THE “REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE” CURSE | A CURIOUS CAST OF CHARACTERS

jamesdean

James Dean in 1955′s “Rebel Without a Cause”

The 1950s were a very cool time, I only wish I could have experienced them for myself. It is a time in American pop culture that is highly idealized for it’s music, fashion, style and culture. Everyone looked incredible, and seemed so squeaky clean– but you just knew there had to be much more going on behind the scenes. Rebel Without a Cause is one of the most iconic films from that era, and the stories behind the making of the James Dean classic are as incredible as the movie itself. And truth be told, Dean was not the only rebel on the set. Nicholas Ray, Dennis Hopper, Nick Adams and Natalie Wood definitely held there own.

There is a great article from the Vanity Fair archives that is definitely required reading if you’re a fan of the film.  They get into some of the details about the Rebel wardrobe and off-screen shenanigans that I have excerpted and added to–

.

wooddeanray

James Dean and Natalie Wood on the set of “Rebel without a Cause”

Striving for authenticity in every detail, Ray turned his attention to the high-school gang members who surround and threaten Jim Stark.  One of the actors he interviewed was Frank Mazzola, the leader of a real gang called the Athenians. Mazzola had been weeded out by the casting director but muscled his way in to see Ray anyway. “They thought that because I was in a gang, I might create problems on the set. I came out of the Depression, really,” Mazzola explains in a West Hollywood restaurant, his hair, still jet black, tied back in a ponytail.  “We didn’t have any pop culture. The guys that we loved flew, like my uncle, a pilot in the Second World War.  Everybody I knew wanted to grow up and fly P-38s.… And so these clubs started forming—ours was called the Athenians. We defended our turf. You’d probably get in two or three fights a night just defending Hollywood. It was like a sport.”

.

3188982106_6efe8b2130_b

James Dean and Natalie Wood on the set of “Rebel without a Cause”

Nick Ray not only cast Mazzola, he gave him an office on the Warner lot, from which he could serve as technical adviser on gang behavior. Ray instructed him to hang out with Dean and take him to meetings of the Athenians. “I want you to get us the cars, tell us what kind of clothes we should be wearing,” Ray told him. Mazzola had the wardrobe department buy the gang’s clothes at Matson’s, on Hollywood Boulevard, where the Athenians bought their club jackets. The wardrobe department then soiled and laundered more than 400 pairs of Levi 501s for the cast (Dean notably wore Lee Rider 101 jeans). I would love to get my hands on those old selvedge jeans.

*

b1beaf49cfea0c86e71fc4d7983af92d

The iconic Baracuta jacket is often credited as the famous jacket in Rebel Without a Cause, it clearly was not. Could have been the McGregor or fabricated by the film’s costume designer– as he claims, and there’s no reason to doubt him. Some say that it was bought at Matson’s men’s store for use in the 1955 film, but costume designer Moss Mabry insisted that he made three of the jackets from a bolt of red nylon and painstakingly worked on the size of the collar and the placement of the pockets. Even though the jacket looked simple,” Mabry said, “it wasn’t.” Mabry even designed a special bra for Natalie Wood for the film Rebel, which became known as the “Natalie Wood bra,” though he declined to reveal the secret of its design.

.

147014284_6c64f5fb7e_o

Salty Hollywood icons Dennis Hopper and Nick Ray

Natalie Wood, who was only 16 at the time, soon became involved with director Nicholas Ray. Wood’s affair with Ray awakened her sexuality—and emboldened her to initiate another love affair, this one with Dennis Hopper, who had been cast as Goon. “I was astonished,” Hopper later said. “I came from a very conventional, middle-class family in San Diego … and this was the 1950s, when girls who’d turned sixteen only a few months earlier just didn’t do things like that.” The sexually charged situation created ill will between Ray and Hopper. Maria Gurdin, having found out about both affairs, complained to Warner Bros. that Hopper was involved with her daughter; ever ambitious for Natalie, she didn’t mention that Ray was as well. “I was furious with [Nick Ray],” Hopper said about the incident. “The studio came down on me, and he came out of it as pure as snow.” The two ran into each other years later at a Grateful Dead concert and buried the hatchet. Hopper went as far as to help the grizzled Ray get back on his feet, and even helped him land a job teaching film students at Binghamton University. Nicholas Ray is a fascinating character and some of the details of his life are pretty heavy stuff– read the Vanity Fair article and find out more.

.

2739487608_a78ebddeb2_b

James Dean and Sal Mineo in “Rebel without a Cause”

Sal Mineo—so affecting as the essentially fatherless outcast Plato—later commented that he had portrayed the first gay teenager on film. There are little clues: the photograph of Alan Ladd taped to his locker door, his longing looks at Jim Stark, his disguised declaration of love in the abandoned mansion. Ray was aware of Dean’s bisexuality and encouraged the actor to use it in certain scenes. Dean instructed Mineo, “Look at me the way I look at Natalie,” for their intimate scene in the Getty mansion. It had to be subtle. A Production Code officer had written in a memo to Jack L. Warner on March 22, “It is of course vital that there be no inference of a questionable or homosexual relationship between Plato and Jim.” In real life Mineo was gay, and it is even rumored that he and Ray (who was bisexual) also had a tryst while filming Rebel Without a Cause.

26 thoughts on “THE “REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE” CURSE | A CURIOUS CAST OF CHARACTERS

  1. Dennis Hopper had nothing to do with Nicholas Ray getting a job teaching filmmaking at SUNY Binghamton in 1971.

  2. I wasn’t there, but I read in a few bios that Hopper did help him get the job. If you know better from experience, please share. I would love to hear.

    Thanks–

  3. Larry Gottheim, who was the chairman of the Cinema Dept. at Harpur College of SUNY Binghamton in 1971, has confirmed that he invited Nicholas Ray to give a lecture at the university in May 1971, which led to Nick becoming a Visiting Professor of Cinema, independently of Dennis Hopper. Nick did invite Dennis to speak at the university in October 1971 because they kept in touch as friends after spending time together at Dennis’s ranch in Taos, New Mexico during the editing of “The Last Movie.”

  4. Hey! I’m quite certain that the jacket James Dean wore in Rebel Without A Cause was a McGregor Anti-Freeze (vs. Baracuta). Mabry claims to have made the jackets, but I’ve read that in a certain scene you can clearly see the McGregor label and gray lining in the jacket.

    According to the Baracuta site Elvis wore the G9 in King Creole and Steve McQueen wore a G9 on the cover of Life magazine.

    Also, I saw several years ago what was purported to be THE McGregor Anti-Freeze at the now closed James Dean Gallery in Fairmont, IN (JD’s home town).

  5. BTW, the G9 was THE jacket of choice in the London skinhead scene of the early 70′s. They call it a “Harrington” jacket.

  6. I don’t believe the one worn by James Dean has button closures on the pockets either. My guess is either Mabry copied or modified a McGregor jacket for the movie.

  7. To the Film Noir forum–

    My bad. A very seasoned & discerning crowd over there– I’ll get it right next time guys.

    JP

  8. Nope, never been on there before. Hope you didn’t get the impression I was beating up on your blog…it’s great!

  9. Not at all, Matt. It’s nice to get commentary going– it’s the best part about blogging. Otherwise it’s just self-pleasure.

    Best,

    JP

  10. Pingback: “Little Bastard” | The Silver Spyder that Drove James Dean to His Grave « The Selvedge Yard

    • I have a stitch by stitch copy of the red Rebel Jacket. It’s from Japan and they spec’d The same DuPont nylon and square Talon zipper. It is a very simple jacket with a warm gray alpaca lining. The arms are lined with a soft brushed cotton. It fits tight around the waist when zipped and is full in the upper torso. It is tightly sewn with 15 stitches per inch. Some people claim to see a McGregor Anti-freeze label when James Dean hands Sal Mineo the jacket. I have looked at that scene over & over again and not seen the label. The label in mine says McCoy’s Sportswear-custom fitted.

  11. Pingback: JAMES DEAN IN JACK PURCELLS « The Selvedge Yard

  12. Pingback: MARILYN MONROE & MONTY CLIFT | HOLLYWOODS DENIM-CLAD MISFITS « The Selvedge Yard

  13. Pingback: TSY x GQ ITALY « The Selvedge Yard

  14. Pingback: A JAMES DEAN TRUE LIFE LESSON | DON’T ACT IT, DON’T SHOW IT, JUST DO IT « The Selvedge Yard

  15. Pingback: TSY STYLE HALL OF FAME | JAMES DEAN CULTURAL GIANT OF THE REBEL SET « The Selvedge Yard

Comments are closed.