I was just thinking about Natalie Wood. She was my earliest childhood crush. She had a dark, mysterious allure. For me, at the tender age of ten, she represented all that I wanted a woman to be. Then I thought about James Dean, Sal Mineo, and Dennis Hopper. All of these people appeared in Rebel Without a Cause. Each of them have had a tragic history, three of them died young. It gives that film a macabre overtone. James Dean had been long dead by the time I even realized who he was. One of my earliest memories is of the horror of seeing a picture of the wreck of his Porsche Spyder. I could imagine his mangled body inside. I thought about how good he must have felt racing down the nearly deserted highway, his career was taking off, and he had his whole life ahead of him, then Wham! James Dean seemed dislocated, like he belonged in a better world, and was condemned to this one. I related more to Sal Mineo, when I finally saw Rebel. I responded to his vulnerability. I, too was bullied every day at school, except I didn’t have a James Dean to look out for me. The adults in that film were so out of touch. They reminded me of all the adults I knew. And they killed Plato. Sal Mineo had such a difficult time in the entertainment industry. He was always pegged for some stupid ethnic part, He was rebelliously bisexual long before it was the hip thing to do. After many lean years, he was just beginning to succeed in theatre. Then he was killed. Dennis Hopper only had a small role in the film, as one of the high school ‘hoods. But he developed into one of my favorite actors. I remember him doing a superb job on an episode of twilight zone, as a neo-Nazi. Of course, I loved his crazy role in Easy Rider, but his ultimate achievement had to be as Frank Booth in Blue Velvet. The role was meant for him, as he said, he was Frank Booth. It is a shame that Dennis never got the full recognition he deserved. He died sick. It was sad.
Which brings me to the person I originally intended to post about. Natalie Wood. She was so beautiful. As a kid, I adored her. I loved her early sixties movies, when she had that really cute hair style, and the puppy dog eyes. She was so cute in Sex and the Single Girl. Later, as an adult, I was very impressed with her in Love with the Proper Stranger, with Steve McQueen. She was adorable in Gypsy. I remember feeling embarrassed when she did her strip tease at the end of that movie. Even though it didn’t show anything, I felt that ‘my’ Natalie would never do such a thing! I was such a prude when I was a kid! I would daydream about kissing her, all this long before I reached puberty. I lost track of her in later years, until I saw her in her last film, Brainstorm. She haunts that film, and not just because she died before it was completed. She seems disconnected from the film. She is there, but also not there. It is hard to describe. She had a deep fear of drowning in dark water, and that was how she died. I will always think there is more to tell about that night, but we will never hear it told. And so, there you have it, the Rebels Curse. How strange that these people had a dark cloud over their heads. Their spirits serve as an inspiration to me, as to millions of others.