(Touchstone, 373 pages, $24.95)
By Lawrence Frascella and Al Weisel
In 1955, Richard Brooks' Blackboard Jungle ignited a teen genre that excited studios but worried a populace that had seen a rise in juvenile violence and crime. When it came to adolescent angst though, Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without a Cause fanned those flames to culture-defining heights. And, in Lawrence Frascella and Al Weisel's scorching account Live Fast, Die Young: The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without A Cause, the behind-the-scenes drama nearly equals the neurotic intensity and tempestuousness of what Ray captured on film. The psychosexual off-screen relationships described are astonishing for the undercurrents they provided for the onscreen story. There were Dean's power plays with father-figure Ray over control of the movie as the actor's nascent fame grew, former child star Natalie Wood's urgent need to grow up as she entered into an affair with Ray when she was only 16, and closeted actor Sal Mineo's involuntary portrayal of a gay teen. The authors also delve into the sometimes aggressive, sometimes wary attempts studio directors made to convey darker, more adult themes. Dean's and Mineo's deaths and Ray's post-Rebel self-destructive career slide cast a sad tone over the closing chapters of the book, but as a well-researched portrait of creative minds navigating personal anguish to make great, iconic art, this is a valuable, invigorating addition to the making-of canon.
Review written by Robert Abele.