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James Dean Jacket

Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by Robert C, Feb 27, 2006.

  1. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    Very interesting info Cree. I wonder why Mabry said what he said. In those pre-digital days I can't imagine that anyone would bother with a repro label and size tag. Close scrutiny of images is a recent thing. I love what you said about the missing wardrobe tag. What does it all mean?
     
  2. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    Personally, I enjoy the mystery.
     
  3. Peacoat

    Peacoat I'll Lock Up

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    This doesn't tell us anymore than we already know, but it does summarize it:

    Original maker: The original maker of the Rebel jacket is still unknown, despite many enthusiasts efforts to discover its origin. Many believe it was not made by Baracuta but was in fact a McGregor Anti-freeze style, popular in the '50s, custom made by the film's costume designer, Moss Mabry. However, director Nicholas Ray claimed he took it off a Red Cross worker and another account claims that it was simply bought at a department store. So, it seems the famous red Rebel jacket is as mysterious as the man who made it famous.


    I recently saw a screen shot that showed a brown liner. I always thought it was white. Oh well.

    Personally, I prefer the mystery be solved.
     
  4. creebobby

    creebobby New in Town

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    Shine, Lighting and Dipping

    A few thoughts on dipping, dyeing, shine, lighting, film stock and how the jacket appears in the film.

    Dipping?

    Various reports about the making of the film have the jacket being 'dipped' to take down the shine. Doesn't seem unreasonable. The old movie lights were pretty crazy strong, and I could see the reflective quality of the nylon taffeta getting out of hand.

    But as we'll see in the lighting section below, it seems that the jacket worn on screen was often shinier than it appears.

    Over-dying?

    Another 'making of' article claims that both the jeans and the jacket were 'over-dyed' to make the colors pop on screen.

    If you look at Jim's jeans, you can see the light cotton X's stitched at the corners of the rear pockets, as well as the golden cotton stitching elsewhere. If the blue jeans had been over-dyed blue than certainly that stitching would have ended up blue.
    So at least in terms of the jeans claim this doesn't seem to be the case.

    It's anyone's guess as to whether they dyed a red jacket red to make it more red.
    (Or by the LA Gang leader's account, they dyed a blue jacket red, which I don't believe.)

    Lighting and Warnercolor

    It seems that in terms of low-sheen and color intensity, the on-set lighting and Warnercolor process shaped the look of the jacket in the film more than any dipping or dying that may have taken place.

    In a few scenes (I did some Blu-Ray slo-mo this morning), as Jim moves from one mark to another in a shot, the look of the jacket changes. When he's 'on his mark', the lighting is diffused and low contrast and the red of the jacket glows and burns from within. Then he moves out of that lighting spot and suddenly the jacket has a slick sheeny nylon look. Then when he gets to his next mark, the lighting is soft and diffused again and the jacket glows as before. This happens notably (if I remember right) in the scene where Jim's lying on the couch in his parents' house, when he gets up and moves across the room. Another scene where I noticed a shift of shiny-ness within the same shot is when Jim pulls up to the Chickey fight and talks to Plato from inside his Mercury.

    So it appears as though they very deliberately lit the jacket to give it an even all-over not-too-shiny internal glow sort of effect.

    The Warnercolor process was another name for the Eastmancolor process, which was the first widely used 'one strip' color negative process. The main problem with early Eastmancolor is that it's a bit grainy and the colors are bad. Flesh wants to look bronzey-brown and everything tends to have a muck on it. The only color that really pops is red, and that gets cartoon-y really fast. Which is perfect for Rebel, for obvious reasons.

    So the nature of the film stock (combined with the lighting) seems to have pushed the red of the jacket into the fiery electric distorted zone we see when we watch the film.

    The jacket seems to glow the most in the shot where Jim's at the police station desk trying to get help. Then we cut to a medium close shot and suddenly the same jacket appears more muted and even rust colored. This is a good example of how much lighting, lenses and film stock can dramatically change the look of something as simple as a red jacket.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2015
  5. creebobby

    creebobby New in Town

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    That was a lot of info. without much of a point. Just trying to reconcile 'what the jacket was' with 'what the jacket looks like'.

    I first saw Rebel when I was 15 (in early 1994) at a screening in a historic theater in Dallas. It was a vivid, beautiful print. After seeing the movie I scoured thrift stores for a red jacket like in the movie. I was looking for a red cotton jacket. After one theater viewing (without really oogling the jacket) I assumed it was a cotton jacket. Couldn't find anything even sorta kinda close in any material.

    I just bought the blue size 38 anti-freeze that popped up on ebay. Other than the color of the material, it appears to match the screen jacket in every way, as far as I can tell. Based on my research, McGregor changed the cut, fit and details of the Anti-Freeze every couple years. It's only from 1954 to 1956 or so that the jacket closely matches the Rebel specs.

    On the example I just bought the fabric is badly stained and the elastic is shot. I hope to carefully deconstruct it and make a pattern, then tailor that pattern to fit me and reconstruct a new red jacket, possibly reusing the fleece (re-dyed) and labels from the original.
     
  6. creebobby

    creebobby New in Town

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    Red Color Symbolism in 'Rebel'

    There was another thing I meant to ramble about before I forget.

    In 'Rebel Without a Cause', Jim, the troubled hero, wears a bright red jacket with a dark brown (or dark grey) lining.

    Buzz (and subsequently Crunch), the villians and successive gang leaders, both wear dark brown leather jackets with bright red linings.

    The hero and villians' jackets are the same colors, but reversed.

    Jim is desperate to be himself, to be honest and open and live with integrity. He wears his red on the outside.

    Buzz and Crunch hide their true selves behind a false gang persona. They wear their red hidden on the inside.

    Plato, who in the film has a kind of schizophrenic breakdown due to his repressed homosexuality, wears two different colored socks; one bright red and one dark grey. He's all mixed up and hasn't the faculties to sort it out. He doesn't know who he is and can't commit to a color (until he gets Jim's bright red jacket and keeps smelling it in a not-too-subtle display of sexualized physical adoration).

    The idea of 'the jacket' as an outward symbol of personal identity carried heavy weight in the world of 50s street gangs. (We can see an even heavier value put on 'the patch' worn by 60s motorcycle gangs like the Hell's Angels.)

    I simply offer this analysis as an explanation as to why they might have gone to the trouble of dyeing or replacing the stock white lining of Jim's jacket with a dark brown / grey lining. If deliberate, it was a tweak that unified the psychological color symbology of the film.
     
  7. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    It's sometimes fun to speculate on film maker's intentions but I generally find that deliberate semiotics like this don't add to my enjoyment of a movie.
    I'd be interested to see an antifreeze in person to check out the nylon. I'd wear one in grey or a deep burgundy but not the bright red.
     
  8. creebobby

    creebobby New in Town

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    I agree. I'm usually not much for criticism but in this case it at least explains why they would have changed the color of the lining.

    ImageUploadedByTapatalk1422041709.403459.jpg ImageUploadedByTapatalk1422041718.890324.jpg

    Got the blue size 38 in the mail today. It's beautiful!
    A touch big but not too different from the fit in the film.
    Again, I'm 5'6 and 138 or so.
    The elastic is 100% shot so I had to pinch the back with a chip clip to get the waist to sit high.

    My first impression is that the shell fabric is much thinner and lighter than I thought it would be.

    Turns out it's also missing two of the cuff buttons so I can't sinch the cuffs enough.

    Now it seems like it'll be hard to cut this baby up!
     
  9. trapp

    trapp A-List Customer

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    I disagree. You offered a sound, neat analysis without importing critical terminology that often weighs down written thinking on film.

    For me at least, the director's intentions are only a distant second or third consideration. If the visual pattern is there, it will have an impact on many viewers, consciously or not, and will become a part of how the film works on us. A lot could be said on this, but my main point is that it's not just a bunch of trivial nonsense with no real impact on the film.

    Interesting jacket by the way. Does it have a label? I wonder if you could find another in better condition so you wouldn't have to take the knife to this one.
     
  10. creebobby

    creebobby New in Town

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  11. creebobby

    creebobby New in Town

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    Thanks for the defense!

    Yes indeed it has a label!

    ImageUploadedByTapatalk1422047175.609507.jpg
     
  12. creebobby

    creebobby New in Town

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    ImageUploadedByTapatalk1423407590.160119.jpg
    Life magazine, 9/24/1956 p. 80
     
  13. creebobby

    creebobby New in Town

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    'Live Fast, Die Young'

    I read the 'Live Fast, Die Young' book and learned a whole lot.
    Looking at the notes in the back of the book, there are four different sources for information on the origins of the jacket:

    1. Author's interviews with Mazzola, Grinnage, Mabry. Conducted 9/2003
    2. Life Magazine 9/24/1956 p. 80
    3. 'James Dean: The Mutant King' 1974. p. 234
    4. 'The Unabridged James Dean' 1991. p. 260

    Of all these, the earliest source is Life Magazine, published 18 months after the original jacket would have been created.
    I went down to the central library that still has a bound copy.

    'Live Fast, Die Young' leaves out the phrase, "A Hollywood store where the original was purchased."

    Perhaps the authors believed Moss Mabry's story from 2003 to be the most likely, and left out this conflicting detail, even though it's the earliest known source that exists on the origin of the jacket.

    The article also gives the price for the Mattson's jacket: $22.95, which was indeed the exact retail price for the Anti-Freeze, according to official Anti-Freeze ads from 1956.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2015
  14. creebobby

    creebobby New in Town

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    ImageUploadedByTapatalk1423409388.815729.jpg
    Here's the page from Dalton's book.
     
  15. creebobby

    creebobby New in Town

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    Tapatalk automatically resizes the images really small. Sorry.

    The main item here is an extended quote from Nicholas Ray:
    (Re: the switch from black and white to color.)

    "The first thing I did was pull a red jacket off the Red Cross man, dip it in black paint to take off the sheen and give it to Jimmy. Then I sent Natalie to buy a green skirt off the rack, not some $450 designer special."

    I don't believe for a second that Nick himself literally stole a medics jacket and dipped it in black paint. 'Live Fast, Die Young' is full of examples of Nick taking credit for things he didn't really do.
    In any case, the passage is interesting in that it stresses the use of off-the-rack, ordinary clothes.
     
  16. Peacoat

    Peacoat I'll Lock Up

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    Good research, Creebobby. The Life article says what I have thought all along: The jacket was off the rack from a department store. Thanks for the work. P.C.
     
  17. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    Interesting info - at least we have a few good stories to choose from now.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2015
  18. Bamaboots

    Bamaboots I'll Lock Up

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    For those interested, there is a site, Phoenix Project that reproduces what some consider iconic pieces worn by famous people, Dean being one of them. Unfortunately, no red jacket though one can buy "authentic" reproductions of the boots he wore in Giant, as well as other clothing items.
     
  19. timmbo

    timmbo New in Town

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    appreciate this is an old post, but I would be very interested in this if it's still available!
     
  20. Indy Magnoli

    Indy Magnoli Vendor

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    Great photo of one of our customers wearing our jacket:

    [​IMG]
     

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