From the Vaults: Stewart Stern on Writing Rebel Without a Cause
In a story we ran in 2000, the screenwriter tells Chale Nafus all about it
By Marjorie Baumgarten,
12:10PM, Tue. Feb. 10, 2015
News filtered out late last Friday that Stewart Stern, the screenwriter of Rebel Without a Cause; Sybil; Rachel, Rachel; and The Ugly American, among other titles, had died earlier in the week on February 2. It sent me to the Chronicle archives to re-read Chale Nafus' interview with him on the writing of Rebel that we ran on June 16, 2000.
After retiring from teaching at Austin Community College and before going to work for the Austin Film Society, Chale Nafus researched and wrote a book (still unpublished, to the best of my knowledge) on the making of Rebel Without a Cause, which led him, inevitably, to Seattle, where Rebel's screenwriter, Stewart Stern, lived.
In the excerpt printed in the Chronicle, Stern recalls first meeting Rebel's director Nicholas Ray "at one of Gene Kelly's Sunday soirees … after a ferocious game of volleyball, then charades with Marilyn Monroe and other guests." When the two men later met to discuss the screenplay, "Ray talked about his problems being a father, and Stewart discussed his problems being a son." After Stern "haunted the Los Angeles Juvenile Hall to listen to testimony from troubled kids and read case histories until he found his characters," the screenplay was finished in 12 weeks.
"I was caught up in the same kind of fervency and speed that the characters were," said Stern. "It was a time in my life when I had so much to unload, so many things to figure out through the writing of that script." Click here to read the entire interview.