Both Marlon Brando and James Dean spent time in Sayville. When Marlon Brando lived in Sayville, he got expelled from his school because of his bad behavior (http://www.newsday.com/features/custom/ithappened/longisland/ny-iholi062904story.htmlstory). The plot for "Rebel Without a Cause" was inspired by the early life of Marlon Brando and "...Marlon Brando was originally cast for the lead role." (http://members.shaw.ca/giant/Film(3).htm). The movie was never meant to be an actually biography of Marlon Brando, just that his story of a wayward youth was compelling and movie maker Nicholas Ray felt that Brando playing a part similar to himself would bring about the best performance.
However, years went by and Brando was no longer suited for the part. This is where James Dean came in. James Dean wanted to be just like Marlon Brando and tried to live his life in his footsteps. Dean moved to New York and became a student of the same school that Brando went to. Columnist Sidney Skolsky said, "The best way to describe Jimmy Dean quickly is to say he is Marlon Brando seven years ago." and a magazine said that he was "The Boy Who'd Like to Be Brando." (http://www.bigmagic.com/pages/blackj/column76c.html). James Dean even enrolled in the same school as the Brando, New School for Social Research and had the same teachers such as Elia Kazan and "Lee Strasberg - Actor's Studio(James Dean & Brando was his disciple) - lived on Fire island." Marlon Brando was expelled from this school while a young student in Sayville and got his first big break at the Sayville Summer Theatre. Elia Kazan was involved in making "Rebel Without a Cause" and an important point was that they believed in realist acting. In other words, using their own emotions and being the character. According to Jack Grinnage, who acted in the movie, "Nick wanted us to be real teenagers . Not perfect Hollywood types. We felt we were a gang. We even went out at night cruising the streets." (http://home1.gte.net/cpq175yy/index.htm) In addition, James Dean personally knew Brando before he was famous. Dean, because of his style of acting tried to live the life of Brando to master his art.
One of the reason why Dean ended up in Sayville was to live the life of Brando. The way he funded this was, according to James Bellah of UCLA, "Dean told me that he had spent the summer as a 'professional house guest' on Fire Island--which was a big gay hangout." (http://www.americanlegends.com/Interviews/bellah.html) James also would go out to Sayville on weekends with all his gay friends. Like Brando, Dean was a troublemaker in Sayville. According to Betty Mulder of Sayville, "He would walk around town by himself." and "There was friction with the kids from Sayville High School. This would not be unusual because there were often conflicts between the homosexuals and the kids from the high school."
Many of the people involved in the movie "Rebel Without a Cause" either owned homes on Fire Island, such as Lee Strasberg, or were frequent visitors such as Elia Kazan. Most of the homosexuals working on the movie were either from big cities or small towns, the only suburb they knew well was Sayville. It was also the only suburb they were all familiar and knew in common. They would often see the bad behavior and violent behavior of the kids in downtown Sayville. This was linked to Marlon Brando, since he himself was a wild, out of control student in Sayville. They were fascinated by the fact that children of upper middle class parents could behave so badly. Their theory was parental neglect.
The title of the movie came from a nonfiction book about a psychologist that studied a wayward youth. According to American Museum of the Moving Image, "the studio purchased free disposal of the title, which it could use on any story whatsoever ... Ray's reason for keeping the title went deeper than mere sensationalism: 1954 had seen the American publication of The Rebel, a translation of L'Homme révolte which marked the revelation of Camus for two generation of intellectuals." (http://www.movingimage.us/film_programs/program_notes/r/rebel_without_a_cause.html) Thus although the movie was not based on the book, they could use the title because the studio bought the right to it.
The reason why the backdrop of the movie was Las Angeles was simply because that is where the studio was located. One of the reasons why it was a great movie was because the makers put a lot of effort in to it. Writer Stewart Stern spent much time interviewing juvenile delinquents which added much to the movie. According to his coach in Indiana, "His talk and mannerisms on screen appeared to be Jim Dean and not so much playing a part." (Myth-Shattering Biography of an Icon - THE JAMES DEAN STORY 1975 Ronald Martinetti) It was this search for realism that Dean was picked for the part. He was to some extent playing himself.
An important aspect of all this is the idea of conformity and nonconformity
in the movie. To an extent the movie was showing a contrast between the people
of Fire Island to the people of Sayville. Lesbian author Tristan Taormino, who
grew up in Sayville, wrote in the Village Voice on May 18th, 2001 that "You
might think that back when I went to school, Sayville was a tiny bit hip or
liberal, since it is not only a suburb of New York City but also the famed place
where queers have been boarding the ferries to Fire Island since before I was
born. Trust me, it was like living in the middle of Iowa, tediously suburban,
but with more malls and different accents. There were no "out" gay students." In
the movie there was the contrast between Dean, Natalie Wood, and Sal Mineo (Who
was also frequently to Sayville and Fire Island) and on the other hand the
people of the town that did not accept them for what they were. The three of
them were not normal. For example, the character of Sal Mineo was homosexual,
and Natalie Wood had borderline incest with her father. According to the New
York Times, "The incestuous subtext of this relationship is discreetly
handled, but the audience knows what's going on in the minds of Judy and her
dad at all times." Furthermore, Filmsite (http://www.filmsite.org/rebel.html)
said " Sal Mineo's teen-aged character in the film was gay and troubled by
typical problems of in-the-closet homosexuals...") On the other hand was a
suburban town with conformist views and morals. According to the Gay Activist
that started "Out in Sayville", "Some people in the gay community view
Sayville as an unfriendly place." It was this contrast that the filmmakers were
trying to portray.
|<<<Marlon Brando and James Dean knew each
other in New York before Dean was famous. Dean is on the right.
The young James Dean as he looked when he lived in New York. >>>
|<<<Both Marlon Brando and James Dean had
conflicts with people who were students at Sayville High School.
Downtown Sayville as Brando and Dean would remember it.>>>
|James Dean and Sal Mineo in the movie "Rebel Without a Cause." Both were in Sayville. New York native and homosexual Sal Mineo was a frequent visitor to Fire Island and Sayville.|
Marlon Brando got his first acting job in Sayville. Following is an excerpt from Mr. Lawrence Grobel's book, "Conversations with Brando.": "In the summer of 1944, as a member of New York's Dramatic Workshop, he performed in Sayville, Long Island, where casting agent Maynard Morris 'discovered' Brando." He was picked for the lead by someone called Miss Terry. (From "A History of the Sayville Community" by Charles P. Dickerson)
According to Lawrence Grobel, the way Brando learned acting while learning from Stella Adler at the New School of Social Research was, "What he did mostly, however, was observe people. He had the ability to pick up others' characteristics and translate them into revealing gestures." Some of his characters were developed from people from Sayville. The Washington Post said Brando has a "penchant for blurring the personal with his art." (www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/ articles/A24876-2004Jul2_2.html Charismatic Rebel Transformed Movies by Adam Bernstein Washington Post July 3, 2004 Page A01) According to the theory of acting taught to him and James Dean the acting should be based on reality, and instead of just acting they should concentrate on behavior.
Marlon Brando's has his stage debut at the Dramatic Workshop in Sayville as Jesus in Gerhart Hauptmann's play Hannele. His first big break was in Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway production of "I Remember Mama", by John Van Drutens.
From Newsday: http://www.newsday.com/features/custom/ithappened/longisland/ny-iholi062904story.htmlstory
1944: Marlon Brando Plays Summer Stock in Sayville by Cynthia Blair
After being expelled from a Minnesota military academy, aspiring actor Marlon Brando moved to New York City to attend the Dramatic Workshop at the New School for Social Research. Erwin Piscator, who had been one of Germany’s foremost theater directors, cast Brando in several plays at the school. In 1944, at the end of the school year, Piscator brought the plays to a summer stock theater in Sayville. But when he discovered that Brando had spent the night with an actress named Blossom Plumb, he threw him out of the company.
Marlon Brando was born in Omaha, Nebraska, on April 3rd 1924. His family moved around, living in California, Illinois, and then he was sent to the Shattuck Military Academy in Fairbult, Minnesota. He was expelled from the school for insubordination.
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