Sunday, July 19, 2009
Rebel Without A Cause(1955) and James Dean
The first movie that completely captivated me to watch old movies was the 1955 classic "Rebel Without A Cause". Before even seeing any of James Dean's films, I was already a fan. I couldn't explain it then but I think what it was about James, was that he was able to make such a huge career in such a little amount of time. What was also so impressive was that each film of his, was applauded by critics and fans alike. To make such an impact in the entertainment world, in such a short time and with an even shorter career, James Dean instantly impressed me.
When I did first see "Rebel Without A Cause", I tried and tried my hardest in watching but with my Dad and brother interrupting and talking about how "fat" he was, I decided to wait. Right then I could tell, they weren't going to be watching old movies with me anytime soon and it's been like that ever since.
With my second attempt, I sat and watched not only James Dean's greatest performance ever but just how huge an impact it had made with teens in the 1950's. No longer were teens going to be seen as only bobbysoxers, but now they had a different identity and perspective thanks to JD. They were able to show a new side to their parents, teachers, and any adult who tried to step in their way. In the film, James can't tolerate the way his Father acts and in fact shows his father his anger by pushing him and telling him to man up instead of his Mother constantly bullying him. The madness that James' character feels towards his Father(played by Jim Backus) is so interesting to watch and I can't ever seem to take my eyes off of the scenes between the two. He hates to see his father in that kind of state and he wants to see him to stand up and show that he's not afraid of his mother.
What is so fascinating about the relationship between James Dean's character Jim and his father Frank Stark is that in real life James could not communicate with his father at all. Their views were different from one another and when James' Mother passed away, James' Father couldn't take the pressure of raising a son on his own and so James lived with his Aunt and Uncle. Towards the end of his life, James tried to work on his relationship with his Father but unfortunately it was too late. Even though it would have taken a much longer time for them to fix the broken relationship, in time I think the two would have found a middle ground, where they could get along with each other.
Anyway back to Rebel, one of my absolute favorite things in the film, is the relationship between Natalie Wood's Judy, James Dean's Jim Stark, and Sal Mineo's Plato. Without either or both parents in the picture, the three find solace with each other. Plato looks to Jim and Judy as if they are his new parents, always trying to seek approval from Jim and trying to show that he and Jim have a tight-knit relationship with Judy. If these three weren't cast, I really don't think the film would have been as good as it was. The three of them play their roles to perfection and they give you the belief that they are teens who are lost within themselves and their only happiness is with one another.
A little bio on James Dean for you-
James Dean was born on February 8th 1931 to parents Winton and Mildred Dean in Marion, Indiana. At the age of 9, James' Mother passed away and it was now up to his Father to take care of him. Unable to care for his young son, James went and lived with his Uncle and Aunt. Throughout High School, James was in several school plays and after quitting college, he went full time into the profession.
James spent much time in New York and met several people that would later become his friends such as Leonard Rosenman and Martin Landau. While in New York, James dated dancer, Liz Sheridan who would later pen a novel accounting their love relationship. Though he had dated the dancer, James had found love with actress Pier Angeli, while working on "East of Eden'', and she was working on another film. The two met and had quite tempestuous love affair until out of nowhere, Pier married singer Vic Damone(Pier's Mother was against the fact that James wasn't Catholic). In the 1970's, Pier killed herself and in her suicide note, said that James Dean was her one and only true love.
While doing the play, "The Immortalist", he was spotted by Elia Kazan who then cast him in the amazing 1954 film "East of Eden". With the film, James got instant fame and went onto make "Rebel Without A Cause" starring alongside Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo. After the success of both films, James then made what would be his last film "Giant", in which he starred with Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson.
During the day of September 30th 1955, while going to a racing event(One of James' favorite things to do was to race cars and he often won awards), James Dean was pulled over for speeding and received a ticket. Two hours later after the ticket, James Dean was killed instantly in his Porshe. It was discovered years later, that James was not in fact speeding when he was killed but it was the other driver who unable to see the car because of the sun, had accidentally killed the young actor.
Just weeks before his death, James had made a commercial about driving safely, unfortunately that was the way he died. James Dean died at the tender age of 24 and will forever be immortalized in his films. RIP James Dean 1931-1955