It was placed on the National Film Registry in 1990, has inspired homages from projects as diverse as 'The Simpsons,' 'The Sopranos' and Paula Abdul's 'Rush Rush' video, and it's been the subject of numerous magazine articles and the 'Live Fast, Die Young: The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without a Cause' book by Lawrence Frascella and Al Weisel.
'Rebel Without a Cause' also sparked a new movie genre -- the teen angst film -- and, most importantly, sealed star James Dean's enduring legend, even though the 1955 movie was released nearly a month after his Sept. 30, 1955, death in a car crash. And, of course, it features one of the most famous movie endings in Hollywood history: the tragic shootout at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. div style="text-align: center;">
'Rebel Without a Cause' also sparked a new movie genre -- the teen angst film -- and, most importantly, sealed star James Dean's enduring legend, even though the 1955 movie was released nearly a month after his Sept. 30, 1955, death in a car crash. And, of course, it features one of the most famous movie endings in Hollywood history: the tragic shootout at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.
Location as Character: The Observatory plays a significant role in the movie before the finale. New kid in town Jim Stark (Dean), the titular rebel, is on a class trip to the Observatory when school bully Buzz (Corey Allen) begins to harass him and taunts him into a knife fight. Jim accepts the challenge, and a dangerous dance with switchblades (for which Dean famously insisted on using real knives) ensues. Jim and Buzz both finish with some scrapes, but Jim ultimately emerges victorious. Buzz then challenges Jim to the classic "Chickie Run" scene at a bluff overlooking the Pacific, in which Buzz dies when his sleeve gets caught on the door handle and he can't flee the car before driving it over the cliff.
But even that weren't enough drama, or tragedy, in this intense tale ...
Jim had befriended fellow outcast Plato (Sal Mineo), and after a fantasy scene in which lonely Plato pretends Jim is his dad and Buzz's girlfriend Judy (Natalie Wood) is his mom, Buzz's friends find the trio, and Plato, in an unstable state, begins brandishing a gun and shooting at the boys, as well as the police, who've arrived on the scene.
Plato takes off and hides at the Griffith Observatory, where the cops, Jim and Judy follow him. The pair follows Plato inside and convinces him to hand over the gun, and Jim removes the bullets. But when the trio heads back outside, Plato freaks out again at the sight of all the police, and when he races forward, waving the gun in the air, an officer shoots and kills him.
PS -- Corey Allen was the last surviving 'Rebel Without a Cause' cast member. The actor, who had gone on to become a prolific TV director on shows like 'Hawaii Five-O,' 'Police Woman,' 'The Rockford Files,' 'Dallas,' 'Simon & Simon' 'Magnum, P.I.,' 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' and 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' and who won an Emmy for his direction on 'Hill Street Blues,' died on June 27, 2010, two days before his 76th birthday.
The Observatory opened on May 14, 1935, and attracted more than 10,000 visitors its first week. The Observatory was the site for pilot training during World War II, and in the 1960s the Apollo astronauts trained there for their first missions.
In 2003 the Observatory was closed for a three-year, $93 million renovation that included the addition of the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater, the Wolfgang Puck-operated Cafe at the End of the Universe, the replacement of the iconic planetarium dome, and the addition of "The Big Picture," a wall that features the largest astronomically accurate image ever created.
Fun Fact: 'Rebel Without a Cause' is certainly the movie most famously associated with the Griffith Observatory, and a bronze bust of Dean, which sits atop a white column and features a plaque with his name on it, sits outside the Observatory's domed building.
But other big Hollywood productions have also filmed at the Observatory, including the original 'Terminator,' 'The Rocketeer,' 'Transformers,' 'Dragnet,' 'Yes Man,' 'Terminator Salvation,' 'Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle' and 'Bowfinger.'
Directions: Both Vermont Avenue and Fern Dell Drive lead to the Observatory, if you follow them to their northern ends. The Fern Dell Drive path closes at sunset each night.
Visitor Info: The Griffith Observatory, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, is open free of charge to the public, and even offers the free use of telescopes. To see the bust of Dean, stand facing the domed building, and the bust will be off to your right. The Observatory is also a great place for nighttime views of Los Angeles, including downtown, and to catch a great glimpse of the Hollywood sign.
Meanwhile, there's also a "Centered in the Universe' live planetarium show, which requires the purchase of a ticket at the Observatory's Samuel Oschin Planetarium. Griffith Observatory also hosts monthly Public Star Parties, where members of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society and the Los Angeles Sidewalk Astronomers organizations help visitors view and learn about the stars.
categories On The Scene