi Sidney, who played Mil. She claims that as production wrapped on the "chickie run" scene, she saw a flash from a nuclear explosion. As wild as this sounds, the scene was filmed on May 15, 1955, the same night that a 28-kiloton warhead was tested in Nevada.
The film has inspired numerous copycats, but only one is the "worst movie ever made"
It's impossible to list every movie that was influenced by Rebel Without a Cause, so it's only natural that not all of them have been good. In fact, one of them is known as the "worst movie ever made." The Room was a star vehicle for actor/writer/director/producer Tommy Wiseau, who's professed his love for Dean and pulled lines from Rebel Without A Cause for the script of his movie. Specifically, Wiseau incorporated Dean's famous utterance, "You're tearing me apart," as well as the "cheep, cheep, cheep" mocking from the "chickie" scene and the needless death that occurs at the end of both films.
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