Rebel Without A Cause opens
There is teen angst, and then there is Rebel without a Cause, the film that to this day personifies the pains of the young at heart and body. Directed by Nicholas Ray, the 1955 picture stars James Dean as Jim, a red-jacketed high-school senior and new kid in town who moodily tangles with his parents, school authorities, a local gang, and then, finally, the police. Sal Mineo co-stars as his estranged, awkward friend Plato, and Natalie Wood is Judy, the girlfriend of the school’ s popular tough guy who falls for Jim instead. Although Marlon Brando had once auditioned for the part, Ray was dead set on Dean, who brought his intensely charismatic brand of Method acting to the part. For the hard- living Ray, the film was also a deeply personal one; according to Sam Kashner’ s 2005 Vanity Fair piece on the director, he identified with the film’ s themes of absent parenting. When he finished the rough cut, he stood up in the screening room before studio head Jack Warner and said, “ My name is Nick Ray and I just finished making a picture for you called Rebel Without a Cause. I thought maybe you’ d forgotten my name.… I know you must have been pissed off at me at least once.… I know every important frame of [the movie] as if it had been printed on my skin.” A big box-office success, the film was released just one week after Dean died in a car accident. He was praised in reviews, although it would be Wood, Mineo and Ray (for the story) who would be nominated for Oscars. Teenagers re-enacted the fight scenes for the movie, causing it to be banned in some territories, and even today its influence on films about misunderstood youth cannot be overstated.