Unveiled is Marlon Brando’s screen test for “Rebel Without a Cause” – the iconic 1955 film that catapulted James Dean to icon status when the film was released just shortly after his death, making him a tragic martyr to a ‘live fast, die young” attitude that had taken over his life.
Luckily for him, his death made the young boy with glasses a demi-god for being a bit of a misfit. He made it cool to wear the jeans, and kept pioneering the t-shirt which had been a style wall knocked down only a few years earlier by the other (original?) bad boy rebel of Hollywood.
The man whom James Dean probably looked up to.
After all, Brando had broken onto the scene first on Broadway Elia Kazan’s wunderkind playing the ravenously macho Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee William‘s “A Streetcar Named Desire” in 1947. Four years later he would revive the role for the movies, and broke new grounds in the fields of style, as more men adapted wearing their white undershirt alone as influenced by Marlon Brando’s portrayal on the screen.
Appropriate then that Dean’s character Jim Stark would be in the know about these type of style choices. Those guys knew he was cool – they just had to test him.
Interestingly this is not the only collision between the two American legends, as Marlon Brando, himself, was appropriately cast for the lead role of this curious new film by Nicholas Ray. After all, Marlon Brando was THE rebel of Hollywood. Not only was Stanley a staggering symbol for a delinquency from polite society, but don’t forget he also was “The Wild One“.
The studios must have been pushing for him. Johnny had got it done before, and that’s how the Hollywood system (still) likes to do things. If it’s a safe bet – it’s THE bet. A guy’s already got a persona as the rebel and the film is called “Rebel Without a Cause” (actually, in it’s working stages it was titled “Days of Being Wild” which Wong Kar Wai appropriated for his 1991 film)
But, luckily things didn’t work out that way for all of us, because James Dean really brought something special to that role, that no other actor could give.
He does that mumbling thing and is always looking down, pouting his lips, and squinting his eyes. His hair is effortless. He rocks those Levis Jeans. He turned the rebel into an introvert, not some hot-shot tough guy who always likes to start fights (like Stanley or Johnny of “The Wild One”), but is actually a fragile romantic. A poet, really, who can’t see life the way everyone else around him has it planned.
This notion is utterly true to life, I think, and that’s why he has left such an impact on the world.
Brando is surprisingly clean cut in his screen test, and it makes you wonder just what he would have brought to the table. . . somewhere in a different dimension, on another plane, this version exists. I hope one day we get to see it. Watch the video below, and let us know your thoughts!
Until we meet again,