Rebel Without a Cause is a 1955 American drama movie about emotionally confused suburban, middle-class teenagers. Filmed in the recently introduced CinemaScope format and directed by Nicholas Ray, it offered both social commentary and an alternative to previous movies depicting delinquents in urban slum environments. The movie stars James Dean, Sal Mineo and Natalie Wood. Take a look below for 28 more fun and interesting facts about Rebel Without a Cause.
1. Rebel Without a Cause was a groundbreaking attempt to portray the moral decay of American youth, critique parental style, and explore the differences and conflicts between generations.
2. The title of the movie was adopted from psychiatrist Robert M. Lindner’s 1944 book, Rebel Without a Cause: The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath.
3. Over the years, Rebel Without a Cause has achieved landmark status for the acting of cultural icon James Dean, fresh from his Oscar nominated role in East of Eden and who died before the movie’s release, in his most celebrated role.
4. Rebel Without a Cause was the only movie during James Dean’s lifetime in which he received top billing.
5. In 1990, Rebel Without a Cause was added to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry as being deemed, “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant.”
6. The opening scene in the movie with Jim Stark and the toy monkey was improvised by James Dean after the production had been shooting for nearly 24 hours straight. He asked Nicholas Ray to roll the camera, that he wanted to do something. Ray obliged and the improvisation went on to become the famous opening scene.
7. James Dean got angry when Nicholas Ray stopped the knife fight scene after noticing that Dean had been cut on the ear and was bleeding. Dean said, “Don’t you ever cut a scene while I’m having a real moment.”
8. The part where Jim and Judy find Plato wearing one blue sock and one red sock was not scripted. Sal Mineo actually put them on that way by mistake.
9. T-shirt sales soared after James Dean wore on in Rebel Without a Cause.
10. James Dean was free to star in the movie because Elizabeth Taylor got pregnant, which delayed the production of Giant.
11. The empty pool in which the characters sit and discuss their lives first appeared in Sunset Boulevard. The pool had been built specially for the earlier movie, as a condition of renting the site from its owner, Mrs. J. Paul Getty.
12. The whole movie takes place over 24 hours. The opening scene in the police station takes place around 3:00 AM. The ending scene takes place around 3:00 AM the next morning.
13. Jim Backus, who played James Dean’s father and was the voice of Mr. Magoo, taught Dean how to do the Mr. Magoo voice, which Dean then used to deliver the line, “Drown them like puppies.”
14. Realizing the actor’s power to touch youthful audiences, Nicholas Ray gave James Dean free reign to improvise his scenes. The cast often took its cues not from Ray but from the Method-entranced Dean.
15. Originally in the beginning of the movie, there was a gang beating up a father, who drops a toy on the sidewalk. The studio thought it was too violent, so it was cut. Jim Stark can be seen playing with the toy after he finds it on the ground during the opening credits.
16. James Dean later confessed that the movie, “used me up. I could never take so much out of myself again.”
17. Although playing a teenager, James Dean was actually 24 when the movie was filmed. Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo, however, were of the right age.
18. The movie was originally going to have a kiss between James Dean and Sal Mineo.
19. Frank Mazzola, who plays “Crunch” in the movie, was an actual street gang member when he was a student at Hollywood High School. He was a member of a gang called “The Athenians.” As such, he served as a technical advisor to director Nicholas Ray and coached other actors as to street gang attitudes and mannerisms.
20. James Dean badly bruised his hand during the police station scene where he physically vents his rage on a precinct desk and had to wear an elastic bandage for a week.
21. Marlon Brando filmed a screen test in New York City for an earlier, eventually abandoned, version of the movie in 1947 on a break in rehearsals for the original Broadway production of “A Street Named Desire.”
22. When Jim, Judy and Plato are exploring the empty mansion, the candles in the candelabra Plato carries were lit by a wire that ran through Sal Mineo’s jacket.
23. Dennis Hopper and Natalie Wood had a brief relationship during filming. Wood also had an affair with Nicholas Ray, which was scandalous due to the fact that she was only 16 while he was 43 and older than her father.
24. Director Nicholas Ray researched Los Angeles gangs by riding around with them for several nights.
25. James Dean was injured several times while shooting the switchblade fight, during which a real weapon was used.
26. James Dean originally wanted his friend Jack Simmons, whom he was living with at the time, for the part of Plato.
27. Jim Star was actually first intended to be more of a nerd, wearing a brown jacket and glasses. However, when Warner Brothers told director Nicholas Ray to re-shoot in color, Ray, as well as costumer Moss Mabry, wanted him to wear red.
28. When the crew began night shooting at the Griffith Park Planetarium in Hollywood, downtown Los Angeles residents saw the bright production lights in the hills and flooded switchboard with reports of raging forest fires.