Dennis Hopper and the dwindling cast of `Rebel’

The death today of Dennis Hopper leaves only four known survivors from the most important film of my generation, “Rebel Without a Cause,” released in 1955 and starring James Dean. 

Hopper was a little known actor then, 14 years before he made “Easy Rider.”   He played Goon in “Rebel,” one of the gang members who sought revenge for the death of their leader Buzz Gunderson, played by Corey Allen.   Although Goon was a minor role, Hopper’s subtle portrayl won the viewer’s attention.  

Allen,  75, is the only central character still living.  His character, Buzz, was killed in the “chicken race”  with Jim Stark (Dean) when his jacket got caught in the door of his vehicle.  Buzz and car went over the cliff to their ends.  Buzz is best known for the knife fight with Stark at the planetarium.  Allen’s acting career petered out in the 1960s, and most of his later work has been in television.

Three other “gang members” are also alive, according to data taken from IMDb.  Beverly Long (Helen), now a casting director, Jack Grinnage, (Moose), age 79,  and Frank Mazzola (Crunch), 75.

The three stars — Dean, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo — met tragic deaths.  Dean died before the release of “Rebel” in an automobile accident east of Paso Robles, California, in September 1955.  Wood (Stark’s girlfriend, Judy) drowned off the coast of Catalina Island in 1981, and Mineo was stabbed to death outside his West Hollywood, California, apartment in 1976.

Director Nicholas Ray died in 1979.  Screenwriter Stewart Stern still survives at 88.  Irving Shulman who adapted the screenplay died in 1995.

The status of two other of Buzz’s gang, Jack Simmons who played Cookie,  and Clifford Morris (Cliff) are not known.  “Rebel” was their one and only film appearance.

Other cast members and their year of death:

  • Jim Backus (Jim Stark’s father Frank), 1989.
  • Ann Doran (Jim Stark’s mother Carol), 2000.
  • William Hopper (Judy’s father), 1970.
  • Rochelle Hudson (Judy’s mother), 1972.
  • Edward Platt (Detective RayFremick), 1974.
  • Steffi Sidney (Mil), 2010.
  • Marietta Canty (Plato’s maid), 1986.
  • Virginia Brissac (Jim Stark’s grandmother), 1979.
  • Ian Wolfe (lecturer at the planetarium), 1992.
  • Robert Foulk (Gene), 1989.
  • Nick Adams (Harry), 1968.
  • Almira Sessions (old lady school teacher), 1974.

[Anyone interested in `Rebel’ should read the 2005 Touchstone book by Lawrence Frascella and Al Weisel, “Live Fast, Die Young:  The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without A Cause”]


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