Since I’m only 24 years old, guess I have as good an insight into this rising generation as any other young man my age. And I’ve discovered that most young men do not stand like ramrods or talk like Demosthenes. Therefore, when I do play a youth, such as in Rebel Without a Cause, I try to imitate life.
The picture deals with the problems of modern youth. It is the romanticized conception of the juvenile that causes much of our trouble with misguided youth nowadays. I think the one thing this picture shows that’s new is the psychological disproportion of the kids’ demands on the parents. Parents are often at fault, but the kids have some work to do, too. But you can’t show some far off idyllic conception of behavior if you want the kids to come and see the picture. You’ve got to show what it’s really like, and try to reach them on their own grounds.
You know, a lot of times an older boy, one of the fellows the young ones idolize, can go back to the high school kids and tell them, “Look what happened to me! Why be a punk and get in trouble with the law? Why do these senseless things just for a thrill?” I hope Rebel Without a Cause will do something like that. I hope it will remind them that other people have feelings. Perhaps they will say, “What do we need all that for?”. If a picture is psychologically motivated, if there is truth in the relationship in it, then I think that picture will do good. I firmly believe Rebel Without a Cause is such a picture.
– JAMES DEAN