REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE (1955) C widescreen 111m dir: Nicholas Ray

w/James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Jim Backus, Ann Doran, Corey Allen, William Hopper, Rochelle Hudson, Dennis Hopper, Edward Platt, Steffi Sidney, Marietta Canty, Virginia Brissac, Beverly Long, Ian Wolfe, Frank Mazzola, Robert Foulk, Jack Simmons, Tom Bernard, Nick Adams, Jack Grinnage, Clifford Morris

From Georges Sadoul's Dictionary of Films: "The late James Dean's moving portrayal of a tormented adolescent was a reflection of his own character and his blue jeans and T-shirt became the standard dress of other 'rebels without a cause' during the late Fifties. This remarkable study of disturbed youth, ironic, tender, and understanding, is certainly one of Nicholas Ray's most personal films."

From The Movie Guide: "In this powerful study of juvenile violence, Dean is riveting as a teenager groping for love from a society he finds alien and oppressive. This film forever linked Dean to the restless 1950s generation; even though the indicted parents are caricatures, it's the best of its kind. ...

"The mundane plot is somehow made forceful in this directorial gem. Perfectionist director Ray spent hours researching hundreds of teenage police cases before filming. Transcending what might have been merely a teen exploitation film, REBEL draws heavily upon the presence of the intense and fascinating Dean. The young actor's appearance here electrified audiences, especially teenagers, who identified with this powerful symbol of their alienated generation. There is much of Marlon Brando's character from THE WILD ONE (1953), and critics accused Dean of mimicking Brando's brooding, mumbling delivery, but Dean was later recognized as an actor of singular stature. Wood and Mineo, although fine in their roles, serve mainly as dramatic foils for Dean's brooding. Many adults saw the film as promoting violence; with this picture the clean-cut juvenile ideal of yore moved into the adult world of film noir. Warners executives initially proposed, of all people, Tab Hunter and Jayne Mansfield (it would have been a classic, but of another kind.) Ray, however, insisted upon Dean and Wood. He had been impressed by Dean's work in EAST OF EDEN, and drove the actor mercilessly on the set."

From the website, this 2008 review of the film by Beth Gilligan:

"If I had one day when I didn’t have to be all confused, and I didn’t have to feel that I was ashamed of everything ... if I felt that I belonged someplace ... You know? --- Jim Stark, Rebel Without a Cause

"The word auteur inevitably crops up in any discussion of Nicholas Ray’s career, and yet it is his best-known work that arguably remains the least appreciated from this standpoint. A critical and commercial success at the time of its release, Rebel Without a Cause rolled into theaters a mere four weeks after the death of its star, James Dean, in a car accident. Dean’s tragic demise added mythic resonance to his haunting portrayal of a sensitive teenager at odds with the world, and in the decades that followed, it was this towering performance that came to dominate most considerations of the film.

"Viewing the film over fifty years later, it’s not especially difficult to see why. As Jim Stark, a troubled young man smothered by his parents and taunted by his classmates, Dean flawlessly navigates the highs and lows of adolescence, seamlessly shifting gears from tenderness to awkwardness, anger to insecurity. Despite his renown as a 'serious' actor, his performance is not entirely fueled by angst; indeed, a sly sense of humor nudges its way into several scenes. There may be chunks of dialogue in the movie that feel outdated, but Dean’s performance remains startlingly fresh and impressively multi-faceted.

"And yet while Dean undoubtedly had talent to burn, it is Nicholas Ray’s direction that lends the film a good deal of its immediacy and has helped sustain its place in the pantheon of American postwar cinema. From the opening scene --- where in a mere 15 minutes he establishes the personalities and backstories of the three main characters (Dean’s Jim Stark, Natalie Wood’s Judy, and Sal Mineo’s Plato), all the while fluidly linking them through clever framing and use of color --- to the final, devastating moments, Rebel Without a Cause is just as much Ray’s movie as it is James Dean’s.

"Visually and thematically, the film certainly adheres to many of the preoccupations evinced in Ray’s other work. Interiors loom large: the vastness of the planetarium; the banal fifties decor of the Stark household hinting at the lead characters’ isolation and alienation; and the decadent grandeur of the deserted mansion serving as a Shakespearean Green World of sorts for them. Ray’s use of color in Rebel is nearly as striking as in Johnny Guitar, with the blazing red of Jim Stark’s jacket, Judy’s coat (in the opening scene), and Plato’s sock marking them as a band of outsiders. In addition, there is a unique physicality to each of the performances, especially Dean’s; at times, the fight sequences retain a balletic feel.

"The loner is a recurrent figure in Ray’s films, and in the case of Jim Stark, this isolation is rooted in his constant displacement (forever being 'the new kid' at school), which is in turn caused by his fraught relationship with his parents and penchant for picking a fight whenever his manhood is called into question. These issues are central to the plot (which was in part concocted by Ray) of Rebel Without a Cause, as all three of the lead characters must negotiate strained familial circumstances (in Plato’s case, absent parents; in Judy’s, a father who no longer knows how to relate to his daughter) as well as their prescribed gender roles. While the film ultimately seems to decry these splintered family structures, its take on masculinity is somewhat muddled. While Jim’s father remains an object of derision for much of the movie on account of his unwillingness to stand up to his overbearing wife, Jim’s sensitivity towards Judy and Plato is shown in a positive light.

"Despite these specific issues of time and place, Rebel Without a Cause transcends easy categorization and continues to resonate several decades later. Jonathan Rosenbaum once aptly described Ray as 'a creature of both the ’30s and ’60s [who] was ahead of his time during both decades'; the enduring nature of the director’s body of work suggests that he remains so."

FilmFrog alert: In the last scene in the movie, there's a famous goof. Poor Sal Mineo's socks "switch feet": he's wearing radically differently colored socks, which magically change from left foot to right and vice versa, thanks to the miracle of editing.

REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE was nominated for three Oscars: Best Supporting Actor (Mineo), Supporting Actress (Wood), and Original Screenplay (Ray).