The myth of James Dean begins in Rebel Without A Cause. Nicholas Ray's raging tale of youth in revolt in 50s America solidified Dean's star quality - vulnerable beauty, handsome toughness and a curious, ambivalent sexuality - packaging it into a lush CinemaScope image of rebellion to rival Brando's Wild One. Dean is Jim Stark, a juvenile delinquent raging against the square emptiness of the adult world and searching for teenage kicks with friends Judy (Natalie Wood) and Plato (Sal Mineo).
Originally shot in black and white, then switching to CinemaScope early in production, Rebel Without A Cause is a brilliant, iconic movie. Tapping into the booming youth culture of the day, Ray transforms Dean into a beatnik pin-up, a Jack Kerouac for teenyboppers. Coolness is everything - from the red jacket to the wobbling quiff - but beneath it lies a rage that erupts as Jim beats a desk apart with his bare hands.
"POINTS THE FINGER OF BLAME AT SOCIETY ITSELF"
Now a classic, it's easy to forget how radical this once was. Capturing the youth subculture like no one before, Rebel's tale of gangs, chicken races and the burgeoning sexuality of adolescence points a wagging finger of blame not at the kids but at society itself. As hormones rage out of control - in Jim's unspoken, homoerotic love for Plato and his lust for Wood's electric heroine - it seems there's nowhere for this rebel to go and Ray frames the final, inevitable act as grand tragedy. A movie for anyone who's ever been a teenager.