Fifty-nine years ago today (October 27, 1955), Rebel Without a Cause starring James Dean was released. An oft-repeated bit of trivia about the film is that Marlon Brando auditioned for Dean’s role in the film. However, that isn’t entirely accurate. Brando, who was seven years Dean’s senior and was already thirty during the filming of Rebel Without a Cause, had actually screen tested for an earlier adaptation of Robert M. Lindner’s book that was far closer to the source material in the late 1940s (the Dean film is an original story that only borrows the book’s title).
Because of that, those familiar with Dean’s film won’t recognize any of the dialogue in the above screen test. However, this screen test is notable because it features Brando before he ever appeared in a film. In the performance one can see the intensity that made Brando a sensation on the Broadway stage.
About four minutes in the clip, Brando does a sit-down interview with the casting director about his work on Broadway. He doesn’t mention his star-making role in the original production of A Streetcar Named Desire, which would place this screen test as sometime in 1947 since the play opened in December 1947. Though this version of Rebel Without a Cause was never filmed, Brando made his first appearance in a film in 1950’s The Men, which was followed by the 1951 film version of A Streetcar Named Desire and Brando’s subsequent stardom.