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Rebel Without a Cause
Alternate Title: The Blind Run
Director: Nicholas Ray (Dir)
Release Date:   29 Oct 1955
Premiere Information:   New York opening: week of 27 Oct 1955
Production Date:   28 Mar--26 May 1955
Duration (in mins):   110-111
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Cast:   James Dean (Jim Stark)  
    Natalie Wood (Judy)  
    Sal Mineo (John "Plato" Crawford)  
    Jim Backus (Jim's father, Frank Stark)  
    Ann Doran (Jim's mother)  
    Corey Allen (Buzz Gunderson)  
    William Hopper (Judy's father)  
    Rochelle Hudson (Judy's mother)  
    Dennis Hopper (Goon)  
    Edward Platt (Ray Framek)  
    Steffi Sidney (Mil)  
    Marietta Canty (Crawford family maid)  
    Virginia Brissac (Jim's grandmother)  
    Beverly Long (Helen)  
    Ian Wolfe (Lecturer)  
    Frank Mazzola (Crunch)  
    Robert Foulk (Gene)  
    Jack Simmons (Moose)  
    Tom Bernard (Harry)  
    Nick Adams (Cookie)  
    Jack Grinnage (Chick)  
    Clifford Morris (Cliff)  
    Jimmy Baird (Beau, Judy's brother)  
    Dick Wessel (Guide)  
    Nelson Leigh (Sergeant)  
    Paul Bryar (Sergeant)  
    Dave Alpert (Officer)  
    Louise Lane (Officer)  
    House Peters Jr. (Officer)  
    John Close (Officer)  
    Ed "Skipper" McNally (Approaching officer)  
    Paul Birch (Police Chief)  
    Almira Sessions (Teacher)  
    Charles Postal (Teacher)  
    Skipper Huerta (Little boy)  
    Stephanie Arenes (Little girl)  
    Dorothy Abbott (Nurse)  
    Gus Schilling (Attendant)  
    Bruce Noonan (Monitor)  
    Peter Miller (Hoodlum)  
    Charles Hicks (Ambulance attentant)  
    Robert B. Williams (Moose's father)  
    David McMahon (Crunch's father)  
    Nicholas Ray (Man walking toward planetarium)  
    Harold Bostwick    

Summary: Late one night, in a well-to-do part of Los Angeles, police find teenager Jim Stark sprawled drunk on the sidewalk, playing with a toy monkey. He is taken to the police station, where two other young people have also been brought in: sixteen-year-old Judy, who was found wandering the streets, and John Crawford, nicknamed “Plato,” who was caught shooting puppies. Ray Framek, the juvenile division counselor, interviews the three children individually. After talking to Judy, he realizes that her father has been withholding his affection because he is uncomfortable with her passage from adolescence to womanhood. The only affection Plato receives is from the family housekeeper, a sympathetic and caring black woman, as his father permanently abandoned the family and his mother, neglectful of her lonely son, travels frequently. When the Stark family arrives, Jim’s father, an ineffectual man who is henpecked by Jim’s mother and grandmother, tries to make light of his son’s drunkenness. His reminiscence that he got “loaded” when he was a young man sparks a family argument, prompting Jim to cry out, “You’re tearing me apart!” After taking Jim into his office to talk to him alone, Ray learns that the family, who recently moved to the area, has changed residences often to give Jim a new start whenever he gets into trouble. Instead of helping him, the uprootedness has prevented Jim from making meaningful friendships. Jim is further frustrated that his father does not stand up to the women. Sympathetically, Ray offers Jim an open invitation to visit and talk with him. On the first day of school, Jim learns that Judy is a neighbor. He tries to befriend her, but she refuses his offer of a ride to school and instead joins her boyfriend, Buzz Gunderson, and their rowdy friends in his crowded convertible. Jim proceeds alone to school, where he is harassed by fellow students for stepping on the school’s insignia embedded on the front steps. Later in the day, Jim drives alone to Griffith Observatory for a school field trip. During the planetarium show, the lecturer remarks about man’s insignificance in the vast universe and presents a light show demonstrating the end of the world. After listening to Jim make a joke meant to impress Judy and her friends, Plato warns him that the group is cliquish. After the lecture, Buzz and his restless friends decide to harass Jim. Plato warns Jim about their intention and points out an abandoned mansion in the nearby hills, where they can escape. However, the troublemakers, among them Judy, reach Jim’s car first and Buzz punctures his tire with a switchblade. While Jim calmly changes the tire, his classmates call him a “chicken,” an insult that is particularly hurtful to him, and Buzz taunts him into a knife fight. After knocking the switchblade out of Buzz’s hands, Jim offers to settle the matter elsewhere, without knives. When Buzz invites him to meet at a cliff overlooking the sea that evening for a “chickie run,” Jim agrees, without knowing what a "chickie run" entails. Later, at home, Jim is ashamed to find his father on his knees wearing an apron, cleaning up a spilled tray of food. Wanting guidance from his father, Jim talks about a matter of honor, but his father lets him down by evading his question. At Judy’s house, her father scolds her for kissing him, saying she is "too old for that," causing her to leave the house in tears. When Jim later arrives at the cliff that night, he finds a crowd waiting to watch, including Plato, who hitchhiked there to support him. While explaining the procedure for the "chickie run" to Jim, Buzz reveals that he is beginning to like him. When Jim asks why they are continuing, Buzz says enigmatically, “Because you have to do something.” Meanwhile, Judy, intrigued by Jim, questions Plato about him, and Plato, claiming that Jim is his best friend, describes him as “sincere.” At Judy's signal, Buzz and Jim drive two stolen cars toward the cliff’s edge, where the first to jump out of the car will be declared the “chickie.” However, Buzz’s leather jacket catches on the door handle, preventing him from escaping at the last minute, and he plummets, trapped in the car, to his death in the sea. Fearing the arrival of the police, the observers drive off and Jim takes Judy’s hand and drives her and Plato home. Later, Jim tells his parents what happened and reminds his dad about their conversation regarding “a matter of honor.” Heedless of Buzz’s death, the Stark adults worry whether anyone can identify Jim as having been there and his mother announces they must move again. Wanting to do the right thing, Jim says he will go to the police, but his family urges him not to get involved. Their voices rise and soon they are screaming at each other. Feeling that his father will not “stand up” for him, Jim attacks him, and then leaves the house, heading for the police station. Finding that Ray is out on a call, Jim phones Judy and she sneaks out to meet him. Apologizing for the way she treated him when she was with her friends, she says, “Nobody acts sincere.” Buzz’s friends, who were brought to the police station for questioning, see Jim there, and concerned that he might inform on them, beat up Plato to get his address. Afterward, the frightened Plato finds his mother’s gun and goes out to warn Jim, and eventually finds Jim and Judy at the mansion. There Plato fantasizes that Jim and Judy are his family, while they pretend to be married. When Plato falls asleep, Jim and Judy explore the mansion. After hanging a chicken on the Starks’s doorframe, Buzz's friends realize that Jim is not there and cruise the streets until they spot his parked car. Entering the mansion, they torment Plato, who awakens thinking Jim and Judy deserted him. Plato shoots one of the boys, then runs out toward the observatory, where he is seen by a policeman. Plato breaks into the observatory and shoots at the policeman. The shots bring backup police cars, Plato’s housekeeper and Ray and the Starks, who have been searching for Jim since the hoodlums’ visit. As they all converge on the front lawn, Jim and Judy feel obligated to help Plato, run into the building and find the boy hiding in the planetarium. After calming Plato, Jim asks to see his gun, promising to return it, and secretly removes the bullets. Remembering the lecture, Plato asks if the end of the world will come at night and Jim says it will come at dawn. Jim and Judy accompany Plato outside after asking Ray, at Plato’s request, to turn off a spotlight aimed at the door. However, when a policeman points a light at them, Plato panics and runs, brandishing the gun. Although Jim calls out that the weapon is empty, the policemen shoot and kill the boy. Jim cries over Plato’s body, while his father tries to comfort him, saying that he “did everything a man can do.” Jim’s father promises to try to be strong for Jim and to stand beside him in whatever happens next. After Plato’s body is taken away, Jim introduces Judy to his parents. As they all leave, a man with a briefcase walks toward the planetarium and a new day begins.  

Production Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.  
Brand Name: A Warner-Bros.--First National Picture
Distribution Company: Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Nicholas Ray (Dir)
  Don Page (Asst dir)
  Robert Farfan (Asst dir)
Producer: David Weisbart (Prod)
Writer: Stewart Stern (Scr)
  Irving Shulman (Adpt)
  Nicholas Ray (From a story by)
Photography: Ernest Haller (Dir of photog)
Art Direction: Malcolm Bert (Art dir)
Film Editor: William Ziegler (Film ed)
  James Moore (Film ed)
Set Decoration: William Wallace (Set dec)
Costumes: Moss Mabry (Cost des)
  Marguerite Royce (Women's ward)
Music: Leonard Rosenman (Mus)
Sound: Stanley Jones (Sd)
Make Up: Gordon Bau (Makeup supv)
  Tillie Starriett (Hairdresser)
Production Misc: Dennis Stock (Dial supv)
  Howard Hohler (Scr supv)
  Dr. Douglas M. Kelly (Tech adv)
  Frank Mazzola (Tech adv)
  Florence Granroth (Researcher, lecturer's speech)
Country: United States
Language: English

Source Text:

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc. 29/10/1955 dd/mm/yyyy LP7249

PCA NO: 17504
Physical Properties: Sd: RCA Sound System
  col: WarnerColor
  Widescreen/ratio: CinemaScope

Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Teenage
Subjects (Major): Adolescents
  Family relationships
  Juvenile delinquency
  Los Angeles (CA)
Subjects (Minor): African Americans
  Automobile theft
  Brothers and sisters
  Death and dying
  Falls from heights
  Greek Americans
  Griffith Park Observatory (Los Angeles, CA)
  Henpecked husbands
  High school students
  Knife fighting
  Social workers
  Switchblade knives

Note: The HR review erroneously listed the film's duration as 116 minutes. The film’s story spans twenty-four hours in the lives of its characters. Although some character names, such as Jim’s father “Frank,” can be gleaned from viewing the film, all cast lists in reviews and production notes refer to the parents in relation to their children, e.g., “Jim’s father,” “Jim’s mother," ”Judy’s father,” etc. During the police station sequence, director Nicholas Ray employed the use of three frames within a frame, using glass partitions of office windows and doorways to split the screen, in order to show simultaneously the three main characters, "Jim," "Judy" and "Plato." During the Stark family sequence, after the “chickie run,” the entrance of Jim’s mother is shown upside down, from the perspective of Jim, who is lying on the couch. The camera then pans 180 degrees vertically as she walked down the stairs.
       In Feb 1946, a HR news item reported that Warner Bros. purchased the screen rights to Rebel Without a Cause: The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath (New York, 1944), Dr. Robert M. Lindner’s true case history of a young inmate in a Pennsylvania penitentiary. Files on the film in the Warner Bros. Archive at the USC Cinema-Television Library contain several script versions of that incarnation of the story, all of which were titled Rebel Without a Cause : a Feb 1946 treatment by Jacques Le Mareschal based on Lindner’s book; a Jun 1946 first draft by Theodor Seuss Geisel (known later as children’s book author Dr. Seuss); an Apr 1947 screenplay by Peter Viertel; and a May 1949 screenplay credited to H. L. Fishel and Lindner. In 1947, Warner Bros. screen tested the rising young New York actor Marlon Brando for the part of the psychopathic “rebel.” Brando, who was then unknown to films, had had great success portraying “Stanley Kowalski” in Broadway's A Streetcar Named Desire .
       The project was dropped for several years. However, in the early 1950s, black and white B movies about teenage rebellion were finding markets, and Columbia would soon produce its 1954 The Wild One , and M-G-M, the 1955 The Blackboard Jungle (see entries below and above). In mid-Sep 1954, Ray wrote, within a few hours, according to modern sources, a film treatment about three teenagers, Eve, Demo, who would be tried and condemned to death during the course of the story, and gang leader Jimmy. Ray’s treatment minimized Lindner’s psychopathic element and veered away from other films’s concept that juvenile delinquency was the problem of lower-income classes. He instead focused on the discontent and isolation of modern teenagers.
       Within a few weeks, Warner Bros. bought Ray’s treatment, which was titled The Blind Run , and according to a late Sep 1954 HR news item, Ray was also hired to direct. According to modern sources, Ray consulted with the Culver City, CA police, and legal and psychiatric professionals specializing in juvenile delinquents, as he prepared for the film. A HR news item reported that, during pre-production, Dr. Douglas M. Kelly, a University of California, Berkeley professor of criminology, analyzed the psychiatric motives of all the characters and viewed rushes during filming.
       Modern sources state that Ray’s first choice for screenwriter, Clifford Odets, was unavailable. Writer Leon Uris was assigned only briefly to the project, because, many modern sources suggest, Uris’ vision of the story required a larger cast and scale than Ray’s. Uris was soon replaced by writer Irving Shulman, whose Dec 1954 script based on Ray’s treatment was titled Juvenile Story . Modern sources credit Shulman with setting the story in upper middle-class Southern California, and adding the first planetarium sequence and the “chickie run,” which was inspired by a real-life event he and Ray read about in the newspaper. The final character names of the three protagonists, Jim, Judy and Plato, were first used in Shulman's version. Although a Jan 1955 Var news item reported that writer Stewart Stern was “joining” Shulman in the writing of the screenplay, modern sources state that either Ray fired Shulman or that the studio rejected his screenplay. Stern worked alone on subsequent versions of the script, which reverted to Lindner’s original title, Rebel Without a Cause .
       Notes found on the Shulman screenplay in the Warner Bros. archive suggest that the studio had been considering actors James Dean and Tab Hunter for the part of Jim, and Lois Smith for Judy. Modern sources say Ray fought studio heads against casting Hunter and Jayne Mansfield in the lead roles. Although a Dec 1954 HR news item reported that Ray flew to New York to test young television and stage players for the lead, modern sources say that he wanted Dean after seeing screenings of his portrayal of “Caleb,” Dean’s first major film role, in East of Eden (see entry above). Dean had been scheduled to appear in Warner’s Giant , but production of that film was postponed until Jun 1955 because of Elizabeth Taylor’s pregnancy, freeing Dean to take the role in Rebel Without a Cause . According to modern sources, to train for the role, Dean spent time with Los Angeles gang members and befriended Frank Mazzola, a former gang member hired as a consultant and actor for Rebel Without a Cause .
       Feb 1955 HR news items reported that many young people were tested for various roles in the film. According to lists found in the Warner Bros. Archives, Debbie Reynolds and Carroll Baker were top contenders for the role of Judy, which Natalie Wood ultimately won. Another of the many actresses considered for the part was Patricia Crowley. Some of the actresses considered for the roles of either Judy’s or Plato’s mothers were Ruth Hussey, Maureen Stapleton, Jeanette Nolan, Barbara Billingsley and Adele Jergens. Marsha Hunt was initially cast as Jim’s mother, according to a Mar 1955 HR news item, but was replaced by Ann Doran. For the role of Jim’s father, Rod Cameron, Walter Matthau and Raymond Burr were considered. James Whitmore, Peter Gray, Richard Crane, George Reeves and Walter Reed were considered for the sympathetic juvenile division counselor “Ray Framek,” a character modern sources report was named for the film's director. Modern sources also state that Jeff Silver, Billy Gray and Dennis Hopper were considered for the role of Plato. Despite concerns about child welfare regulations, Ray cast minors Wood and Sal Mineo for the roles of Judy and Plato. Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, an Apr 1955 HR news item adds Joel Smith and Charles Fredericks to the cast as police officers, Tom Hennesy as a teacher, and Chris Randall, Georgette Michele, Stephan Michael and Richard Espinosa.
       According to information in the film’s file in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the Breen office had many concerns about the film. In letters to studio head Jack L. Warner, the censors warned against the general brutality of the delinquent teenagers, the latent homosexuality of Plato, hints of sexual activity between Jim and Judy in the mansion sequence, the inference of the idea of incest in the relationship between Judy and her father, and Judy’s promiscuity, which was more pronounced in an earlier version of the script in which she was brought to the police station for soliciting. Modern sources state that the script continued to change. In one version, Plato did not die. The sex and violence were, in some cases, minimized. Modern interviews with actors and crew from the film reveal that, after shooting commenced, Ray allowed Dean to make improvisatory changes to his lines on the set.
       The film was conceived as a black and white B movie, and several scenes, particularly at Griffith Observatory, were shot only in black and white and never used. In some of the black and white footage, Dean appears wearing eyeglasses. Another scene shot in black and white shows a large group of teenagers on the driveway behind the observatory; when the scene was later shot in color, few extras were retained, leaving only a handful of teenagers to taunt Dean's character. A different opening scene for the film was made during black and white shooting, in which an innocent person is harassed by a mob of teenagers, resulting in a toy monkey falling to the street. In the later color version, the scene was cut, allowing the film to begin with a drunken Jim Stark lying on the street playing with the monkey. That scene, according to a modern source, was shot at four a.m. on Hollywood Blvd. A different ending scene, filmed through the aperture of the planetarium dome, was also shot in black and white, but discarded for the ending in the released film.
       Soon after the premiere of East of Eden , it became clear that Dean had achieved star status. Modern sources speculate that, because of his new box-office appeal and the growing success of teenage rebel movies, Warner decided to “upgrade” Rebel Without a Cause , budgeting it more money and production time, and ordered that it be filmed in color. One supporting gang member’s character was excised and sequences depicting the teenage gang were also cut from the script, resulting in the loss of the individual personalities in the group. Modern sources suggest that the cuts were made to give Dean more screen time.
       As mentioned above, portions of the film were shot at Los Angeles’ Griffith Park Observatory. The former J. Paul Getty mansion built in the 1920s at the corner of Wilshire Blvd. and Crenshaw Blvd., which also served as a shooting site for the 1950 Paramount production Sunset Blvd (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1941-50 ), appeared as the mansion in the film shortly before the house's real-life demolition.
       A LAEx article reported that Dean was injured several times while shooting the switchblade fight, during which a real weapon was used. He also injured his hand, according to a modern source, when he pounded on Ray’s desk at the police station and Ray had to shoot around his bandaged hand for a week. That scene was later cut from the British version of the film, according to a Nov 1955 DV news item, because British censors found the scene excessively emotional.
       Rebel Without a Cause soon developed the reputation as being the first film to tackle problems of middle-class youth, but when it opened, the impact of its violence and sexuality shocked some reviewers into mixed, albeit strong, criticism. Some reviews found the development of the parental characters weak or unfair.
       Rebel Without a Cause marked the feature film debut of Dennis Hooper (1936--2010), although it is possible that the actor's scenes for I Died a Thousand Times , which was released later but went into production just before, may have been shot prior to his scenes in Rebel Without a Cause . The picture also marked Wood’s first adult role. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role, but lost to Jo Van Fleet in East of Eden . Mineo, whose role is considered by critics the first instance of a homosexual boy on film, was nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, but lost to Jack Lemmon in Mister Roberts . Ray was nominated for Best Motion Picture Story, but lost to Daniel Fuchs’s Love Me or Leave Me . In 1997, Rebel Without a Cause was rated fifty-nine in AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies list of the greatest American films.
       In 1958, James Fuller adapted the film for the stage in a play bearing the same title. According to Warner Bros. files, there were plans to produce a television show in 1962 based on the film; however, this project never reached fruition. An Apr 1966 DV news item reported that Mayo Simon was to write a musical remake of the film and a Jun 1967 HR news item reported that playwright Sidney Michaels was rewriting a musical version for Hal Wallis. No further information about these productions has been found. Although Dean made only three major motion pictures, he became the subject of several films. Among them are Warner’s 1957 documentary, The James Dean Story , directed by George W. George and Robert Altman (see above); the 1997 Mars production, Race With Destiny , which was directed by Mardi Rustam and starred Casper Van Dien; and James Dean , starring James Franco, which was directed by Mark Rydell and aired on TNT cable network in 2001.
       Immediately after completing Rebel Without a Cause in late May, Dean reported to the set of Giant , his third major film. On 30 Sep 1955, having just completed his role and experiencing only six and a half months of stardom, Dean, aged twenty-four, was killed in a car accident at the junction of highways 46 and 41, near Cholame, CA. When Rebel Without a Cause had its premiere four weeks after his death, reviews continued to compare Dean to Brando. However, most reviews allowed that he was no longer using what the DV review called “the Marlon Brando mannerisms” that some reviewers had accused him of in East of Eden . Most reviewers mourned Dean’s death, as did Var , which expressed “genuine artistic regret, for here was a talent which might have touched the heights.”
       In 1988, a bronze bust of Dean, which was a casting of Kenneth Kendall’s 1956 original that was placed at Dean’s Indiana gravesite, was unveiled outside Griffith Observatory, where Rebel Without a Cause was filmed. In 1999, Dean was declared by AFI one of the century’s top twenty-five male actors. Partly due to the way Warner Bros. advertised Rebel Without a Cause after his death, Dean’s name became synonymous with the film and the rebel teenager. His line in the film, “You’re tearing me apart,” the epitome of teenage anguish, still has impact and is often parodied. Into the twenty-first century, Dean remains an icon of rebellious youth and the story of “Jimmy Dean’s” short life is frequently examined in film documentaries. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Box Office   22 Oct 1955.   
Daily Variety   1 Apr 1955.   
Daily Variety   21 Oct 1955   p. 3.
Daily Variety   20 Nov 1955   p. 1, 3.
Daily Variety   5 Apr 1966.   
Film Daily   27 Oct 1955   p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter   18 Feb 1946.   
Hollywood Reporter   27 Sep 1954   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Dec 1954   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Feb 1955   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   22 Feb 1955   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   28 Mar 1955   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Mar 1955   p. 9.
Hollywood Reporter   1 Apr 1955   p. 47.
Hollywood Reporter   15 Apr 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   19 Apr 1955   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   27 Apr 1955   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Apr 1955   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   12 May 1955   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   20 May 1955   p. 11.
Hollywood Reporter   27 May 1955   p. 14.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Oct 1955   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   9 Jun 1967.   
Long Beach Press-Telegram   2 Nov 1988.   
Los Angeles Examiner   22 May 1955.   
Los Angeles Times   30 Oct 1955   pt. IV, p. 2.
Los Angeles Times   10 Nov 1955.   
Los Angeles Times   25 Oct 2000.   
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest   22 Oct 1955   p. 641.
New York Times   27 Oct 1955   p. 28.
New York Times   9 Apr 1956   p. 29.
New Yorker   5 Nov 1955.   
Newsweek   7 Nov 1955.   
San Francisco Chronicle   10 May 1995.   
Time   23 Feb 1998.   
Variety   6 Jan 1955.   
Variety   26 Oct 1955   p. 6.

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