James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Dennis Hopper, Jim Backus, and Ann Doran. These were a few of the stars that starred in the now classic rebellious teenage classic, Rebel Without a Cause. But when you mention the name of this movie today, only one name comes to mind, James Dean.
Nicholas Ray, directed this film, and wanted it as authentic as possible. So much so that he even casted a gang member to play one of the “gang”. He allowed Dean to become Jim Stark in the only way that James Dean knew. The effect was profound, if not startling. Especially for Jim Backus who played Dean’s father in the scene when Jim comes home after the chicken run and he tries to explain what he did and what he needs to do, yet his father wants to “run away” again, leaving the problem. Dean grabs Backus and tumbles down the stairs, this was all impromptu, shocking both Backus and Ann Doran.
Unfortunately one of the most overlooked roles was that of Plato’s maid, played by Marietta Canty. I thought her heartfelt compassion for this young troubled boy was one of the truest characters in the entire film.
Although this film was only nominated for three Oscars, Best supporting role for Sal Mineo, Supporting role for Natalie Wood and writing award for writer/director Nicholas Ray, Rebel went home a loser. But today Rebel is known as one of the most powerful and remembered classics of that era.