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Monday June 18th 2018

Rebel Without A Cause | 1955

Rebel Without a Cause location: Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park, Los Angeles
Rebel Without a Cause location: The school trip and the climactic shoot-out: Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park, Los Angeles

The angst-ridden teen has become such a familiar archetype that it's hard to imagine the impact of the original. Rebel Without a Cause began as a black-and-white, academy-radio (4:3) picture, but the revolution in cinema brought about by the threat of television meant the original footage was scrapped and production started over in magnificent widescreen and colour.

It was shot around Los Angeles, and open with the drunken Jim Stark (James Dean) lying in the road toying with a wind up rabbit in front of the pillared mansion at 7529 Franklin Avenue in Hollywood, a stone's throw from the Wattles Mansion featured in Rain Man.

Rebel Without a Cause location: Franklin Avenue, Hollywood, Los Angeles
Rebel Without a Cause location: Drunken Jim Stark plays with the toy rabbit: Franklin Avenue, Hollywood, Los Angeles

The ‘police station’ to which he's hauled can still be seen on the Warners' Burbank lot, if you take the Warner Bros VIP Studio Tour.

Rebel Without a Cause location: South Citrus Avenue, Ladera Heights, Los Angeles
Rebel Without a Cause location: the rear of the Stark house: alley on South Citrus Avenue, Ladera Heights, Los Angeles

The Stark family have recently moved into a house in Ladera Heights, a couple of miles northeast of Los Angeles International Airport.

Rebel Without a Cause location: South Citrus Avenue, Ladera Heights, Los Angeles
Rebel Without a Cause location: Jim says 'hi' to Judy outside her house: alley on South Citrus Avenue, Ladera Heights, Los Angeles

You'll find the alley running behind the Stark house running east from South Citrus Avenue just north of West 62nd Street. Jim says 'Hi!' to Judy (Natalie Wood) as she grabs a quick pre-school ciggie outside her house at the entrance to the back alley.

Rebel Without a Cause location: South Citrus Avenue, Ladera Heights, Los Angeles
Rebel Without a Cause location: Judy's house: South Citrus Avenue, Ladera Heights, Los Angeles

Judy's house, though it's barley glimpsed onscreen, is 6122 South Citrus Avenue. Jim appears from the gate at the rear of the third house along on the right of the alleyway.

Rebel Without a Cause location: West 62nd Street, Ladera Heights, Los Angeles
Rebel Without a Cause location: the front of the Stark house: alley on West 62nd Street, Ladera Heights, Los Angeles

Although his address in the film is given as '1753 Angelo', this is actually the rear of 4505 West 62nd Street. The front of the house seen in the film is probably a studio set – it certainly looks nothing like the real home.

Rebel Without a Cause location: South Citrus Avenue, Ladera Heights, Los Angeles
Rebel Without a Cause location: the head off to 'Dawson High': South Citrus Avenue, Ladera Heights, Los Angeles

The school kids who give Jim such a hard time roll up on South Citrus Avenue and finally head off north to 'Dawson High'.

Rebel Without a Cause location: Santa Monica High School, Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, Los Angeles
Rebel Without a Cause location: Jim Stark's high school: Santa Monica High School, Pico Boulevard, Santa Monica, Los Angeles

‘Dawson High’, the new school at ‘University and 10th’ is actually Santa Monica High School, 601 Pico Boulevard at 4th Street, Santa Monica (seen more recently as ‘Hayden High School’ in teen comedy 17 Again), though some interiors were shot at John Marshall High School, 3939 Tracy Street, Los Feliz.

Rebel Without A Cause location: John Marshall High School, Tracy Street, Silverlake
Rebel Without A Cause location: interiors of ‘Dawson High’: John Marshall High School, Tracy Street, Silverlake

Marshall High, apart from being the old school of Leonardo DiCaprio, has featured in lots of movies, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Like Father Like Son, A Nightmare on Elm Street and another Fifties teen drama, The Young Stranger.

The schoolfield trip, which ends in a knife fight, is to the Griffith Observatory, 2800 East Observatory Road, in Griffith Park.

Rebel Without a Cause location: Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park, Los Angeles
Rebel Without a Cause location: Jim Stark watches as his car tyre is slashed: Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park, Los Angeles

Despite first appearances, the Observatory isn't strictly symmetrical. Road access leads to the west side of the Terrace only, which is where Jim Stark parks his car. He watches from walkway surrounding the central dome as his tyres are vandalised.

It's on the west terrace below that the needling escalates into a knife fight and the fateful challenge to a game of 'chicken'. It's all still recognisable, though the view of the distant downtown skyline from that telescope has changed dramatically since the Fifties.

Rebel Without a Cause location: Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park, Los Angeles
Rebel Without a Cause location: the knife fight on the school trip: Terrace, Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park, Los Angeles

The mansion 'near the Observatory', in which Jim, Plato (Sal Mineo) and Judy (Natalie Wood) play house in the 'sunken nursery', was the old Getty Mansion used in Sunset Boulevard, which stood at 641 Irving Boulevard at Wilshire Boulevard, midtown Los Angeles – and, no, it couldn't be seen from the Observatory.

Two years after Rebel was filmed, it was demolished to make way for a blandly anonymous bank building.

Rebel Without a Cause location: Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park, Los Angeles
Rebel Without a Cause location: The school trip and the climactic shoot-out: Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park, Los Angeles

The climax sees the three leads holed up back at the Griffith Observatory, which the film put firmly on the map. Other films featuring the Observatory include the Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy Hollywood satire Bowfinger; stylish 1995 neo-noir Devil In A Blue Dress, with Denzel Washington; Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle; the spoofy 1987 film of Dragnet – with Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd; The Rocketeer; and, of course, The Terminator and La La Land.

It even became a Los Angeles nightclub in Julien Temple’s Earth Girls Are Easy.

Dean's contribution to the fame of the Observatory is commemorated with a bust of the actor in the Observatory's grounds. Coincidentally, James Dean’s first professional acting job was a Coca Cola commercial filmed in Griffith Park.