Being a Teenager in the 50s: “Rebel Without a Cause” (Nicholas Ray, 1955)


Rebel Without a Cause was among the first films I watched when I was in full discovery of classic films. This first viewing seems forever ago but I remember it as if it was yesterday. I rent the DVD at a video store that unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore. They had a lot of choices, so that’s why I liked this place. I watched the movie in the living room which, at the time, was where my sister’s bedroom is now! I think I was 15 when I first saw this film. So, it was 8 years ago! Of course, any people discovering classic films come across James Dean one day or another. But why starting with Rebel Without a Cause? Well, this is the one that will most likely appeal to a teenager. Right? I loved the film. And now I’ve seen it countless times. But now, as a young adult, I see things that my teenage spirit could not detect at the time. Because Rebel Without a Cause is more than just a movie about rebels, more than a teen movie. It is probably one of the most impactful movies that Nicholas Ray has made.

The 50s were the decade belonging to teenagers. That’s when they’re tendencies were expended and when the concept itself of adolescence became a thing, with the qualities and flaws that come with it. They had their own fashion, their own tastes, their own ideals. That’s why the 50s were marked by movies such as Blackboard Jungle, The Wild One, A Summer Place, Gidget, King Creole and, of course, Rebel Without a Cause.


Why did I take so long to talk about this film on my blog? Well, no reason really. There are just so many great movies to review. But, I thought Samantha’s Natalie Wood Blogathon that she is hosting on her blog Musings of A Classic Film Addict would be the perfect occasion to discuss it. Because yes, Natalie Wood was another big star who was in this movie.


Rebel Without a Cause was released in 1955. The story starts in a police station in Los Angeles. Jim Stark (James Dean) has been arrested for drunkenness (he is underage). Two other teens are seen: Judy (Natalie Wood) who ran away from home due to her difficult relationship with her father, and John Crawford (Sal Mineo), said Plato, for shooting puppies. Jim’s parents soon arrive accompanied by grandmother (Virginia Brissac). We then understand that Jim has difficulty tolerating them: his mother (Ann Doran) is too controlling and his father (Jim Backus) is not strong enough. After a good discussion with Inspector Ray Fremick (Edward Platt), Jim returns home with his parents and grandmother.


We have to know that the family has just arrived in  Los Angeles and this is not the first time Jim’s getting into troubles (and not the last either). Each time something goes wrong, the family moves to another city in hope that Jim will make new friends. This might not be the best solution. On his first day of school, Jim is optimistic. Unfortunately, things won’t turn as expected and the whole day will pretty much be a mess. On his way to Dawson High, Jim sees Judy and tries to talk to her, but she prefers hanging with “the kids” and her boyfriend Buzz (Corey Allen), the leader of the gang. Arrived at school, Jim is noticed by Plato and they eventually become friends. The students are having a class at the Griffith Observatory. Buzz, who obviously likes to cause troubles, provokes Jim in a knives fight. But Jim has to do more if he wants to prove he’s not a “chicken”: Buzz challenges him to a “Chickie run”. The appointment for the dangerous challenge is at 8. The gang and Judy are here to support Buzz, and Plato is here to support Jim. During a discussion with Plato, Judy shows her better side.


This, however, doesn’t turn has expected [SPOILER]: Buzz is killed in the race when his car falls in a cliff. [END OF SPOILER] From now on, things won’t be the same. Judy, who obviously didn’t have any real friends in “the gang” and who is better than they are, befriend Plato and falls in love with Jim. They all have to face the consequences of what happened, the frustration of Buzz’s friends, the police, and their own parents.



Rebel Without a Cause is a film of tragedy. Many connections between it and real life are actually pretty sad. We all know that James Dean died at the terribly young age of 24. This was on September 30, 1955, or a month before the movie was released. Ironically, it’s in a car accident that James Dean lost his life, just like Buzz in the movie (but James’s character was obviously also taking enormous risks).


Actually, the three main actors: James Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo formed an unlucky trio as they all died prematurely in tragic circumstances. Natalie Wood drowned at the age of 43. Investigations on this case are still being made. Sal Mineo was murdered in 1976 at the age of 37. John Lennon even offered a reward to the person would find the murderer. His assassin, Lionel Ray Williams, was arrested in 1979.


But this isn’t all: actor Edward Platt put an end to his life at the age of 58 (he suffered from depression), William Hopper (son of columnist Hedda Hopper) who plays Natalie Wood father in the film died of pneumonia at 55; Rochelle Hudson who plays Natalie Wood’s mother also died at 55 from a heart attack, and Nick Adams who plays Chick, one of the members of the gang, died from a drug overdose at 36.




There are, of course, many more interesting things to discuss about Rebel Without a Cause apart from the numerous premature deaths.

One of the main things about Rebel Without a Cause is that it’s not only a movie about teens, it’s a movie that was MADE for them. It shows an empathy towards them and, even if various tragic events happen, these are here to make us realize the injustices they are victims of. The camera shows a lot of empathy towards the characters: how can we not have a tight throat as we watch Natalie Wood in tears saying to the inspector that her father doesn’t love her? How can we not feel sorry for Plato who has been abandoned by both his mother and father? How can we not be disappointed for Jim when he doesn’t succeed so much to make friends. However, as he becomes good friend with Plato and Judy, we understand that quality wins over quantity. It’s better to have a few good friends than many friends who aren’t really friends after all. The trio can really support each other because their parents are obviously not doing their best to give them a decent life. In one night, they mature a lot.


Apart from the difficulty of growing up, teenage delinquency,, and tragic deaths, Rebel Without a Cause deals with a pretty taboo subject (for the time): homosexuality. Today more and more films using this subject are made but, at the time (during the Production Code era), it was a pretty risqué subject. Of course, none of it is mentioned explicitly, but it’s pretty obvious. The idea of it is embodied by Sal Mineo character, Plato. It is not said that he is homosexual or bisexual, but many clues are given to us. In his article “Dangerous Talents” written for Vanity Fair, Sam Kashner writes how Sal Mineo portrayed what could be considered the first gay teenager in a Hollywood movie. According to the author, Nicholas Ray knew about Sal Mineo’s bisexuality and recommend him to use it in some scenes. To help him in this task, James Dean suggested to Sal Mineo to look at him the way Jim looks at Judy. And this worked wonder but remained subtle. Other clues are given to us, such as Alan Ladd photos in Plato’s locker at school and even the name Plato itself (many agree that the Greek philosopher was himself homosexual). I’m not sure if this is true, but according to IMDB, the film was initially supposed to have a kissing scene between James Dean and Sal Mineo but it wasn’t done. Too bad it didn’t happen, because this could have been truly revolutionary. Anyway, we understand it wouldn’t have been approved by the code of censor. Fortunately, times have changed, but kudos to Nicholas Ray and the actors for trying something.


Sal Mineo, an underrated actor, after all, received an Oscar nomination for his poignant performance as John Crawford.


Natalie Wood was also just a teen when she starred in this film, but this one was far from being her first movie as she already had a career in films as a child actress. However, always according to Kashner’s article, Rebel Without a Cause was the occasion for her to break into more mature roles. The young Natalie is at the time lovely and heartbreaking. She starts the film in force with this scene at the police station I previously discussed, and shows many facets as the story goes by. She might be one of the characters who learn the most from what happens during that uncommon day. Her chemistry with James Dean gives place to a beautiful teenage romance. This one is just as good with Sal Mineo and makes us believe in an honest new friendship. Natalie Wood would later be seen in other poignant teenager roles, such as Maria in West Side Story (Robert Wise, 1961), and Wilma in Splendor in the Grass (Elia Kazan, 1961). Just like Sal Mineo, she received an Oscar nomination for her strong and unforgettable performance in this 50s classic.

Fullscreen capture 6192010 12055 PM

James Dean had a short but memorable career. Already with his first credited role (East of Eden), he received an Oscar nomination. I used to feel a bit indifferent toward his performance in Rebel Without a Cause, but now I understand how true it is. Was it due to method acting? Well, this certainly helped, but we also feel James Dean had a special maturity in his acting. The method acting probably helped him to remind natural and truly feel the strong emotions. James Dean was a symbol of rebellion and was perfect for the role. The only thing we can reproach is the fact that he was in fact 24 when he played a 16 years old teenager. But hey, everybody looked older than they were in these days anyway.

james dean

If I could mention one last actor, it would be Dennis Hopper. Rebel Without a Cause was his first role and, even if he doesn’t talk much, we notice him. I thought he had a pretty interesting presence even at the time when I didn’t know who Dennis Hopper was. And who thought he would later direct THE counter-culture movie by excellence: Easy Rider (1969) and play the creepy Frank Booth in Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)?



The evolution of Dennis Hopper


Apart from the two nominations for Best Supporting Actor and Best Supporting Actress (Sal Mineo/Natalie Wood), Rebel Without a Cause was also nominated for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story (Nicholas Ray). The film indeed presents a perfectly structured story that shows a great evolution of the characters and respects the main thematic. It also contains some memorable lines:

1- Jim Stark: You’re tearing me apart! (certainly the most famous quote of the film)

2- Jim Stark: Nobody talks to children.

   Judy: No, they just tell them. ( I think this one reflects perfectly the atmosphere of the film)

3- Jim Stark: If I had one day when I didn’t have to be all confused and I didn’t have to

feel that I was ashamed of everything. If I felt that I belonged someplace. You know?

4- Judy: I love somebody. All the time I’ve been… I’ve been looking for someone to

loveme. And now I love somebody. And it’s so easy. Why is it easy now?

Jim Stark: I don’t know; it is for me, too.

Judy: I love you, Jim. I really mean it.

Jim Stark: Well, I’m glad.

5- Jim Stark: [sitting down, hugging his father’s legs helplessly] Help me!

Frank Stark : Look, Jim. You can depend on me. Trust me. Whatever comes, we’ll, we’ll fix it together. I swear it. Now Jim, stand up. I’ll stand up with you. I’ll try and be as strong as you want me to be. Come on.

6- Plato: Do you think the end of the world will come at nighttime?

Jim Stark: Uh-uh, at dawn.


7- Crawford Family Maid: You talk nice to the man, John, he’s going to help you.

 Plato: Nobody can help me.

And so on. Rebel Without a Cause is a movie that has a lot to say. That’s why you have to watch it as a teenager and then as an adult because you will understand different things.



 On it’s released, Rebel Without a Cause was praised for the actors’ performances.
However, the film was banned 1955 in New-Zealand under the pretext that it would provoke teenage delinquency. The ban stopped the next year, but scenes were cut. In the UK, the film was X rated and scenes were cut as well. Well, I guess they couldn’t face the truth.
Rebel Without a Cause is a film that marked the American movie history and that has many reasons to still be seen today. It’s a film that doesn’t lose its meaning. It also reminds memorable for its powerful trio formed of Sal Mineo, James Dean and, of course, Natalie Wood.
A big thanks to Samantha for hosting this blogathon!
Make sure to take a look at the other entries here.
See you!

– “Rebel Without a Cause – Trivia.” IMDB. nd. Accessed Jul 11, 2018.
– “Rebel Without a Cause.” Wikipedia. 8 July 2018. Accessed Jul 11, 2018.
– Kashner, Sam “Dangerous Talents.” Vanity Fair. 10 October 2010. Accessed Jul 11, 2018.

Breakdown: An Immobile Nightmare


I’m very happy to participate, for the 3rd time, in the Favourite TV Show Episode Blogathon hosted by the great Terence from A Shroud of Thoughts! This time, I’ve decided to go with my favourite Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode: Breakdown (1955). This is the first episode of this tv show I ever saw and it has always been the one I liked the most ever since.



Breakdown was the 7th episode of the series and it was directed by Hitchcock himself. It is important to precise this because, if Alfred Hitchcock produced and introduced each episodes, he didn’t necessarily direct them all. Well, the good thing about this is that Breakdown probably is one of the most Hitchcockian episode of the show and surely among his most suspenseful work.

The story is simple. Businessman William Calley (Joseph Cotten) is in Florida. After talking on the phone with one of his employee who has just been fired, it is revealed to us that he is a cold man without compassion and without pity. Soon after, he takes his car to go back to New York. On his way, he is the victim of road accident as a tractor bumps into his car. The man is in pretty bad condition as he is, in fact, completely paralyzed. He can’t move a single inch of his body. Hoping for someone to come and help him, he isn’t much lucky as the only people in the area are prisoners who have escaped the jail. None of them bother to check if he is still alive, but don’t hesitate to steal his stuff, including his clothes. Eventually, William tries to concentrate and, surprise, is able to move one of his fingers! He decides that this will be his way to have the people’s attention so they can realise that he is not dead. However, each time he tries to, it seems that something prevents him to succeed. There’s too much noise or people just don’t look at it. The situation becomes more and more nightmarish and we all anticipate the worst…


Breakdown is pretty much a bad karma story and, in a way, a story of revenge. Is William Calley sort of punished for having been so cold-hearted toward his poor employee? Well, he surely finds himself in a pretty bad situation. However, if we don’t like him much when he is introduced to us, we eventually feel compassion for him as his accident is not something we would wish to anybody (except maybe to a very bad person or if we have a truly twisted mind), and the distress that is expressed by him is real and transmitted to us in a way that we can actually feel it.

After Shadow of a Doubt (1943) and Under Capricorn (1949), Breakdown was the 3rd collaboration between Alfred Hitchcock and the underrated Joseph Cotten. In this tv episode, the actor’s acting is different from the one in the previously mentioned films. Why? Because, for the majority of the episode, Joseph Cotten can only act with his voice. He is completely immobile you see (well, except for that finger). But, we do hear his thoughts, his thoughts full of desperate hope, and, at one point, full of sadness and anxiety. Joseph Cotten manages to give the right tone of voice so we can understand what he is feeling and how he is planning to solve the situation, even if it seems hopeless. The interesting thing is that, even if most of the story turns around these thoughts, these don’t contain any unnecessary flourishes. The episode, fortunately, , doesn’t fall in the obvious clichés, such as the man starting to think about his wife and children or about his childhood. Ok, maybe he doesn’t have children and a wife, but you get the point. His thoughts are only concentrated around the immediat situation and that’s what’s important.


I’m taking a seminar dedicated to Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock this year at university and, as our teacher made us observe, Alfred Hitchcock was pretty much a “montage” director. Breakdown support this brilliantly. Indeed, editor Edward W. Williams chose plans that have a connection between each other and there seems to be a reason and  significance for each of them. For example, at one point, William Calley starts to ear something, a tapping sound and he and we wonder what it is. In the next shot, we see his finger taping. So, we understand where the sound comes from. Edward W. Williams won a Primetime Emmy for Best Editing of a Television Film for his brilliant work on this tv episode.

The episode also focuses a lot of the sound dimension, not only because of this tapping finger and the out-loud thoughts but, as I was explaining in the synopsis, most of the obstacles the businessman encounter are created by sound. At one point, the character wonders if he has not become deft because everything around him seems so quiet. However, we can hear the almost quiet sound of birds singing which indicates us that he hasn’t lost the hearing.

With this idea in mind, we can notice that the episode is pretty much constructed in a way that everything is seen and felt from Joseph Cotten’s point of view. This is a brilliant way to involve the spectator in the story, not only by making him watch the episode. But of course, Hitchcock alternates between objective and subjective shots as it is sometimes necessary for us to see things from an external point of view, to understand the situation better, to note the bad physical condition in which the protagonist is. For example, at one point, we hear him think that he feels a pressure on his chest. If the movie would have been shot from subjective points of view only, we wouldn’t have known that this was caused by the wheel pressing on his chest. Not until that prisoner says it out loud anyway. On their side, the subjective shots are used to make us understand how much of the situation the main character can actually witness and see. For example, right after the accident, he has difficulty to see as if he had dust in his eyes. There, the image is sort of blurry. There’s also a highly interesting shot when he is taken to the morgue by two men. What Joseph Cotten sees is one a very low angle shot of one of these men’s chin and nose. This accentuates the nightmarish situation, not only because this view is pretty odd, but also because the man never bothers to lower his head and notice Joseph Cotten’s finger moving.



As you can see, for a only 30-minutes tv show, there is a lot talk about. Well, it’s Hitchcock’s work after all. Not too surprising!

If you have never seen an Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode, this is a good one to start. Well, as I told you it is my favourite one and it certainly made me want to watch more of them! Those are like mini Hitchcock films where the suspense is installed in a very rapid way. I also believe that this tv show is a good source of inspiration for screenwriters who want to establish themselves by first writing short films. Breakdown‘s story was created by Louis Pollock and the teleplay was by Francis Cockrell and Louis Pollock.

Anyway, if you want to watch it,  you can just here:


Hopefully, you will enjoy it as much as I did! I promise you, Hitchcock knows how to keep you on the edge of your seat!

I want to thank Terence for once again hosting this highly entertaining blogathon!

I invite you to read the other entries here.

See you!


Dreaming in Hitchcock Movies

“Dream dream, filling up an idle hour
Fade away, radiate”
– Debbie Harry, Dreaming

I’m one of those persons who are quite fascinated by dreams. From the most ordinary ones to the most extraordinary ones,  I saw them in all their colours. When I can remember my dreams, I write them in a little notebook to make sure I don’t forget them later. Actually, this is also a way to stimulate my subconscious and the more I work on them, the more I can remember them. I sometimes read my dream notebook and I have some fun reading stuff I didn’t remember.


Dreams inspire art; paintings, songs, and, of course, cinema. So I thought, why not discussing the dreaming world in movies. I cannot talk about ALL the movies with dreams. So, why not focusing on the dreaming world in Hitchcock’s films?!


Spellbound (1945)

“Good night and sweet dreams… which we’ll analyze at breakfast.” – Dr. Alex Brulov (Michael Chekhov), Spellbound

When one thinks of dreams in classic films, I’m pretty sure the first scene that comes to his or her mind is the one created by Salvador Dalí for Spellbound. Well, when Dali, the master of surrealism, accepts to direct a dream scene, you know it’s going to be a winning result. Dali’s painting themselves seem to be inspired by dreams or, at least by something that mysteriously poped-up of his mind for whatever reasons. I must admit, I didn’t do any dreams where the objects were weird and misshapen like in Dalí’s paintings, but the importance here is the symbolism of this dream.


In the 40s, psychoanalyse was a subject that was very “en vogue”. With Spellbound, Hitchcock had for desired to direct the first movie on the subject. Like he explained to François Truffaut, he consulted famous psychoanalyst during the making of his film. The Master of Suspense also explained that he had for break the tradition of blurry and confused dreams that we usually see in movies. That’s why he wanted to work with Dalí. This one would create a visually very clear dream with clear and acute traits.


So, in a movie about psychoanalyze, dreams are of a high importance. If I’m not mistaken, Dali’s sequence originally laste around 20 minutes, but it was cut to only a few. Not to mention that some of Dalí’s ideas were a bit difficult to shot as Hitchcock explained to Truffaut.  In a way, there’s something interesting about that. Have you ever heard that, even if your dreams sometimes seem to last forever, they only last a minute or a few seconds? In Spellbound, JB (Gregory Peck)’s dream is of a central importance since it helps Constance Peterson (Ingrid Bergman) and Professor Brulov (Michael Chekhov) to understand him and to help him regain his memory. It is said that dreams all have a meaning. Well, Spellbound‘s dream sequence is the perfect example of that.


I feel that, in classic films, you had some of the most weirdly illustrated dreams. Of course, we all remember Spellbound’s dream for these curtains with painted eyes that are cut by a man with a giant pair of scissors. This is maybe the most iconic part of the sequence. Objects also have weird forms and proportions. For example, one can think of this crooked wheel or this giant table where a game of card is being interrupted by a man without a face. My personal favourite part of the dream is when Gregory Peck is running down a slope and followed by a pair of big wings (we only see their shadows). There’s something very beautiful in this shot that fits perfectly the dreaming world. Of course, we learn later in the film what is the meaning of all this.


Vertigo (1958)

“Only one is a wanderer; two together are always going somewhere. ” – Madeleine (Kim Novak), Vertigo

The scene designed by Dalí isn’t the only memorable dream sequence from an Hitchcock’s film. In 1958, Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart)’s nightmare had something truly terrifying. The mix between Bernard Herrmann’s score and the flashy colours create a haunting moment. Interestingly, Vertigo was the first film to use computer graphics, these being designed by Saul Bass. Those weren’t only used in the opening titles but also in the nightmare scene. The script doesn’t try to reveal the “meaning” of this dream like it is the case with Spellbound. However, the symbols are clear enough to understand that it reflects a part of Scottie’s life that begins to haunt him more and more.


Vertigo‘s dream sequence is also the proof that this film used Technicolor to its full potential. I must admit, the first time I saw this scene, I felt slightly uncomfortable, but I think it is meant to be. What particularly frightened me is this moment when Scottie advances toward’s Carolotta’s tomb where a hole has been dug to put a coffin. I was only expecting to see Carolotta’s rotten corpse lying there, but, luckily, there wasn’t anything of the sort. I remember my sister coming in the living room right during this dream sequence and saying “Ah, that’s scary!” before leaving. But once you are more “used to it” you find it somehow fascinating. I love the short moment were Galvin Elster, Carlotta Valdes and Scottie are next to a window and the first two just stare at Scottie with a very cold look. The nightmare scene is also in perfect harmony with the music and, therefore, there’s something very choreographical about it.


Rebecca (1940)

“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again” – Mrs. DeWinter (Joan Fontaine), Rebecca

It’s with this iconic sentence that Daphné DuMaurier introduced her most acclaimed novel, Rebecca. Of course, Hitchcock had to use it in his Oscar-winning film. “I” De Winter (Joan Fontaine)’s dream evokes the memory she has of Manderley, the place where she used to live with her husband Max DeWinter (Laurence Olivier). In her dream, Manderley is burnt and now a desolate place. This is also a vision of reality and the rest of the film is a long flashback that will help us understand the mystery and the fatal faith of this rich domain.


This dream scene at the beginning that introduces the film is filmed in a subjective point of view. It is seen through the narrator’s eyes, the second Mrs. DeWinter. Joan Fontaine’s enchanting and smooth voice adds a certain tranquility to the sad vision of the abandoned place. It’s interesting how this dream that is so calm is abruptly interrupted by a crash of waves in the following scene. This sequence wasn’t directed by Dalí, but we still can admire its beautiful black and white cinematography that gives it a vision of poetry.


Marnie (1964)

“You Freud, me Jane? “ – Marnie Edgar (Tippi Hedren), Marnie

Just like Spellbound, Marnie has psychoanalysis as a central subject. The main character, Marnie, is a cleptomaniac and also has a phobia of the colour red. Interestingly, in opposition to the previous movies, we actually never see Marnie’s dreams. We only see her dreaming. It is obvious that those are nightmares. To highlight her fear of red, these scenes are filmed with a red flashy lightning which makes the dream even more threatening than it already is. But what is the symbolism or this red that Marnie is so afraid of? The Devil? Violence? Blood? Marnie’s dreams always start with something knocking and the furious first notes of Bernard Herrmann’s score. Marnie constantly evokes her mother in her dreams and it seems that she is associated with some bad memories. Just like Spellbound, these dreams will help us to discover the truth about the title character. However, here the subject of psychoanalyse wasn’t as developed as it was with Spellbound.



These are, I would say, the essential Hitchcock’s dream scenes. However, one can observe that some of his scenes, although they portrait reality and not a dream, are almost filmed like a dream because of the light, the colours, the blurry image, the way it is shot, etc. A few examples would be the weird trial scene in Dial M for Murder (Margot Wendice is living a real nightmare); the flashback scene in I Confess (which has a very clear and white image); when Margaret Lockwood’s faint in The Lady Vanishes; in Vertigo when Judy comes out of the bathroom metamorphosed into Madeleine, etc. François Truffaut even said to Hitchcock that, for him, many of his films, such as Vertigo and Notorious, looked like filmed dreams.

Dream scenes in movies give the occasion to the film crew to explore a different way to illustrate something. Of course, all dreams are different so, according to each movie director, a dream scene can be very different. We observe that Hitchcock’s dream scenes are mostly nightmare or, in Rebecca‘s case, the vision of something sad. Most of the time, these reflect the past of a character, a trouble hidden in his or her subconscious or a difficult situation.

Which Hitchcock’s dream scene fascinates you the most?




– Truffaut, François. Hitchcock/Truffaut. Gallimard. 1993.