Rebel Without a Cause: Wikis


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Rebel Without a Cause

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Nicholas Ray
Produced by David Weisbart
Written by Nicholas Ray (story)
Irving Shulman (adaptation)
Stewart Stern (screenplay)
Starring James Dean
Natalie Wood
Sal Mineo
Music by Leonard Rosenman
Cinematography Ernest Haller
Editing by William Ziegler
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date(s) 27 October 1955
Running time 111 mins.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1,500,000 (est)

Rebel Without a Cause is a 1955 film directed by Nicholas Ray that tells the story of a rebellious teenager played by James Dean, who comes to a town, meets a girl, disobeys his parents, and defies the local high school bullies. It was an attempt to portray the moral decay of American youth, critique parental style, and exploit the differences between generations. The title is adopted from psychiatrist Robert M. Lindner's 1944 book, Rebel Without A Cause: The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath. The film itself, however, does not reference Lindner's book in any way. In 1990, Rebel Without a Cause was added to the preserved films of the United States Library of Congress's National Film Registry as being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

The film had its opening on 27 October 1955, almost one month after James Dean's fatal car crash.



Jim Stark is in police custody.

The protagonist is 17-year-old James "Jim" Stark who, shortly after he and his parents move to Los Angeles, enrolls at Dawson High School. The film begins with Jim brought into police station for public drunkenness. His mother, father and grandmother come to retrieve him, and Jim's family situation is introduced. Jim's parents are often fighting. Often the father is the one who tries to advocate for Jim; however, Jim's mother always succeeds during the arguments. Jim feels betrayed both by this fighting and by his father's lack of moral strength, causing feelings of unrest and displacement. This shows later in the film when he repeatedly asks his father "what do you do when you have to be a man?"

Jim confronts his father while his mother watches.

While trying to conform with fellow students at the school, he becomes involved in a dispute with a local bully named Buzz Gunderson. While he tries to deal with Buzz (Corey Allen), he becomes friends with a 15-year-old boy, John, nick-named Plato (Sal Mineo), who was also at the police station the night of the opening scene for shooting puppies. Plato idolizes Jim, his real father having abandoned his family. Plato experiences many of the same problems as Jim, such as searching for meaning in life and dealing with parents who "don't understand."

Jim meets Judy (Natalie Wood), whom he also recognizes from the police station, where she was brought in for being out alone after dark, who originally acts unimpressed by Jim, saying in a sarcastic tone "I'll bet you're a real Romeo". She belongs to the high school gang of Buzz Gunderson. Jim goes on a class assignment at the Griffith Park Observatory at a Planetarium show, where he hears a lecture about the big bang theory of the universe. when he goes back to his car, he discovers that the tires have been slashed by the thugs, Buzz first challenges him to a fight with knives in which a reluctant Jim wins, after Jim did not want to hear the taunts of the gang, calling him a "Chicken", with slight injuries to both parties involved.

The thugs challenge Jim to a "Chickie Run" with Buzz, racing stolen cars towards an abyss. The one who first jumps out of the car loses and is deemed a "chicken" (coward). The "game" ends in tragedy for Buzz when a strap on the sleeve of his leather jacket becomes caught on the car door and he is unable to jump before it goes over the cliff.

A romantic moment between Judy and Jim.

Jim tries to tell his parents what happened but becomes frustrated by their failure to understand him and storms out of the house. When Jim is seen trying to go to the police by some of Buzz's friends, they decide to hunt him down, and harass Plato and Jim's family to try to find him. Judy and Plato join him in the garden of an abandoned villa, where they act out a "fantasy family," with Jim as father, Judy as mother and Plato as child. The thugs soon discover them, and Plato brandishes a gun, shooting at one of the boys, Jim, and a police officer, in a clearly unstable state.

Plato hides in the Griffith Observatory which is soon besieged by the police. Jim and Judy follow him inside, and Jim convinces Plato to lend him the gun, from which he silently removes the ammunition magazine (though he neglects the round in the chamber). When Plato steps out of the observatory, he becomes unstable again at the sight of the police and charges forward, brandishing his weapon. He is shot fatally by a police officer acting in defense of himself and the bystanders, despite Jim's yelling to police that he removed the bullets. Plato was wearing Jim's jacket at the time, and as a result, Jim's parents (brought to the scene by police) think at first that Jim was shot. Mr. Stark then runs to comfort Jim, who is distraught by Plato's death. Mr. Stark promises to be a stronger father, one that his son can depend on. Thus reconciled, Jim introduces Judy to his parents.


The film won applause for its story and for the performance of James Dean and the young stars who appeared, among them Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Nick Adams, and Dennis Hopper. All of them delivered powerful performances. In addition, the theme of troubled youth would appear in numerous high priced and low budget films of the 1950's and the 1960's: the youth movies would reflect the times as there would be young characters trying to find their place in life and acceptance with their own. No one would mirror this as strongly as James Dean in this film, and many called this film the best movie he did in his short career. The other young stars would be famous for this film as well, including Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo. Of the young stars in the cast, Dennis Hopper would wait until the 1960's to be famous: he had trouble working with the directors of the 50's who were demanding on the way movies were being made. He fared better with a small number of directors during this time, including Henry Hathaway and George Stevens.



Warner Brothers had bought the rights to the book, intending to use the title for a film. Attempts to create a film version in the late 1940s eventually ended without a film or even a full script being produced. When Marlon Brando did a five-minute screen test for the studio in 1947, he was given fragments of one of the 1940s partial scripts. However, Brando was not auditioning for Rebel Without a Cause and there was no offer of any part made by the studio. The film, as it later appeared, was the result of a totally new script written in the 1950s that had nothing to do with the material Brando screen-tested with. The screen test is included on a 2006 special edition DVD of A Streetcar Named Desire.

According to a biography on her, Natalie Wood almost did not get the role of Judy because Nicholas Ray thought that she didn't seem fit for the role of the wild teen character. While on a night out with friends, she got into a car accident. Upon hearing this, Ray rushed to the hospital. While in delirium, Wood overheard the doctor murmuring and calling her a "goddamn juvenile delinquent;" she soon yelled to Ray, "Did you hear what he called me Nick?! He called me a goddamn juvenile delinquent! Now do I get the part?!"

Dawson High School, the school in the film, was actually Santa Monica High School, located in Santa Monica, California.

Irving Shulman, who adapted Nicholas Ray's story for the screen, had considered changing the name of James Dean's character to Herman Deville, according to Jurgen Miller's "Movies of the 50's". He had also originally written a number of scenes that were shot and later cut from the final version of the film. According to an AFI interview with Stewart Stern, with whom Shulman worked on the screenplay, one of the scenes was thought to be too emotionally provactive to be included in the final print of the film. It portrayed the character of Jim Stark inebriated to the point of belligerence screaming at a car in the parking lot, "It's a little jeep jeep! Little jeep, jeep!" The scene was considered unproductive to the story's progression by William H. Ziegler, the head editor, and ultimately ended up on the cutting room floor. In 2006, members of the Lincoln Film society petitioned to have the scene printed and archived for historical preservation.

The film was in production from 28 March to 25 May 1955. When the production began, they used black and white film stock. Eventually, they decided to switch to color film stock and had many scenes reshot in color.

The 1949 Mercury Coupe James Dean drove in the movie is part of the permanent collection at the National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.[1]

Awards and honors



American Film Institute recognition

Empire magazine recognition

  • Ranked 477th on list of the 500 greatest movies of all time in 2008.[2]

In popular culture

  • The Simpsons episode "Lisa's Date with Density" shares many plot similarities. And in "Take My Wife, Sleaze", Homer is watching a similar movie, where a character that resembles Mr. Stark exclaims "He's a rebel I tell ya! A rebel without a cause ...just like the boy in that popular movie we saw."
  • The 1991 Paula Abdul music video for the single "Rush, Rush" is an adaptation of the film with Keanu Reeves as the James Dean character, Jim, and Abdul as the Natalie Wood character, Judy.
  • The character of Philip J. Fry in Futurama wears the exact same clothing as James Dean for the duration of the series, as stated by series creator Matt Groening in the audio commentary for the pilot of the show.





External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Rebel Without a Cause is a 1955 film about a rebellious young man with a troubled past who comes to a new town, finding friends and enemies.

Directed by Nicholas Ray. Written by Stewart Stern.
Teenage terror torn from today's headlines. taglines
Spoiler warning: Plot, ending, or solution details follow.


Jim Stark

  • I never thought I'd live to see eighteen. Isn't that dumb? Every day I look in the mirror and say "What? You still here?"

John "Plato" Crawford

  • [to Jim] Hey, you want to come home with me? I mean, there's nobody home at my house, and heck, I'm not tired. Are you? See, I don't have too many people I can talk to... If you want to come, we could talk, and in the morning we could have breakfast like my dad used to. Gee, if only you could have been my dad.

Frank Stark

  • Watch out about choosing your pals. You know what I mean? Don't let 'em choose you.


Frank: Don't I buy everything you want? A bicycle — you get a bicycle. A car.
Jim: You buy me many things.
Frank: Well, not just buy. We give you love and affection, don't we? Well, then, what is it? Was it because we went to that party? Well, you know what kind of drunken brawls those kind of parties turn into. It's not a place for kids.
Carol: [to Frank] A minute ago you said you didn't care if he drinks.
Mrs. Stark: He said a little drink.
Jim: You're tearing me apart!
Carol: What?
Jim: You say one thing, he says another, and everybody changes back again!
Carol: That's a fine way to behave!
Mrs. Stark: Well, you know who he takes after.
Jim: Aww!

Ray: Things pretty rough for you at home?
Jim: What a zoo!
Ray: What?
Jim: It's a zoo. He always wants to be my pal, you know? But how can I give him anything? If he's — well, I mean, I love him and all that type of stuff, and I-I mean, I don't want to hurt him. But then, I don't, I don't — well, I don't know what to do any more, except maybe die... If he had guts to knock Mom cold once, then maybe she'd be happy and then she'd stop pickin' on him, because they make mush out of him, just mush! I'll tell you one thing. I don't ever want to be like him. How can a guy grow up in a circus like that?... Boy, if, if I had one day when, when I didn't have to be all confused, and didn't have to feel that I was ashamed of everything... if I felt that I belonged someplace, you know?

Jim: How did you get here?
Plato: I hitched.
Jim: I'll bet you'd go to a hanging, wouldn't you?
Plato: I guess it's just my morbid personality.

Plato: Well, what do you think of my castle?
Jim and Judy: Wow. Shoo. Gee. Wow.
Jim: Well, now. There, then. Uh, I think we'll take it for the summer.
Plato: Right this way.
Jim: [to Judy] Oh. Uh-huh. Would you like to rent it, or are you more in the mood to buy, dear?
Judy: You decide, darling.
Jim: Oh, yes. Yes.
Judy: Remember our budget.
Plato: Oh, don't give it a thought. It's, uh, only three million dollars a month.
Jim: What?
Judy: Oh, we can manage that. I'll scrimp and I'll save and I'll work my fingers to the bone.
Jim: You see, we're newlyweds.
Judy: Yes. Oh, there's just one thing. What about...
Plato: Children? Right this way.
Judy: Yes.
Plato: See, we really don't encourage them. They're so noisy and troublesome. Don't you agree?
Jim: Ugh. Drown 'em like puppies. Ugh.
Plato: [leading them to an empty swimming pool] This is a wonderful arrangement. They can carry on and you'll never even notice.
Jim: Oh, a sunken nursery.
Plato: In fact, if you lock them in, you'll never have to see them again, much less talk to them.
Judy: Talk to them — heavens!
Jim: Nobody talks to children.
Judy: No, they just tell them.

Plato: I used to lie in my crib at night and I'd listen to them fight.
Jim: Can you remember back that far? I can't remember what happened yesterday. [laughs] I can't. How do you do it?
Plato: Oh, I had to go to a headshrinker. Boy, he made me remember.
Jim: Did he?
Plato: Then my mother said it cost too much, so she went to Hawaii instead.
Jim: Well, what's your problem?
Plato: Oh, I don't know. But, but I'm happy now, here. Oh, I wish we could stay here.
Judy: Plato, where's your father now?
Plato: Oh, he's dead. He was a hero in the China Sea.
Jim: You told me he was a big wheel in New York.
Plato: I did? Aw, what's the difference? He might as well be dead anyway.
Judy: It's all right.

Plato: Jim, do you think the end of the world will come at nighttime?
Jim: Uh-uh. At dawn.


  • Teenage terror torn from today's headlines
  • ...and they both come from good families!
  • 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.


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