For some actors, every now and then, a film will come around that signifies the perfect alignment, the ideal lining of stars; For James Dean, in 1955, Rebel Without A Cause was that moment.
Dean is remembered as one of the iconic members of pop culture, widely considered as the face of ‘teenage disillusionment and social estrangement’ at a time perhaps when experimentation and alternative thinking was less popular.
While his leading roles in 1955 film East of Eden and the follow-up of Giant a year later are arguably the work that define Brando’s stardom, it his performance of troubled teenager Jim Stark in Rebel Without A Cause that captured the heart of many.
The film, directed by Nicholas Ray and starring Dean alongside Sal Mineo, and Natalie Wood, tells the story of emotionally confused suburban, middle-class teenagers “struggling with the differences and conflicts between generations.”
The film was groundbreaking for its time, a portrayal of American youth that had never been seen in cinema before and Brando was essential to its growth in popularity. Dean, in the lead role just months after his Oscar nomination for East of Eden died in a car crash aged 24 just weeks before the film’s release which held significant emotional attachment to the project.
The film is credited as being the first brutally honest reflection of teenage angst and, here, we revisit how Dean managed to get into the role through some early screen tests: