Rebel Without a Curse
or Whatever Happened to:

I was reading one of Drownzsurfs nodes which mentioned the 1955 movie Rebel Without a Cause, when it struck me that several of the kids in that movie died terribly young. On the other hand many of the adults lived to astronomically advanced ages. Some made it into their 80s or 90s. And still some others never made it to 50 or 60. In many cases the causes of death were violent or bizarre. I remember having discussed this with some of the cast members over the years and hearing them say there was a curse on the movie. It opened a month after James Dean was killed. With this in mind I decided to research and find out just what did ever happen to the cast members if anything. My research showed, only a handful of them died too young.

Think of all the things you might never have accomplished had you been killed in a road accident at age 24. My early thoughts were: there is no curse on the movie. The bad luck was merely a case of "Show me how you live and I'll tell you how you'll die".

See the end of this article for my final conclusion.

Character: Jim Stark


James Byron Dean (8 February 1931 - 30 September 1955) was an Indiana farm boy born during the depression, and raised by an aunt and uncle. After completing school he went to N.Y. to pursue his dream of acting. Despite its run of only 4 days, his acting breakthrough came on Broadway in the drama "See the Jaguar". Winning the Bloom Award as "Best Newcomer" for his performance as a blackmailing Arab boy in the New York production of André Gide's "The Immoralist" essentially became his ticket to Hollywood. His first Hollywood credit was in the TV series Family Theatre in 1951. Dean was killed in a road accident in his Porsche Spyder near Cholame, California, apparently on his way to meet with Monty Roberts the real life “Horse Whisperer.” In his autobiography, “The Man Who Listens to Horses", Roberts claims he and Dean were discussing partnering in a horse ranch venture together. At the time of his death Dean had aspirations of becoming a writer.

Actor Titles: 33

Age at time of death: 24

Cause of death: Broken neck sustained in a car accident

Immortalised in songs:

2005 Hillary Duff’s Most Wanted album includes the song Mr. James Dean,
Mentioned along with others in Madona’s song Vogue
Billy Joel’s song We Didn't Start the Fire (1989).
Referenced by name in the Skid Row song, Forever
The Eagles, penned a lyric about him that went: "Too fast to live, too young to die."
Immortalized in 1974 by the song Rock On sung by David Essex
Mentioned in Don McLean's hit song American Pie.
Along with Martin Sheen and Steve Mc Queen he is mentioned in R.E.M’s song Electrolite. (I guess they went for the rhyme.)
Referenced by name in the John Mellencamp’s song Jack and Diane.
Is referenced in the Lady Gaga song Speechless, "I can't believe how you looked at me with your James Dean glossy eyes".

Academy Award Trivia:
Dean was the first actor to receive posthumous Oscar nominations. He was nominated for his first and last ever screen performances. (Best Actor in a Leading Role: East of Eden (1955). Giant (1956). Jeanne Eagels was the first nominee for a posthumous Oscar. She was nominated for Best Actress for The Letter (1929). Since then Peter Finch for(Network (1976) for Best Actor in a leading role, and Heath Ledger for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role for The Dark Knight (2008 have both won posthumous Oscars©. Ralph Richardson - nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984). Massimo Troisi Il Postino: The Postman (1994), and Spencer Tracy Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (1967) were nominated but like Dean did not win. Triosi was also nominated for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.

Character: Judy


Natalie Wood (née Natalia Nikolaevna Zakharenko) (July 20, 1938 ~ November 29, 1981) was born in San Francisco California to Russian émigrés . She grew up as Natalie Gurdin, which means wood or forest in Russian. Natalie appeared in Happy Land, her first film, at age 4. Her Stage mother, Maria, relocated the family to Los Angeles hoping to land more movie roles. The roles came slowly, but eventually after three years of pounding the sidewalks, Natalie got her big break in Tomorrow is Forever and then skyrocketed to fame as a child star in Miracle on 34th Street. She made the transition from child star to teen idol when she landed the role of Judy in Rebel Without a Cause; and transitioned very well into ingénue roles. By 1962 she was a household name. By 1966 she decided to take a break from Hollywood. This lasted 3 years she came back in 1969. But then didn’t work much after that other than a TV movie in 1974, and a string of other forgettable movies. At the time of her death she was working on the movie Brainstorm (1983). Natalie after becoming inebriated and quarrelsome with her husband and dinner guests Christopher Walken and boat captain Dennis Davern, she returned with them to the 55 foot cabin cruiser (Splendour), where they were spending the weekend after Thanksgiving. The next morning at 7:30AM search helicopters would discover her body, floating face down some two hundred yards from the boat, in Isthmus Cove, off Santa Catalina Island, California. Her sister Lana has recently asked to have the case of her mysterious drowning reopened.

Actress Titles: 66

Age at time of death: 43

Cause of death: Drowning

Academy Award Trivia:
Natalie was just 25 years old when she received her 3rd Academy Award Nomination, and remains the youngest person to ever receive 3 Academy Award nominations. (Best Actress in a Leading Role: Splendor in the Grass (1961). Love with the Proper Stranger (1963). Best actress in a Supporting Role: Rebel Without a Cause (1955).


Character: John 'Plato' Crawford


Salvatore ( Sal ) Mineo Jr., (10 January 1939 ~ 12 February 1976) was born in the tough neighbourood of East 213th Street in the Olinville section of the Bronx. His parents had emigrated from Sicily to the U.S. His father was a casket maker. Sal began getting into trouble at around 8 years old when he was tossed out of parochial school and joined a street gang. His mother Josephine enrolled him in dancing school and at age 10 he was arrested for robbery. He was subsequently given a choice of going to juvenile hall or enrolling in a professional acting school. He chose the latter. His film career began with the TV series Frontiers of Faith and continued until his murder in West Hollywood, California, at the hands of a total stranger, a drug addicted 17 year old drifter/pizza delivery boy, Lionel Ray Williams who was convicted of his murder in 1979 and sentenced to life in prison. He was paroled in 1990, but he was imprisoned soon again \for criminal activity. John Lennon put up the reward money to find Mineo's killer.

3 years after his murder, in 1979 a compilation tape of four short documentaries on LSD, and its effects in which Sal hosted, was released.

Actor Titles: 70

Age at time of death: 37

Cause of death: Murder (Without a Cause) Mineo was stabbed just once but the knife blade penetrated his heart, leading to immediate and fatal internal bleeding.

Immortalised in songs:
Was mentioned in the movie/play "Grease" during the song "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee." The lyric goes: "Oh, no, no, Sal Mineo, I would never stoop so low."

Academy Award Trivia:
He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his performance in Rebel Without a Cause and again for his role as Dov Landau in Exodus (1960).

Character:Frank Stark


James Gilmore(Jim)Backus (February 25, 1913 ~ July 3, 1989) Ohio born Backus was one of the rare entertainers who did it all. He had successful careers in radio, Broadway, movies, television and cartoons. His move career began in the uncredited role of the Maitre d' in movie The Truth About Youth. In 1949 he was the uncredited voice for the nearsighted Mr. Magoo in a short called Ragtime Bear. By the time he landed the role of Dean's father in Rebel Without a Cause he had made 22 Mr Magoo shorts, had co-starred between 1952 -1955 with Joan Davis in 98 episodes of the TV Series I Married Joan. Jim was probably best remembered for his role as Thurston Howell III in the 99 episodes of the 1964-1967 TV series Gilligan's Island.

Actor Titles: 243

Age at time of death: 76

Cause of death: From complications of pneumonia, after suffering from Parkinson's disease for many years.

Academy Award Trivia: None

Character Mrs. Carol Stark


Ann Lee Doran (28 July 1911~ 19 September 2000) began her career at the age of 4. It is difficult to find her early silent films because she worked under assumed names so her paternal family wouldn't know she was an actress. Her first documented role yet uncredited film was Robin Hood in 1922 where she played a page to Richard. Generally she was not cast in featured roles, wtih the exception of Rio Grande and Rebel Without a Cause. She worked her way up from stand-in to bit player and eventually supporting actress roles. It is estimated she appeared in over 500 motion picture and 1000 TV Shows. Due to the fact that she worked under so many fictitious names, The International Move Data base does not have an accurate account.

Actor Titles: 352 +

Age at time of death: 89

Cause of death: Natural causes.

Academy Award Trivia: None

Character: Buzz Gunderson


Corey Allen (29 June 1934~ 27 June 2010) born Alan Cohen, another native of the Buckeye State, he played the roll of the youth who gets killed during the Chicken Race with Dean's character. Like Jim Backus, he lived to a ripe old age and had two rather successful careers: Acting, directing and acting coach at the Actor's Workshop. He was one of the last surviving cast members of the film.

Actor titles: 53
Director titles: 76

Age at time of death: 75

Cause of death: Complications of Parkinson's disease.

Academy Award Trivia:
None, but he won an Emmy for directing an episode of Hawai'i Five-0

This is where it starts to get a little weird again:

Character: Judy's Father


William DeWolf Hopper Jr. (26 January 1915 ~ 6 March 1970) the son of columnist Hedda Hopper, made his film debut in 1916 Sunshine Dad
playing an Infant in a carriage (as DeWolf Hopper Jr.). His next movie wasn't until 1936 when he played a soldier in The King Steps Out (uncredited) He worked on an astonishing 105 movies between 1936 and 1944; then was quiet for 10 years, did another 9 movies before being cast in Rebel. He continued to work regularly, then landed the role of Paul Drake on the Perry Mason TV Series. He completed approximately 255 episodes. This ran from 1957 to 1966. He took a four year vacation coming back in 1970 to play a an uncredited role in Myra Breckenridge. That same year he suffered a stroke on 14 February. He died in Palm Springs, California,

Actor titles: 134

Age at time of death: 55

Cause of death: Pneumonia

Academy Award Trivia:None, but he had one Emmy nomination for Perry Mason 1959


Character: Judy's Mother


Rochelle Hudson (6 March 1916 ~ 17 January 1972)Prodded by an ambitious stage mother, she began her career at around 14 years old as a voice actress on Sinkin' in the Bathtub doing the voice of Honey. Her 37 year career went from teenager, to ingenue, to leading lady, to character actress, she appeared in Hollywood films from the early 30s through to 1967. She left Hollywood on 1955 to run a 10,000 acre ranch in Arizona. She later moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma and worked for a petroleum factory. Missing California, she returned in 1963 and, briefly, restarted her career, but left Hollywood for good in 1967 when she moved to Palm Desert where she found success in real estate. She and the man who played her husband in Rebel (Bill Hopper) both died of pneumonia at age 55 in the Palm Desert/Palm Springs area.
Actress titles: 111

Age at time of death: 55

Cause of death: Pneumonia brought on by a liver ailment

Academy Award Trivia:
None. Has Star on the Walk of Fame


Character: Goon


Dennis Lee Hopper (17 May 1936 ~ 29 May 2010) another farm boy, was born in Dodge City, Kansas, After early success as a child star in theater, was a relative newcomer to the silver screen when he was cast in Rebel Without a Cause. His debut occurred the year before in 1954 on the TV series Cavalcade of America and he had only appeared on 4 other TV shows when he got his big break. The next year he had a role in Giant. He was lucky to have a career at all after run in with Louis B. Mayer he was banned from MGM. After an altercation with director Henry Hathaway, he was blackballed from major Hollywood feature film roles from 1958 until 1965, during which time he was busy working on television. Often cast as a cowboy he did a smattering of TV and a few feature films, eventually landing the job of writer/director/ and the role of Billy in Easy Rider opened the door for other features such as True Grit and then back with Peter Fonda as writer/director/actor in The Last Movie. Around this time he began have use of controlled substances and his work suffered greatly. Then 9 other movies until he worked his way up to Apocalypse Now. In the 80s after attending a drug rehab programme, Hollywood rediscovered this "Bad Boy" actor and from then on it seems as if he never stopped working, sometimes cranking out 5 or 6 projects a year. One of three cast members of the film Rebel Without a Cause to have died within the first six months of 2010. He was followed in death by cast mates Corey Allen and was predeceased by Steffi Sidney.

Actor titles: 203

Self (Talk Shows/Documentaries/Host:213 titles

Age at time of death: 74

Cause of death: Prostate cancer

Academy Award Trivia:
Nominated for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for: Hoosiers (1986). Best Writing, Story and Screenplay Based on Material Not Previously Published or Produced for: Easy Rider (1969). Shared with: Peter Fonda and Terry Southern. Dennis has 5 lifetime achievement awards and was the most nominated of any of the cast of Rebel Without a Cause.


Character:Ray Fremick


Edward Cuthbert Platt (14, February 1916 ~ March 19, 1974)was born in Staten Island, New York. After a taste of Broadway and a career in radio and TV as an anchorman and the host of a children's show in Texas. He came out to Hollywood his first role was uncredited as Lieutenant in Gates's Office in the movie I Was a Male War Bride 6 years later he reprised a role he had played on Broadway with Jose Ferrar in the Shrike. When producer Leonard Stern was casting the Popular TV series Get Smart, he remembered Ed's portrayal of the juvenile officer in Rebel Without a Cause and wanted Platt specifically for the role of Chief.

Actor titles: 119

Age at time of death: 58

Cause of death: suicide

Academy Award Trivia: None


Character: Mil


Steffi Sidney (16 April 1935 ~ 22 February 2010) née Stephanie Skolsky was the daughter of columnist Sidney Skolsky. She had mostly uncredited roles and bit parts. Her first role uncredited as Edna Cantor in The Eddie Cantor Story 1953 one other small uncredited roll before playing a teenage rebel. She continued to land small roles until 1958. She came back to films in 1965 as a production assistant and also played herself in 3 documentaries about James Dean. She was one of three cast members of the film Rebel Without a Cause to have died within the first six months of 2010. She was followed by cast mates Corey Allen and Dennis Hopper a few months after her passing.

Actress titles: 12

Age at time of death: 74

Cause of death: Kidney failure

Academy Award Trivia: None


Character: Crawford Family Maid


Marietta Canty, (30 September 1905 ~ 9 July 1986) Born as one of five children, to leading members of Hartford's African American community and devout members of the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, her parents Mary and Henry Canty, laid the foundation for much of the performers later social activism. At age 40 Rebel Without a Cause was her last film. She received critical acclaim for her performances in theater, radio, motion pictures, and television as well as her political and social activities. Her film career began in 1940 with What's Your IQ? #2 a short film, where she played Black Woman with Child (uncredited). Most of her roles were playing maids or cooks, but she played them with dignity. She left acting in 1955 to care for her father. A Queen Anne style home her parents bought in the 30s built c. 1897 and where she grew up, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000. She was born and died in Hartford, Connecticut.

Actress titles: 41

Age at time of death: 80

Cause of death: unknown

Academy Award Trivia: None, but she received numerous awards including Araat Chapter, B'nai B'rith, for outstanding civic service, 1960; the Humanitarian Award, Hartford Section of National Council of Women, 1969; and the certificate of Service and Award Recognition, American Red Cross.

Character: Mrs. Stark - Jim's Grandmother


Virginia Brissac (11 June 1883 ~ 26 July 1979) was a well-established stage actress in the early part of the 20th century. For several seasons in the 1920s, she headed a travelling stock company bearing her name. Once she settled down in Hollywood in 1935, she carved a niche for herself in authoritative parts, spending the next twenty years playing a steady stream of schoolteachers, college deans, duennas and society matrons. She acted in 2 film shorts in 1913 but then wasn't heard from agaain in the film industry until 1935. Her first major role was as Adela Thatcher in Murder by an Aristocrat in 1936. She lived to be the oldest cast member. Rebel Without a Cause seems to be her last screen credit.

Actor Titles: 152
Age at time of death: 96

Cause of death: Presumably Natural causes.

Academy Award Trivia: None, but she won special jury prize at the Venice Film Festival (1954) for ensemble acting in Executive Suite




Beverly Long began her film career in 1952 on the TV series Dangerous Assignment playing the role of Herta. She had only one other uncredited role before she worked on Rebel Without a Cause. She is now a casting director but has only 3 credits in this area. She played herself in the three documentaries about James Dean.

Actress titles: 10

Academy Award Trivia: None


Character: Dr. Minton - Lecturer at Planetarium

Ian Wolfe (4 November 1896 ~ January 23, 1992) was a very well respected character actor ranging form Shakespeare to Comic book characters. His last film was Dick Tracy. After a long apprenticeship in the theatre he debuted in the Barretts of Wimpole Street recreating the role he had played in Broadway. He was 38 at the time. For 5 1/2 decades he continued to work steadily in supporting and character roles well in to his 80s. Wolfe wrote and self-published two books of poetry titled, "Forty-Four Scribbles & A Prayer: Lyrics & Ballads" and "Sixty Ballads & Lyrics In Search of Music".

Actor Titles: 288

Age at time of death: 95

Cause of Death: natural causes)

Academy Awards trivia: None
He finally gained his greatest fame at the age of 85, effortlessly stealing scenes as Mama Carlson's doddering yet feisty butler "Hirsch" in several episodes of the MTM sitcom.



Character: Crunch

Frank Mazzola(born7 March 1935~) Frank had acted in two films before Rebel, He was uncredited technical advisor on the film and acted in two others post Rebel; he then went on to become a film editor and producer. He still lives in Los Angeles. Frank's younger brother Anthony was killed in the David Wolper plane crash. Frank and his brother's Lenny and Anthony frequently worked as extras and bit players in numerous films when they were younger. They were second generation "Hollywood." Frank's contribution as technical advisor on Rebel was monumental. One of the Nick Ray biographies quotes, "...the knife duel between Jim and Buzz (Corey Allen) was staged with the aid of Frank Mazzola." Nick also signed a REBEL poster with a personal note of thanks, "For Frank Mazzola who helped so much to make the texture of REBEL into a living realty."

Actor Titles: 5
Editor Titles: 19
Director Titles:
Producer Titles: 4

Still living at the time of this writing:


Character: Gene

Robert Foulke (5 May 1908 ~ 25 February 1989) in a very successful career which spanned 37 years, had already by 1940 to 1951, carved out a niche for himself as a dialogue director on films such as The Maltese Falcon. By 1948 he was performing as a bit player. The highlight of his career included Hell's Five Hours, Valley of Head Hunters, The 49th Man He usually played authoritative figures, people in uniforms. You may rememebr hm as the Andersen's next door neighbour in the Father Knows Best series.extensive screen time in the Bowery Boys' Hold That Hypnotist (1957). His last known acting job was 1977.

Actor Titles: 241

Age at time of death: 80

Cause of Death: Unknown old age?


Character: Cookie

Jack Simmons, to my knowledge only made two movies in his life and dined out on the fact that he had known Dean. Jack was last seen as a real estate investor in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. One of his best/most famous investments was Glendower House, a castle in Los Feliz across from the Frank Lloyd Wright Ennis house. It became a party house in its day. Jack also can be seen in the 2005 documentary: James Dean: Forever Young. It has been rumoured that Jack and James Dean were lovers.

Acting titles 2
Age at time of death to my knowledge Jack is still with us.
Cause of Death NA


Character: Harry

Tom Bernard was a radio actor before being cast as harry in Rebel. In 1945, he replaced Joel Davis in the role of David Nelson on radio's "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet." He continued in the part until David Nelson began portraying himself in 1949. In 1998 Tom was president of Sony Classics Releasing.

Acting titles: 18 (from 1947 to 1956)

No further info.



Character: Chickie


Nick Adams (10 July 1931 7 February 1968) born Nicholas Aloysius Adamschock best known to audiences as Johnny Yuma of the TV series The Rebel, played leads and supporting parts in many films of the 1950s, often cast in the same "troubled young man" mold as his good friend, James Dean. He was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Twilight of Honor. Nick an usher at Warner Brothers theater on Wilshire in Beverly Hills c. 1949 was fired when he, while changing the marquee at midnight one night, put his own name up in lights. The theater manager just happened to be driving by at that particular moment and sacked him. Nick went into the restaurant next door, where he was immediately hired as a busboy by my father. Years later his name was up on that same marquee as second lead in Twilight of Honor a role for which he was nominated for a best supporting actor. After Dean's death,Adams began behaving recklessly and was arrested for speeding nine times in one year. He was placed on probation, but the larger studios ignored the young actor, who had become a pariah.

Acting titles: 61 from 1952- 1968

Age at time of death: 36

Cause of death: Drug overdose.

Academy Award Trivia: Nominated for best supporting actor for Twilight of Honor. He purportedly spent $85,000 on advertising to win but lost to Melvyn Douglas for Hud.


Character: Man in last shot.


Nicholas Ray (7 August 1911 ~ 16 June 1979) the director and originator of the story Rebel Without a Cause, was first introduced to filmmaking by Elia Kazan. Please read his Wikipedia page and his IMDb page. I could not do this man, this cinematic genius, justice in a mini bio here.

Academy Award Trivia: Nomination for Best Writing, Motion Picture Story
for: Rebel Without a Cause (1955).

Jack Grinnage (Moose) turned down a part on Forbidden Planet to work on Rebel. Still alive at the ripe old age of 80. Has 49 acting titles from 1954 to 2009.

Clifford Morris (Cliff) never worked again. Rebel was his one and only film title.

Stephanie Pond-Smith child actress died on location in Reno of a brain aneurysm at age 45 while working as unit publicist and executive for CarolCo. She had 4 acting titles between 1955 and 1962. In the 1970s she worked at Paramount in publicity and as assistant to Robert Evans.

        So out of an entire scripted or credited cast we have:

Causes of death:

1 Broken neck sustained in a car accident
1 Drowning
1 Murder
3 Pneumonia
2 Parkinson's Disease
1 Prostate cancer
1 Suicide
1 Drug Overdose
1 Kidney failure
4 Presumably natural causes/advanced age
1 Brain aneurysm
1 Lung cancer

Age range at time of death:

20 to 30 = 1 (24)
31 to 40 = 1 (36) 2 (37) 1 (43)
41 to 50 = 1 (45)
51 to 60= 2 (55) 1 (58)
61 to 70 = 1 (67)
71 to 80= 2 (74) 1 (75) 1 (76) 2 (80)
81 to 90 = 1 (89)
91 to 100 =1 (95) 1 (96)

Final Conclusion: Curse? NO... Some very bad choices? YES!

And the beat goes on.

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