The Outsider Classic “Rebel Without A Cause” at the Heights


Our Nicholas Ray series, Inside the Outsider, comes to a close with what is unquestionably his masterpiece, Rebel Without A Cause, screening Thursday night at the Heights Theater.

Rebel Without A Cause review by Trylon volunteer Caty Rent.

Rebel Without A Cause is without a doubt one of the most iconic films of all time. The entire sequence of events in the film takes place within 24 hours, from three in the morning until three in the morning the next day. But this is one of those days that seems more like a week.

First showing on the silver screen in 1955, Rebel’s misfortune is that the star of the picture, James Dean, never saw the movie as he was killed in a car crash–ironic, considering that one of the main characters in this one dies similarly. Dean was bigger than life in this role and in death became the very definition of cool.

Dean plays Jim Stark, a confused, sincere, and distraught teenager that had been moving around to different towns/schools with his family. Stark is lying drunk in the street in the opening scene, he’s watching a wind-up monkey toy. He’s taken into custody by the police.

All of the most prominent main characters appear in the beginning at the police station. First enters Judy, played by Natalie Wood. She was out on the streets late at night and was picked up by the police. She is just as confused as Stark, her daddy issues and pent up aggression really give this character more depth than some of the other teenagers shown in the film. She is wearing lipstick and accidentally leaves her mirror in the chair, which Stark picks up. He gives it back to her later in the picture saying, “Do you want to see a monkey?”

Next in line at the police station is John “Plato” Crawford, played by Sal Mineo. A brooding, nervous, and withdrawn boy, he doesn’t have much of a family outside of a nanny. His mother leaves for long periods of time and his father has left for good. He was brought in the station because he stole a gun that belonged to his mother and shot some puppies that night on his birthday. When Stark sees Plato, he offers him his jacket because he looks cold. This already represents something important to Plato, even though he doesn’t take the offer at this time. Towards the end of the film, Plato does accept a jacket from Stark under the condition that he can keep it.

Lastly, the family arrives to the station. Stark’s mother (Ann Doran), father (Jim Backus… also the voice of the cartoon character Mr. Magoo, and perhaps most famous as Thurston Howell III on Gilligan’s Island) and grandmother (Virginia Brissac) had been at a party. It is very apparent at this point that there are some serious family issues that seem to be continually swept under the rug. Stark has a strained relationship with his family, he sees his father verbally battered down by his mother and grandmother. He wants his father to stand up to them, but the father is bending for everyone, trying to fill any gaps with money.

The morning sees Stark on his first day at a new high school. He is nervous and discovers that Judy is his neighbor. They talk for a little while, and she casually remarks, “life is crushing in on me.” They seem to share a certain amount of confusion and angst. He asks her if she wants a ride and she answers that she rides with “the Kids,” which are a crew of juvenile delinquents headed by Buzz (Corey Allen) whom Judy is dating.

Buzz and the Kids appear again at the class field trip to the Planetarium. They are entertaining themselves with shenanigans and Stark attempts to join in by making a mooing noise while the bull constellation is above them. The Kids call him, “cute,” and ” a comedian.” The presentation takes a dark turn and the orator says, “Destroyed as we began in a burst of gas and fire.” Directly after the performance, Stark finds Plato hiding under the chairs and helps him up. Plato remarks, “What does he know about man alone?”

Outside of the Planetarium, the Kids are waiting for Stark by his car. Chicken noises are made and although Stark didn’t want any trouble, this confrontations ends in a knife fight with Buzz. Stark ends up winning and is invited to partake in a “Chickie Run.” Wanting to be accepted, he agrees. It is to take place at Millertown Bluff later that same evening.

Stark lives by his morals and follows a code of honor. He sticks up for the underdog and discovers real love. He stands up for what he believes to be right, even if it doesn’t seem to be the popular opinion. Jim Stark is one of the best on-screen characters, he’s charismatic, truthful, but distraught at the same time. It’s hard to look at someone in a white tee shirt drinking milk out of a glass jar without thinking of this quintessential James Dean.

Caty Rent pretty much lives coffee and is obsessed with the Batman.

Rebel Without A Cause screens Thursday night at 7:30 at the Heights Theater. Purchase tickets here.

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.