Rebel Without A Cause | 1955
The angst-ridden teen has become such a familiar archetype that it's hard to imagine the impact of the original. Rebel Without a Cause began as a black-and-white, academy-radio (4:3) picture, but the revolution in cinema brought about by the threat of television meant the original footage was scrapped and production started over in magnificent widescreen and colour.
It was shot around Los Angeles, and open with the drunken Jim Stark (James Dean) lying in the road toying with a wind up rabbit in front of the pillared mansion at 7529 Franklin Avenue in Hollywood, a stone's throw from the Wattles Mansion featured in Rain Man.
The ‘police station’ to which he's hauled can still be seen on the Warners' Burbank lot, if you take the Warner Bros VIP Studio Tour.
The Stark family have recently moved into a house in Ladera Heights, a couple of miles northeast of Los Angeles International Airport.
You'll find the alley running behind the Stark house running east from South Citrus Avenue just north of West 62nd Street. Jim says 'Hi!' to Judy (Natalie Wood) as she grabs a quick pre-school ciggie outside her house at the entrance to the back alley.
Judy's house, though it's barley glimpsed onscreen, is 6122 South Citrus Avenue. Jim appears from the gate at the rear of the third house along on the right of the alleyway.
Although his address in the film is given as '1753 Angelo', this is actually the rear of 4505 West 62nd Street. The front of the house seen in the film is probably a studio set – it certainly looks nothing like the real home.
The school kids who give Jim such a hard time roll up on South Citrus Avenue and finally head off north to 'Dawson High'.
‘Dawson High’, the new school at ‘University and 10th’ is actually Santa Monica High School, 601 Pico Boulevard at 4th Street, Santa Monica (seen more recently as ‘Hayden High School’ in teen comedy 17 Again), though some interiors were shot at John Marshall High School, 3939 Tracy Street, Los Feliz.
Marshall High, apart from being the old school of Leonardo DiCaprio, has featured in lots of movies, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Like Father Like Son, A Nightmare on Elm Street and another Fifties teen drama, The Young Stranger.
The schoolfield trip, which ends in a knife fight, is to the Griffith Observatory, 2800 East Observatory Road, in Griffith Park.
Despite first appearances, the Observatory isn't strictly symmetrical. Road access leads to the west side of the Terrace only, which is where Jim Stark parks his car. He watches from walkway surrounding the central dome as his tyres are vandalised.
It's on the west terrace below that the needling escalates into a knife fight and the fateful challenge to a game of 'chicken'. It's all still recognisable, though the view of the distant downtown skyline from that telescope has changed dramatically since the Fifties.
The mansion 'near the Observatory', in which Jim, Plato (Sal Mineo) and Judy (Natalie Wood) play house in the 'sunken nursery', was the old Getty Mansion used in Sunset Boulevard, which stood at 641 Irving Boulevard at Wilshire Boulevard, midtown Los Angeles – and, no, it couldn't be seen from the Observatory.
Two years after Rebel was filmed, it was demolished to make way for a blandly anonymous bank building.
The climax sees the three leads holed up back at the Griffith Observatory, which the film put firmly on the map. Other films featuring the Observatory include the Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy Hollywood satire Bowfinger; stylish 1995 neo-noir Devil In A Blue Dress, with Denzel Washington; Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle; the spoofy 1987 film of Dragnet – with Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd; The Rocketeer; and, of course, The Terminator and La La Land.
Dean's contribution to the fame of the Observatory is commemorated with a bust of the actor in the Observatory's grounds. Coincidentally, James Dean’s first professional acting job was a Coca Cola commercial filmed in Griffith Park.