It matters, of course, that the boy was played by James Dean. But while Rebel is the main panel in the Dean triptych, the filming itself was a collaboration between an alienated director who thought of Hollywood as anout-to-lunch dad and a star who worked as if he were an action painter and the role of Jim Stark his canvas. Ray gave Dean a latitude rare for the time. Dennis Hopper, then 20 years old and cast as Goon, remembers the director calling "Cut !?" after Dean was nicked during the filming of the famous switchblade fight. "Don't you ever say f---ing 'Cut,' man!" the bleeding star raged at the director. "If I get that close, I want it on film!"
The sense of collaboration extended to the entire cast and crew; they all felt as if they were the rebels and the film their cause. In the crucible of filming, hormones went berserk: Co-star Natalie Wood slept with Dean but was having an affair with Ray. Hopper was in love with Wood, so he hated Ray. And Dean, according to the director, carried an unconsummated torch for Sal Mineo. "I didn't stop it because I knew it was helping the film," Ray said later.
Four days into filming, Jack Warner ordered the existing black-and-white footage scrapped and the entire film shot in wide-screen color. He had seen Dean in East of Eden and reaaed that his juvenile-delinquency B flick was now a star vehicle. By the time Rebel opened, however, it served as Dean's tombstone. The actor died in a car crash on Sept. 30, four weeks before the premiere. His death ensured the film's commercial success and merged him forever in the popular eye with the movies' most beautiful, brooding rebel.
Last modified: Thursday, 31-May-2007 09:41:56 EDT