Jim Stark is the new kid in town. He has been in trouble elsewhere; that's why his family has had to move before. Here he hopes to find the love he doesn't get from his middle-class family. Though he finds some of this in his relation with Judy, and a form of it in both Plato's adulation and Ray's real concern for him, Jim must still prove himself to his peers in switchblade knife fights and "chickie" games in which cars race toward a seaside cliff. Written by
Ed Stephan <email@example.com>
In his article "Dangerous Talents," published in "Vanity Fair" in March 2005, Sam Kashner writes that director Nicholas Ray, screenwriter Stewart Stern, costar James Dean and Sal Mineo himself all intended for Mineo's character Plato to be subtly but definitely understood as gay. Kashner says that although the Production Code was still very much in force and forbade any mention of homosexuality, Ray, Dean, Mineo and Stern all worked together to insert restrained references to Plato's homosexuality and attraction to Jim, including the pinup photo of Alan Ladd on Plato's locker door, Plato's adoring looks at Jim, his loaded talk with Jim in the old mansion and even the name "Plato," named after the classical Greek philosopher Plato, who scholars generally agree was homosexual. For that mansion scene, Dean suggested to Mineo that Plato should "look at me the way I look at Natalie." See more »
Except for Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo, all of the major participants who are supposed to be high school students are, in fact, in their 20s, and of college age; Dean was 24, and could have graduated from college 2 years earlier. See more »
First police officer:
Get up, get up. Mixed up in that beating on 12th street, huh?
Second police officer:
No. Plain drunkenness.
See more »
I agree with most of the reviewers. This movie is just as powerful as it was 44 years ago. Inside the cheesy braggadocio of an angry gangster is a confused kid. I can't think of a single person that did not feel alienated as a teenager. James Dean represents what every teenager would want to be. Individualistic: has a set of values and sticks to them Brave: engages in activities most of us would never consider (esp. chicky run) Kind: caring to Plato and Judy
James Dean is perfect in his role as Jim Stark. More is said in this movie through gestures than words. One lift of his eyebrow, one syllable can say so much. When he does speak, you know that he believes what he is saying. The shot of Jim rolling out of the speeding car is amazing. I can think of few modern action films that have had me riveted to the seat as I was during the switchblade fight.
Natalie Wood is superb in her role as well. Judy is looking for attention that isn't there. This is perfectly summed up when she says "I love somebody, all this time I was looking for someone to love me, but now I love somebody." She desperately looks for acceptance and acknowledgment in the wrong places because her father does not want to see her as a young woman.
Even though Dennis Hopper's role is rather small, you can see that he knows what he is doing. He portrays in my mind, someone easily pushed around when he tries to fit in. He seems different than the rest of Buzz' gang and even looks more boyish. He timidly tries to interject a comment in front of Buzz and is just brushed off.
I don't think that this movie is strictly an us versus them type of scenario. Trying to take care of Plato and to protect him, Jim realizes that being a parent is not as straightforward as he thought. His parents are more than just caricatures of the nagging wife and emasculated husband. Everyone in the film is confused about how they fit in to the big picture. The movie is simply told in the self centered manner any teenager would view it as. This can account for the sequences which many would see as over the top. I think the central theme of the cosmos presented in the planetarium show demonstrates how teenagers view themselves as the center of the universe. Thus all the scenes concerning each of the three teens conflicts are equally dramatic.
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