Marlon Brando and James Dean are a pop-culture duo, the twin faces of leather-jacketed ’50s rebellion. Never mind that their career paths were about as different as could possibly be, with Dean’s cut off before he reached his prime and Brando’s extending long, long beyond his: their performances in “The Wild One” (Brando) and “Rebel Without A Cause” (Dean) are icons of the scary new ball of longing and fury that the world was just beginning to call “the teenager.”
But imagine if things had gone differently, that somewhere, in an alternate universe not so very different from our own, it was Brando who had the lead in “Rebel Without A Cause,” smouldering all over the screen. He came close enough to screen test for the role, which you can take a look at below.
Well, almost. In truth, this is a screen test from eight years before Nicholas Ray started shooting “Rebel Without A Cause,” and it uses a script that never made it to the screen. Still, this is a fascinating artifact, both for a look at the 23-year old Brando, showing an awkwardness and even nervousness never evident in his actual performances, and for reminding us that even though we consider ‘Rebel’ a film perfectly cast and perfectly of its mid-50s moment, it had been on the cards for about a decade and gone through a cascade of casting options. Why the Brando version never made it into production we don’t know, but presumably they made Brando an offer he could refuse. (Sorry.) [Reddit]