New Ulm Film Society showing teen classic ‘Rebel Without A Cause’

This poster for “Rebel Without A Cause shows James Dean in his iconic red jacket.

NEW ULM — Bring your red jacket, but leave the switchblade at home for The New Ulm Film Society’s screening of the 1955 film “Rebel Without A Cause.”

The screening starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday, at the New Ulm Library and is part of the Film Society’s Coming of Age film series.

“Rebel Without A Cause” tells the story of troubled teen Jim Stark (James Dean) who comes to a new town and makes friends and enemies over the course of one wild 24-hour period involving knife fights, drag racing and police shoot outs.

The film is considered a classic in part for its cast and for being among the first films to tap into the growing teen movement. Before this film, few movies were specifically marketed to youths. It was not until the 1950s that American Culture began to focus on teenagers as a unique demographic.

Released in 1955, “Rebel Without A Cause” was one of the first films to recognize the power of marketing to young people. It also addressed growing concerns from the older generations that younger generation was becoming too wild. The film is often compared to “Catcher in the Rye,” both of which are about teenagers coming to age post-World War II.

The film gets its title from a non-fiction book written by a psychiatrist about the growing problem of juvenile delinquency. At the time, the film was considered a fairly balanced look at juvenile delinquency and dared to criticize the parents of the teenage characters. It was a film that took youth seriously, which set it apart from other Hollywood films.The trick of the film is the main character, Jim Stark, only appears to be rebellious, but is a sensitive soul with a heart of gold. It is the inter-generational conflict that makes Stark seem bad. This is best summed up with the film’s most famous line, “You’re tearing me apart!”

The film is remembered heavily for its look. At the start of production, the film was planned for a black and white B-film, but the recent popularity of James Dean convinced the studio to film in color with the new CinemaScope format. With an upgrade to color, Dean’s red jacket became more important. The image of Dean in his red jacket is etched across our culture’s and Dean became the poster boy for teen angst.

The film was a huge success on initial release, but a lot of the attention was for tragic reasons. A month before its release, James Dean was killed in a car accident, making this his last film. In a cruel twist of fate, the other lead actors also passed away before their time. Sal Mineo (Plato) was stabbed to death in 1976. Natalie Wood (Judy) drowned in a boating mishap in 1981. Despite the untimely deaths of the cast members, their performances and images remain eternally young in this classic coming-of-age film.

“Rebel Without A Cause” was added to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 1990. The registry was established in 1989, making this one of the first films inducted proving its status as one of the best films.

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