Saturday, January 16, 2010

Utterly speechless - Rebel Without A Cause with its screenwriter Stewart Stern...

I am really beyond speechless right now. I don't know what to say (very unusual for me, to say the least..haha)!

It is now almost 2am, I just saw Rebel Without A Cause in a very small theater with the guy who WROTE THE SCREENPLAY -- Stewart Stern (also the nephew of Adolph Zukor [founder of Paramount] and cousins with the Loew brothers [MGM]; PLUS he was a survivor of The Battle of the Bulge). It is literally, one of THE most amazing movie experiences of my life.

I was super-excited to go see this with my mom (she saw it years ago, but didn't remember it very much)! It was only $9 a ticket, AND there was going to be an intro by Stewart Stern (VERY exciting). It was quite true that Mr. Stern gave an intro. He also spoke for almost TWO hours afterward! Sharing stories about the film, James Dean, Natalie Wood, the Battle of the Bulge, etc... He even shared a personal home movie that had been taken of the still-living cast and crew members ten years ago. Footage that had never been shared with anyone. So cool.

I'm trying to write this down as quickly as possible so I don't forget anything I learned. And there was so much I learned. Stories I had never heard before.

One thing had me practically jumping up and down. Now, ever since the second time I watched RWAC I had a theory about something.


At the beginning of the film, during the credits, Jim plays with a small monkey in a red coat. He curls up next to the monkey and protects it, even making it "warm" by putting some newspaper over it - "a bed". At the end of the film when Plato dies he is wearing a red coat as he is lying on the ground dead. Jim comes over and curls up next to him and says, "Why'd you have to do it Jackpot, huh? Why'd you have to do it?" Then he zips up the coat, making Plato "warm". Also in the middle of the movie, when Jim hands Judy her mirror he opens it to her face and says "Do you see the monkey" (or something very similar to that). I always felt that this (especially the credits) were foreshadowing the film. Jim's role as protector to both Plato and Judy and also Plato's eventual death.

I mentioned this theory different places, some classic movie forums and message boards, but I also got the same "You're thinking too much about it!" Or "What?? That's just coincidence".

Tonight, I was vindicated.

After the film, Stewart, IMMEDIATELY starting talking about James' genius. He instantly mentioned that part. He said Warner Brothers didn't even pick up on it (that's why the credits play over it). He said Nicholas Ray (the director) didn't even notice it. It was something James IMPROVISED. It is a brilliant improvisation.

And, I'm soooo glad, that I'm finally NOT crazy. Sheesh! I kind of want to go to one of those forums and be like, "HA! I was right, you idiots!" ;-D. But, don't worry. I woooon't.


Mr. Stern shared soo many stories it's difficult to pick a few to share. I will share a couple that I REALLY liked for differing reasons.

First, that coat James is carrying around in those very famous shots, was actually Mr. Stern's coat! A Navy surplus coat he had (even though he had been in the Army...haha)!

One of my favorite stories about James that was shared was the meeting between Mr. Stern and James.

So, Mr. Stern was a cousin to Arthur Loew, and one time Mr. Stern was coming to visit him at his ranch in Arizona. After a long drive, Mr. Stern arrived he walked in and Arthur said, "Stewart this is James Dean, James this is Stewart Stern" then he had to leave. So, James and Mr. Stern were stuck there. They sat in armchairs side-by-side, neither saying anything (both were not big on "small talk"). They were facing a glass door that showed their reflection, and both were just sitting staring at the other in the reflection. Until suddenly, James went, "Moooo!" He was unaware that Stewart Stern was champion animal noise maker. And so, Mr. Stern let out a more intricate, "Mooo!" (It was HILARIOUS watching him do it live!). So James went, "Baaaa!" Mr. Stern did three different kinds of "baaas". Then they moved onto chickens, and ducks, and horses. They were instant friends. Mr. Stern said that sometimes the phone would ring in the middle of the night and he's pick it up and all he'd hear was, "MOOOOO!"

AHAHAHAHA! Seriously! BEST story ever!

And THAT was the reason that James "moos" in the field trip scene.

One person in the audience asked Mr. Stern how he imagined Plato, how he created him. He promptly replied, "I was Plato." He explained further that he also based Jim Stark on himself. He said he was half Plato and half Jim. And that, when he was young, his parents were much like Jim's parents (his father even wore an apron occasionally). It was really fascinating insight into the film. The reason the movie is so iconic and still so popular today is because the characters are relatables (totally copy writing that ;-D). The fact that he wrote the screenplay out of so much of himself is really truly interesting.

Mr. Stern also spoke about James' death. He was the first person outside of the immediate family who was told the news. And it was he, who had to break the news to one of James' best friends, the aforementioned Arthur Loew. No one believed him, he hardly believed it. He said he just got in his car and started driving...until he found a sign. He said as he drove down Hollywood Blvd, everything was normal and bustling. And so, he just kept driving, when suddenly "it was as if an earthquake hit". Cars started pulling over. People starting grouping together on the sidewalks. Everything became very still and very silent (in Hollywood!!). And then the news was reaffirmed on the radio.

Mr. Stern shared MANY other stories and experiences and insights about the film and people he worked with (and even about being in the Battle of the Bulge), and I WILL be sharing more in the future, but this is all I could get down right now, HAHA! Sorry if the punctuation/grammar/everything is awful! I wrote it in a hurry!

OH YEAH, Plus, I got to personally meet Mr. Stern, and shake his hand, AND he signed and personalized my DVD of Rebel!! So exciting!

Whew! That's all for now! I just had to share that real fast!



Jennifer said...

That is amazing Millie! Woo hooo. I really want to see RWAC now. :)

Millie said...

Oh, you simply have to! It's brilliant! One of my favorites!

Merriam said...

Wow. You are so, so lucky! That must have been absolutely phenomenal. It sounds like it!

hana-bi. said...

SRSLY? That's so awesome! You must've been bouncing off the walls. The "mooooo!" story sounds so adorable, too.

DKoren said...

That is fabulous! I love hearing stories like that. I'd have loved hearing the Battle of the Bulge stories. And now I want to see RWAC too.

Lolita said...

Wow, this was wonderful to read about! But seriously: which bad excuses for film forums have you been writing in? That negative response of your phenomenal interpretation of the monkey doll is just inexplicable! You should hack into those forums and delete the site, they just can't be serious.
I am a little jaundiced that you got to attend that fantastic Rebel Without a Cause showing - I just can't believe how bad I must have been in my previous life to be born in Sweden, where I will never have the chance to meet the survivors of the Golden Age Hollywood era!

Sally said...

That is so amazing!! That experience sounds incredible!! I love the "moo" story!

Kate Gabrielle said...

Your tag "Wowie Kazam are you serious?!?" practically sums up how I felt reading this!! UNBELIEVABLE!!!!! Just so incredibly exciting!! I love that story about them meeting, that's so perfect!!

Do you know if he's written a bio? If not that's a shame, these seem like stories that should be preserved in an autobiography!

Elizabeth said...

This is wonderful! How exciting!!

Anonymous said...

I don't know what to say, except AMAZING. You're so lucky, and I'm so happy for you!!!!

That truly is incredible!!! Thanks soooo much for sharing! :-D

normadesmond said...

excellent story and snazzy site! i'll be back.

hooliegirl said...

How cool is that?! :)

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

Thanks for sharing this terrific experience. Great post.

KC said...

You are so lucky! I love the animal sound story. Can you imagine what it would have been like to witness that exchange? I'd never heard that story about Dean's death. Wow, is this guy going to publish all these stories?

Raquelle said...

How awesome are you and what a great opportunity. I'm glad you took advanatage of it and shared it with us.

Anonymous said...

this was such an amazing blog entry! I loved Rebel without a Cause. Wish I could've heard all those write more if you can remember more. It's so fascinating!


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