To begin my ‘seven days, seven deaths’ series on some of Hollywood’s more mysterious, strange and unusual endings, I have decided to start off with a bit of a classic: the deaths of four of the main cast of ‘Rebel Without A Cause’.
One of the most iconic movies of the 1950s, Rebel’s plot revolves around Jim Stark, a rebellious youth with a troubled past who comes to a new town making friends and deadly enemies.
Hotly anticipated after the casting of dishy, talented James Dean, the film was an almost certified box office hit before being released, but the events both pre and prior to this occasion have given the movie a more intriguing reputation. Some go as far as to call it a curse.
Back in 1955, James Dean wasn’t the cultural icon he is today, but he was fresh-faced, oscar winning and incredibly bankable. On the 30 September 1955, on his way to a weekend sports car race, Dean’s Porsche 550 Spyder collided with a Ford Custom Coupe. Anticipating the crash at a fork in the road, Dean attempted a ‘side stepping’ racing manoeuvre to avoid collision, unfortunately there wasn’t enough time and the cars hit head on. Dean was extracted from the rubble, unconscious and bleeding. He died later that day.
The ‘curse’ of James Dean’s Porsche “Little Bastard” has become part of America’s cultural mythology, first printed in the tabloids, later put into biographies and TV documentaries. It has been reported that the porsche was not only involved in James’ death, but in the deaths and/or maimings of several others connected to it. After many years it has “mysteriously disappeared” from the glare of the media spotlight, its current location remains unknown.
Aside from James Dean, many of the other Rebel cast members also suffered horrific, untimely deaths soon after the release of the film:
- In 1976, at the age of 37, Salvatore “Sal” Mineo, Jr who played Plato Crawford was stabbed to death in the alley behind a Hollywood apartment building
- In 1981, at the age of 43, the beautiful Natalie Wood was found drowned at Catalina Island in California after taking a boat trip. Natalie’s case has recently been opened once again, with suicide and even murder being considered as the reason for death
- Nick Adams who played Moose in the movie was found dead at his house in 1968 at the age of 26. His death is still a mystery, although many have accounted suicide as the cause…
The sordid surroundings of these deaths has sparked much controversy and rumour over the years, giving ‘Rebel Without A Cause’ an unintended and rather sinister image, along with its success at the world’s box office.
As sad as these untimely deaths are, the mystery surrounding them is no doubt curious. Curse or not, coincidence is a funny thing, i’m sure you’ll all agree.
Until tomorrow, folks…