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Live Fast, Die Young: The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without a Cause Hardcover – September 20, 2005

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Frascella and Weisel's expansive overview isn't the first book to document the influential Warner Brothers classic, but it does deserve recognition for its exhaustiveness. With the first third of the book focusing on script problems, casting and unusual prefilming improvisatory rehearsals, the detailed chronological coverage of the actual filming doesn't begin until just after page 100. As Frascella (former chief movie critic of what was then Us Magazine) and Weisel (a Premiere contributor) explain, screenwriter Stewart Stern struggled to develop director Nicholas Ray's innovative idea for a film about middle-class juvenile delinquents, delivering the final script only four days before the 1955 production start. Upon revealing this fact, the book kicks into high gear, examining everything from the history and symbolism of James Dean's red jacket to Natalie Wood's affair with Ray. Dean created friction with the film's older actors, the authors say; some were taken aback by the on-set "atmosphere of improvisation and borderline anarchy." Behind-the-scenes conflicts, feuds and power plays come to life thanks to the authors' thorough research and interviews with surviving cast and crew members. Concluding chapters probe the Dean cult and the film's "enduring power." Photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Rebel without a Cause (1955), a sympathetic view of those of its era's teenagers demonized as juvenile delinquents, is one of the rare movies that had a massive cultural impact and was of significant artistic merit. Its immediate renown came because of star James Dean's car-crash death just before its release, which sparked his myth and the film's big box office. Frascella and Weisel credit director Nicholas Ray for Rebel's artistic excellence, noting that his insistence on getting his vision to the screen was fueled by estrangement from his teenaged son and anguish over his failings as a father. They construct Rebel's production history from archival research and interviews with surviving cast and crew members (costars Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo met violent ends, too, and Ray spent most of his last 20 years in exile from Hollywood) and satisfyingly balance scholarship--in, for example, detailed accounts of such key scenes as the knife fight at the planetarium and the chickie run--and gossip, such as dish on Ray's affair with then-16-year-old Wood. Gordon Flagg
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (September 20, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743260821
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743260824
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #274,375 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Very detailed and the result of a lot of research.
Music Lover
It's not only one of the best books about movies I have ever read, it really gives you a feeling for the times.
Lawrence Frascella and Al Weisel took the Rebel ball and ran with it, bigtime!
Sandra L. Waters

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Sandra L. Waters on January 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is a superb treatment of the making of an iconic film. Published at a time when many books were coming out to commemorate the 50th anniversary of both James Dean's death and the release of Rebel, Live Fast, Die Young faced stiff competition, at least on the subject of Dean himself. But this story is the ultimate examination of the evolution and production of one of the most important films in the history of cinema, not just Dean's contribution to it. As far as direct competition, the earlier more academic study, by Douglas Rathgeb, unfortunately does not quite hold up next to this mountainous, jam-packed look at the movie which made the legendary careers of James Dean and Nick Ray.Rathgeb's book was certainly adequate and very thorough as to the use of extensive Warner Brothers memoranda and archives. However, the end result of his approach is dry and lacking in narrative. Lawrence Frascella and Al Weisel took the Rebel ball and ran with it, bigtime! The cover painting grabbed me right away, as did that seductive and lurid title, also used to great effect, in part, by John Gilmore for his '97 book on his experiences with James Dean. From beginning to end, the authors dished out exactly the type of balanced but fast moving stories and anecdotes I was hoping they had uncovered. I'd had a feeling there was more, much more to the making of that haunting film than what anyone else had written, dating all the way back to Dalton's The Mutant King and beyond.There's no shortage of steamy gossip or interpersonal intrigue here; there is much I didn't know about Nick Ray's life, as well as Natalie Wood and writer Stewart Stern. I picked up the book mainly because I'm a dedicated fan of James Dean.Read more ›
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By John Sollami on December 16, 2005
Format: Hardcover
This excellent book is sheer heaven for those addicted to the romantic myth of this movie and its galaxy of stars. Even if you're a little bit addicted, you'll be hooked fast after just a few pages, as these authors make it easy to love James Dean, Sal Mineo, Natalie Wood, the script writer Stewart Stern, the composer Leonard Rosenman, Corey Allen, and the minor players who composed the "gang." Nicholas Ray is also at the core of this work, an exploitative megalomaniac insecure and wounded to the quick probably from the opening bell of his life. In fact, everyone and every thing related to Rebel is examined in fascinating detail, before Rebel, during the making of Rebel, and after Rebel. One really feels the great significance of this movie to not only everyone involved in it, but to a whole generation, and generations after it. Of course, I've run out and gotten all three Dean movies, but my appreciation and understanding of Rebel has gone up a thousandfold after reading this book. If you remember the fifties gang warfare or vaguely remember when Dean died (I was eight years old), and you've seen Rebel just once, read this book. You won't be the same. You'll fully appreciate how this movie and its cast have influenced our culture (today's right-wing philistines would say for the worse, as we move back to a 1950s repression). You'll also understand the genius that was Dean. Who knows what he would have done and where he would have taken us in our collective consciousness, but his tragic loss ironically is part of his ever-present influence.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Alison A. Shurtleff on October 30, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As a huge Natalie Wood fan, I'm always happy to get my hands on anything that mentions her, and there hasn't been much until recently. This is another great contribution to the facts of her life, as well as the lives of everyone else involved in the making of "Rebel." The authors did a wonderful job of uncovering the story behind the film, and their writing style moved things along quickly, throwing fact after fact at their readers. I loved it, and I look forward to the authors' next collaboration.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Kristen on October 9, 2005
Format: Hardcover
When I started reading this book, everything I knew about the making of this movie came from a Vanity Fair article from a few years ago. I had the vague and maybe inaccurate idea that Natalie Wood was sleeping with Nick Ray and James Dean, and that James Dean was sleeping with Sal Mineo. Whether or not these are all facts or if they're just rumors, I still don't know... the book doesn't delve too deeply into gossip.

What I got, instead, was a detailed description of how hard it was to make this particular movie - a new kind of film, involving a maverick director (Ray), a Method super-star (Dean), and hiterto unseen realistic depiction of modern teenagers - at this particular point in history.

A pretty gripping story, all told. The book's strongest sections are the ones dedicated to story development (several writers and drafts came and went) and to Dean's Method acting, which was still a very new phenomenon in 1955.

If one had to nitpick, I guess I'd say the book's a bit too long and maybe a wee indiscriminate with its detail. It's exhaustively researched and talks a bit about everything (including the details of Dean's "cursed" sports car). But is there any real insight into any of the major players? Not much, really. Dean remains an ambitious cipher, and in the end comes across more like a template for today's ubiquitous, petulant, pretty-boy movie star than as some sort of trailblazer. That's unfortunate, I guess... but without direct access to the deceased himself or his closest friends, I guess that's about the most you can expect to learn about him.

Overall: this book does a very good job of depicting the uphill climb involved in making REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. The U.S. wasn't ready for a realistic look at teen culture.
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