281. Rebel Without a Cause


Movie: Rebel Without a Cause

Release Date: October 26, 1955

Director: Nicholas Ray

Starring: James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Jim Backus, Ann Doran, Corey Allen, William Hopper.

Tag Lines: “Warner Bros’ challenging drama of today’s juvenile violence!

“To Belong…and be loved.”

“Jim Stark… a kid from a ‘good’ family – what makes him tick… like a bomb?”

“The bad boy from a good family.”

Awards: Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, Sal Mineo (nomination), Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Natalie Wood (nomination), Academy Award for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story, Nicholas Ray (nomination), Golden Globe for Most Promising Newcomer – Female, Natalie Wood (winner), BAFTA Award for Best Film from any Source (nomination), BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor, James Dean (nomination), National Film Registry (1990).

Relevance: Growing up I was familiar with James Dean and all pop cultural references regarding him, however I had never seen any of his movies. It wasn’t until 1991 did I finally watch a James Dean movie. It happened to be ‘Rebel Without a Cause.’ And similar to ‘Gentlemen Prefer Blondes’ (see 333. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes), a music video led me there.

I am a music fan of all genres except country, because, well, yuck. However most people associate me with “Pop” music because of my love for Madonna. And I am totally fine with that. Pop music basically just means “popular,” and I was always a fan of what the radios were playing, what videos were being played on MTV and what songs people were talking about. That is up until at least five years ago. It’s rare I like or listen to anything on the radio these days. Popular music has become stale and boring. But I digress.

Paula Abdul was definitely the “it” girl for awhile in the late 1980’s. I was definitely a huge fan of at least her first two albums. When she released the music video for the lead single “Rush Rush” from her second album “Spellbound” in 1991, I was finishing up my Sophomore year of college. The video was a re-imagining of ‘Rebel Without a Cause.’ I was obsessed with the song and the video. So at the beginning of my summer break I rented ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ and thus started my “James Dean” summer.

I loved the movie. A lot. I was captivated by its themes, story and mostly by James Dean himself. The rest of the summer I read about Mr. Dean, watched the rest of his movies and discussed his cultural importance with anyone with insight, mostly my parents. I am not sure exactly why this movie generated so much passion in my then twenty year old body, it just did.

I remain a James Dean fan and ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ fan to this very day. It’s so tragic to me that he died at the very young age of twenty-four. He had such a promising career ahead of him. I would have loved to have seen what roles he would have tackled and the person he would have evolved into. Sadly the world will never know. Instead he remains forever youthful, beautiful and a rebel.

Today’s Thoughts: “You’re tearing me apart!” James Dean was absolutely beautiful. I could end things right there. But I won’t. Because he deserves so much more.

Watching ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ today was exactly what I needed. This emotional melodrama is sobering, thrilling and very much relevant and necessary. Set in a different era and time that might not be understood by younger viewers, its themes are still solid. Why am I not accepted for who I am? Why am I misunderstood? Why can’t I fit in to societal norms? Why do my parents hate me? Ask any human on the planet and those questions have at one time or another raced through their heads. The movie is timeless.

And not only is James Dean beautiful, he gives a tremendous performance in the film, as does Sal Mineo and Natalie Wood. And Ms. Wood…hello gorgeous. She is absolutely stunning in the film and one of my mom’s favorite actresses, so I always had a special fondness for her. It is so sad that Mr. Dean, Ms. Wood and Mr. Mineo were great talents whose lives were cut tragically short. The three of them together in this film is both awe inspiring and heartbreaking.

I find it a little ironic that ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ falls on my 49th birthday. By definition, a rebel is “a person who rises in opposition or armed resistance against an established government or ruler.” I am not sure I necessarily fall under those exact terms in my daily life in the grand scheme of things. However, I do fight for my rights politically and socially, I do ask questions when no one else seems to, even to authority, I do often take the path less traveled, I do appreciate the underdog and fight for their worth, I’m not afraid to be ridiculed for what I think, love, listen to, watch, read or live my life. I definitely have a “fuck you” mentality. I am “unapologetically” alive.

So in my own way, I am a rebel. But hopefully with a cause.

Ways to Watch: YouTube, Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, DVD Availability.


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