Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A day in the life of the stars of Rebel Without a Cause (1955).

Likely photographed over the course of several days, photographer Ralph Crane captured these images of gone-too-soon-glamour-girl-next-door Natalie Wood during her Rebel Without a Cause (1957) days rehearsing and preparing for roles with costars Nick Adams and Dennis Hopper.  Where Rebel star James Dean is, is not explained.  

In the late 50s, Natalie Wood was coming into her own as an It Girl after successfully crossing over from her days as a child actress.   Her teenage angst roles like in Rebel, Westside Story, and Splendor in the Grass,  cemented her status as a late fifties-early sixties beauty icon:  youthful, elegant, lovable, and tortured by her circumstance.  She embodied a sort of feminine diamond in the rough character:  a sweet girl in a circumstance that drives her to the brink of emotional trauma.  While actresses were typically branded as either the angelic, sexless girl-next-door or the badgirl vixon, she could maintain a very sweet and relatable impression even though her characters dabbled in taboos or dangerous subcultures.   She was just a good girl in a bad situation.  Wood continued her career with successful films into the 60s until lulling in a rut of Made-for-TV work in the 70s and 80s.

 While preparing for Rebel co-star Nick Adams was said to be taken with Wood, discussing her figure and beauty in detail with BFF Elvis to the point of making Elvis' girlfriend June Juanico jealous.   Adams was a up-and-coming actor and lively personality, captivating legends like James Dean and Elvis, hosting wild hotel parties and deftly navigating the scene.  Adams died suddenly in 1968 of a prescription drug overdose at age 36.  In retrospect, Dennis Hopper was the quiet star of the Rebel bunch, doing different crew-cut bit parts in the fifties and finally coming into his own in the late sixties/early seventies when he embodied the hippie ethos of Laurel Canyon, possessing enough talent and staying power to inhabit iconic roles in every decade of his career until his death in 2010 of prostate cancer at age 74.  

But these photos for Life Magazine capture the trio in their heyday, before excesses of fame, when the world was almost theirs for the taking.  They are seen paling around town, rehearsing lines, and even observing police officers round up derelicts for research in the Method acting manner they were all studying at the time (to better inform their hooligan roles in Rebel, of course).  


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