Robert Pattinson has captured the hearts of an untold number of fans with his portrayal of Edward Cullen in “Twilight.”
Rob’s brooding good looks and the film, about eternal love and teen angst, are strikingly similar to two monumental teen idols from previous generations – James Dean and Marlon Brando - who starred in similar movies.
Every other generation or so, an actor comes along who captures the imagination of their contemporaries. Brando and Dean were those actors in the 1950s.
Rob is having the same breakout success in "Twilight." Ironically, both Brando and Dean became international sensations in coming-of-age movies about teenage angst in tumultuous times.
What makes them so alike and what makes them different?
Dean, a relative unknown, vaulted to fame in “East of Eden,” a film based on a novel by Nobel Laureate John Steinbeck. He played the troubled son of a farmer in a story loosely based on the Biblical tale of Cain and Abel.
His performance in the film foreshadowed his role as Jim Stark in “Rebel Without A Cause,” which has parallels to “Twilight.” Both Dean's and Pattinson's characters are angst-ridden, misunderstood outcasts, trying to find themselves, if for different reasons.
In “Rebel Without a Cause,” a 1955 film, Dean’s 17-year-old character is a new to the town. He’s moody and alienated, and different from than the others in his high school much like Edward Cullen.
In "Twilight," however, Bell Swan (Kristen Stewart) is new to the school. But they share the same feelings of being outsiders, being different.
Dean's character meets Judy, played by Natalie Wood,, a budding actress at that time, who would go on to international fame. She was Dean's Kristen.
The film was an attempt to portray the moral decay of American youth with a focus on parents who failed to assert moral discipline. But it was also about the pressure to conform and about being different – two themes that also appear in “Twilight.”
Dean confronts bullies at the school, much like Edward Cullen must deal with renegade vampires who threaten Bella.
In 1953, Brando starred in “The Wild One” about the leader of a motorcycle gang that takes over a small town.
Brando became an iconic symbol of teen rebellion and posed on his own Triumph Thunderbird 6T motorcycle, forever associating freedom and teen rebellion with motorcycles, leather jackets and blue jeans.
Ironically, director Nicholas Ray helmed both “The Wild One” and “Rebel Without a Cause.”
Both Dean and Brando became young sex symbols. Brando went on to star in a number of classics such as Stanley Kowalski in “A Streetcar Named Desire” and Terry Malloy in “On the Waterfront,” both powerhouse performances directed by Elia Kazan in the early 1950s.
Rob is just at the beginning of his career and where it will go from here is still anyone’s guess. But he clearly has the makings of a major star.
Brando, of course, went on to a long, distinguished career, including such movies as “The Godfather” and "Apocalypse Now."
By the time “Rebel Without a Cause” came out, however, Dean had been killed after crashing his brand new Porsche. He was forever immortalized as a teen icon.
Let’s hope Rob’s career is more like Brando’s than Dean’s.
So what do you think?
Is Rob his generation’s Brando or Dean? Or someone else?
Poll and Videos at the source