New Digital Restoration

Rebel Without a Cause


Director Nicholas Ray’s mythic saga of teen angst and alienation in 1950s America made James Dean an instant cultural icon and forever changed the depiction of youth on film. In Rebel Without a Cause, Dean plays troubled teenager Jim Stark, one of the first Hollywood characters to so nakedly expose the dark side of “happy” post-war suburban America. “You’re tearin’ me apart!” wails Dean to his apron-clad dad (played by a pre-Gilligan’s Island Jim Backus), and a generation of frustrated Eisenhower-era teens chimed in. With his famous red windbreaker pulsating like a danger sign in the Cinemascope frame, Dean tears us apart in this, Ray’s most famous film, as the embodiment of disaffected postwar American youth. Dean’s Jim is a boozing, brawling bad boy whose tender soul is revealed in the very first scene, when he discovers a wind-up toy monkey abandoned in the gutter. Contemptuous of his middle-class parents — a domineering mother and meek, well-meaning father — Jim creates his own makeshift family with two equally alienated classmates – the emotionally fragile Judy (Natalie Wood) and neurotic rich kid Plato (Sal Mineo). With its feverish sense of juvenile delinquency and sexual confusion, its Gothic touches (the deserted mansion, literally out of Sunset Boulevard), and deliriously romantic aura of cosmic fate (the “burst of gas and fire” in the famous planetarium sequence), Rebel Without a Cause became an instant classic, with the poignant performances of its three troubled stars heightened by the real-life violent deaths that would later befall all three. Visually stunning in its inventive use of the widescreen frame and garish color palette, Rebel Without a Cause remains one of the greatest cinematic statements about that dangerous emotional minefield called “adolescence.” (Dir. by Nicholas Ray, 1955, USA, 111 mins., Not Rated) Digital