Marlon Brando Screen Tests for Rebel Without A Cause (1947)

During the 1940s, Warner Brothers bought the rights to Robert Lindner’s book, Rebel Without a Cause: The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath, and began turning it into a film. A partial script was written, and a 23-year old Marlon Brando was asked to do a five-minute screen test in 1947. For whatever reason, the studio abandoned the original project, and eventually revived it eight years later with a new script and a new actor — James Dean, of course. Dean’s own screen test for Rebel Without a Cause appears here.

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  • A few observations. I think of a screen test as a single extended take, but this one cuts several times as if in an actual movie, though the cutting is dreadful and was obviously done hastily. The actress opposite Brando looks pretty second-tier … though that’s obviously because her path and Brando’s in film diverged pretty dramatically. And I could scarcely believe the dirty saddle shoes I saw Brando wearing with his suit at the conclusion. I associate them with teenagers, not with an experienced, talented Broadway actor visiting Hollywood for a screen test — even if he is only 23.

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