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  • William Lee Martin

Episode 4: Rebel Without A Cause (1955) - James Dean A Prima Donna, and Real Knives Used On Set!

Updated: Sep 22

This Episode, Comedian William Lee Martin and Intern Audie Grace deep dive into the Rebel Without A Cause. Why did they use real knives in fight scene? Was James Dean a prima donna? And more importantly why is this film often referred to as a must see!

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Fun Facts About the Movie:
  • The movie is based on a real teen criminal named Harold who was an inmate at the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary in Pennsylvania. Director Nicholas Ray wanted to focus on the anger and disillusionment among teens from seemingly comfortable, stable homes. With that goal in mind, work on Rebel Without A Cause began.

  • The first draft of the movie becoming a screenplay was initially written by none other than Dr. Seuss.

  • Natalie Wood was originally considered to be too naïve and wholesome for the role of Judy. However, after getting into a car accident with Dennis Hopper and someone in the hospital called them juvenile delinquents, the part was hers.

  • James Dean was only able to star in the film because Elizabeth Taylor got pregnant, delaying the production of 1956 movie 'Giant'.

  • T-shirt sales soared after James Dean wore them in the film.

  • The iconic opening scene was entirely improvised by Dean after the production had been shooting for nearly 24 hours. He asked Nicholas ray to roll the camera and the rest was history.

  • Dean was a method actor and honestly? He was kind of a primadona. There was a switchblade fight between Jim and Buzz (Corey Allen), which was done with real blades. At one point while shooting the fight, Alle reached out and accidentally cut Dean. Ray, alarmed his new up and coming star had been injured, called cut. Dean was furious, grabbing Ray by the shirt and saying "Don't ever, ever say cut. Don't ever, ever say cut to me. I'll say cut if something's wrong. Don't you ever cut the scene." Dean reportedly wanted to preserve the realism of his injury for the camera and was apparently so angry over Ray's decision to stop the scene that he walked of set in a rage, having to be coaxed back into filming.

  • "Jimmy did most of the directing. He gave us our lines; he dominated the entire thing," Ann Doran, who played Jim's mother recalled.

  • Ray and Dean had more than a typical director/star relationship. Ray worked hard to get to know his young lead, hanging out with Dean in New York and ultimate holding rehearsals at Ray's Chateau Marmon bungalow. As production began, Dean's passion for method acting led Ray to give him a large share of creative control over each scene, to the point where Dean would often dictate the pace and tone of a scene to the other actors.

  • Frank Mazzola, better known as his character Crunch, was a member of The Athenians, a gang that Mazzola referred to as a "social club" that was very territorial. Once joining the cast, Mazzola began to remark on the weak and unrealistic elements of the script. After gathering his Athenian friends to hassle Ray and Dean (with their knowledge of course), Mazzola was then consulted on the scripting, wardrobe, cars, and choreography for knife fights based on real encounters he'd had with another gang member.

  • All three lead actors- James Dean, Sal Mineo, and Natalie Wood, died in young and under tragic circumstances. Dean passed in a car accident, Mineo was stabbed outside of his apartment, and Wood drowned in her pool. This was the second and final film to feature James Dean during his lifetime, with the film releasing a month after his death.

Our Ratings:

William Lee- 4/10

JT- 4/10

Audie- 3.5/10

Average- 2.9/10

Natalie Wood | James Dean | Rebel Without a Cause
Natalie Wood | James Dean | Rebel Without a Cause

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