Look Out James Dean!

People always recognize James Dean as the first “American Rebel”. Probably has something to do with his signature film “Rebel Without a Cause.”. But I am here to set the record straight. I realize that people arguing that Dean isn't the original are usually Brando fans (which believe me I am), but that's not the argument I'm making today. Ladies and Gentlemen, Meet the original “American Rebel”, Mr. John Garfield.

Garfield was making movies when Brando was still in his early teens, and Dean was a baby-faced 7-year-old. I know what you're thinking, “Yeah, Yeah. I know this guy. He's from 'The Postman Always Rings Twice'. He wasn't a Rebel! He was 33 years old in that movie, and certainly didn't share in the angst and culturally lost feelings of Dean and Brando!” But I'm not talking about “The Postman”, although it is a classic. The movie that earns Garfield his “American Rebel” rights was made almost 10 years earlier, when a 25-year-old Garfield made his big screen debut in a little film called “Four Daughters”. The writing and acting are just genius.

Please enjoy Garfield's first scene. You won't come upon snappy dialog like this anywhere in the past few decades.

A Forgotten Classic

Amazingly released in the year 1938, this film follows, quite obviously, four dauthers (made up of three real sisters and one more for good luck). They are everything you'd think a happy-go-lucky 1930's family would be like on the big screen: tightly knit, happy, starry-eyed and gay (in that 30's kinda way). Then comes Garfield. He plays lonesome, hard-up, sarcastic Mickey Borden, a talented musician who just can't see the world the way everyone else does. He's melancholy, lost, and hopelessly self-loathing. It's years ahead of “Rebel Without a Cause” and actually would have made a rather good 70's film (if you let the shots run for hours, took out the morality and cut out 3/4s of the dialog that make it watchable). This film is tragic, and actually contains a suicide which would have been controversial even in the late 60's.

Now, don't go running out to the local Barnes and Noble, cause you won't find it there. You can't even get this film on Amazon.com. But, we here at Rogue won't let anything stop us from scouring the earth and finding you the greatest films ever made – and “Four Daughters” is one of them. You can occasionally catch it on TCM, but like many controversial movies (Streetcar Named Desire, etc...) they tend to leave it off the list. I found my copy on Ebay from a guy who taped it off TV. No matter how you get a-hold of it, get a-hold of it. Your collection will be naked without it. If you happen to have a working VHS player, feel free to enjoy it that way.

So here's to John Garfield.

The True Original of American Rebels.