Here’s some random waffle from your friendly movie blog host Mikey Wolfman and a review, of sorts, for Rebel Without a Cause. I do hope you are sitting down, not because the length of the upcoming ramblings but for the shock horror factor that this here “movie fan” had never seen it! Insert blood curdling death scream here. Then, if I may, I’ll try and explain my unforgivable sins and let you decide my fate. Feel free to pick one.
- 30 minutes on the naughty step.
- Stand in corner with dunces hat on for one hour.
- The stock’s for a day with rotten fruit of your choice.
- Medieval stretching table.
- Electric chair.
OK the last few might be over kill! To be honest I don’t really know the proper punishment for this atrocity so feel free to make your own up. “I don’t why I’m making up my own but what about packing me, a tight squeeze I know, what with my middle-aged furry frame, into a cannon and blasting me into space? Just a thought“. Anyhow here we go…
Court In Session – In My Defence
You see with a film so famous, especially one steeped in popular culture, I find you can build such a picture in your mind that you feel you’ve actually seen something. References fill film magazines and books with iconic images of the young heartthrob James Dean. We all remember the movie posters, slightly off-centre, stuck with small thumb indented blobs of Blu-Tack on student digs walls in our youth. Then later, trying to be cool, fixed in fancy glass frames in hipsters loft apartments. Large format images showcasing this dashingly handsome young man with his futurist, at the time, flicked back quiff. A blood red jacket strikes a dazzling image draped over a white vest adding to that look of danger in his eyes. If James Dean image wasn’t enough to show this rebellious nature, pushed to entice both female and male fans then adding the muscle car of the 1949 Mercury Coupe would surely bring awe and wonder.
So that poster with James Dean portrayal of Jim Stark was not only uber cool and stylish it also conjured up all sorts of ideas about the content of the film. It had me thinking Jim Stark was a tough chain-smoking kid who rebelled against the system. A thuggish menace to society. A juvenile delinquent and all-round troublemaker. It was in the title, Rebel and he didn’t even have a cause to be one! Preconceived ideas that when I eventually sit down and watch it I’m shocked by how completely different James Dean’s depiction of Jim Stark is? It couldn’t be further from that image that I’d had in my mind all those years.
The narrative focus of Rebel Without a Cause is on the fateful, crossing paths, of three young characters. Teenagers with crashing hormonal changes racing through their young bodies driving them with confusing emotions. Desperate to understand their place in society. The need, desire, to have parental help, for something so simple as just plain advice. Our three protagonists all have this natural flaw which is magnified by the changing dynamics in their lives. Which alienates them, pushes them to the fringes of society, to become misfits. Yet, all they desire, is to fit in.
Whether it’s the desperate need for a father figure, or the love of a father. Baffled with life after the loss of both parental guidance and craving for any love, family, brotherly or otherwise. All three characters have deep flaws but can they be rescued before society casts them out?
Lets meet the three stars.
Jim Stark (James Dean)
Jim drinks and smokes whilst aloof with a brash and unpredictable temperament but under that red jacket is a fundamental caring and sensitive young man yearning to fit in, to have friends. He has a normal family. His mother, Carol (Ann Doran), is a little overbearing while his father, Frank (Jim Backus), loves him ever so much. However, he will never punish him, reprimand him. While he brings Jim tea dressed in his kitchen apron, Jim loathes his inability to stand up to his nagging wife or scream or yell some wisdom at him. To man up!
Judy (Natalie Wood)
Turning sixteen should be a joyous event. Anything different hadn’t ever crossed Judy’s mind. She was happily going about her life in what seemed the perfect nuclear family. Loving mother, cheeky little brother and her beloved Dad (William Hopper). Like many father daughter bonds they can be special but suddenly and unexpectedly kissing her father good morning was no longer allow. The love he’d shown had turned to strict sternness. She was now considered an adult and with it came a one sided barrier between them. Judy was distraught. She thrived for that love.
John “Plato” Crawford (Sal Mineo)
Plato has it the hardest. Well, he actually lives in a giant house filled with wealth. He also has a housekeeper (Marietta Canty) who dotes after him. However, he’s all alone and confused. Expected to grow up too soon. His father left when he was young and his mother is nowhere to be seen. Thought’s inside his mind twist and turn. He struggles with his sexuality, he desires to be grounded. All he really wants is the closeness of a loving family. Anxious and traumatised Plato tries to deals with life the best way he can, in a slightly manic way.
My thoughts on film and my final defence.
So you see, a films legacy can be altered by perceived expectations, unconsciously or otherwise. Like I say pop culture can have a big part in this, the trailer can be edited to show a different tale all together, the promotion poster may fail to show the hidden tender side or a sensitive manner. Join them all together with the films misleading title and there you go, a film’s preconception changed in 66 years, well in my head anyway.
Tagline – Teenage terror torn from today’s headlines
It’s a brilliant film with a strange and sad legacy with the tragic young violent real deaths of all three actors and not to mention a controversial behind the scenes production with the, I’ll get my kicks where ever I can, director Nicholas Ray. All three performances are first rate, especially when watching knowing that James Dean had died just a month before the cinema release. For me, I’d say, Sal Mineo’s Plato steals the show. Every time he appears on screen you feel the unpredictable nature to him and those wide open innocent longing eyes will break your heart.
Yep it took me a long time to finally see this film. To be honest I sometimes feel I appreciate them more in my older years. Especially looking back whilst doing my little blog post write up. I thoroughly enjoyed it and best of all was discussing it with my daughter who’d recently watched it and was about to embark on an essay for University. Proper adult writing, no talk of medieval torture devises or other forms of corporal punishment. So I leave you to decide my fate. Which punishment I deserve or will you have leniency with my plea?
So whats next on the preconception smashing watch list? Should it be Marlon Brando in The Wild One (1953) because that is all homoerotic and set in The Blue Oyster Bar from Police Academy isn’t it? And I’m sure I read that the Village People have a cameo? Yep you guessed it, I’m larking around!
Thanks for having a read and you are most welcome to comment if you wish.
Keep on watching that wonderful squared screen. All the best.