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Youngsters and cinema

What influence did it have?

The young, incipient consumerist audience begins to see itself reflected in the cinema, which launches two of the most influential and charismatic symbols: Marlon Brando and James Dean. They become the prototype of the desired behavior.

A new urban iconography is created: motorcycles, cars, jeans or leather. It was partly a collective response to the post-war mentality that promulgated the witch-hunt. All these new trends are taken up by rock and roll.

Leith Stevens - The Wild One (1953)

The main song of the film Savage, composed by director Leith Stevens, who claimed to reflect the violent but understandable attitudes of the youth of the 1950s.


The Wild One is a dramatic biker film shot in 1953. It was directed by László Benedek and starred the actor Marlon Brando, who played the leader of a gang of socially dissatisfied bikers. It was based on the novel The Cyclists' Raid, written by Frank Rooney. The story, based on a true story, is about the events that took place in the Californian town of Hollister in 1947, when a group of bikers were involved in several vandalistic riots in the area.

How did it affect musicians?

There is still no awareness that rock and roll was forging a new lifestyle. Artists, including Elvis Presley, believe that it is only a passing fad and that they will end up in the cinema or singing honeyed songs.

One film about American youth in the late 1950s and early 1960s is American Graffiti. It depicts their way of life and reflects the musical tastes of the time.

Fats Domino - Ain't That a Shame (1955)

Rhythm and blues song composed by Dave Bartholomew and Antoine "Fats" Domino. It's not one of the great songs on the excellent American Graffiti soundtrack.


The film American Graffiti was directed by George Lucas, in 1973. It was produced by Francis Ford Coppola and starred by Richard Dreyfuss, Harrison Ford and Paul Le Mat, among others. Set in Modesto (California), it is about a group of teenagers and their experiences on the last night of the last summer of their youth, in 1962. The next morning, they will all begin the journey to their future. The character John Milner stands out, a rocker anchored in the 1950s who watches passively as times change.

What other movies are remarkable?

Other films about more or less rebellious youth are: Blackboard Jungle, directed in 1955 by Richard Brooks, or West Side Story, a 1961 musical directed by Robert Wise and Jerone Robbins.

In later decades other good films appeared such as: The wanderers (The wanderers, the Bronx gangs), directed in 1979 by Philip Kaufman, and Rumble fish (The law of the street), directed in 1983 by Francis Ford Coppola.

NYU Symphony Orchestra - Rebel Without a Cause (2009)

Main song of the film Rebel Without a Cause, composed by New York musician Leonard Rosenman, in 1955. The orchestra is conducted by pianist Scott Dunn.

Rebel without a cause is undoubtedly the film that made the most impact in the years of the flourishing rock and roll. Every young American, with Elvis Presley at the head, wanted to be that actor called James Dean. The film was directed in 1955 by Nicholas Ray and, along with Dean, it starred Natalie Wood. Based on psychiatrist Robert Lindner's 1944 book, Rebel Without a Cause: The Hypnoanalysis of a Criminal Psychopath, it reflects the violent disorder that many of these post-war youths suffered.