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Lot 229: James Dean's switchblade from Rebel Without a Cause.

Hollywood Auction

Platinum House

by Profiles in History

December 21, 2013

Calabasas Hills, CA, USA

Live Auction
  • James Dean's switchblade from Rebel Without a Cause.
  • James Dean's switchblade from Rebel Without a Cause.
  • James Dean's switchblade from Rebel Without a Cause.
Looking for the realized and estimated price?


229. James Dean’s switchblade from Rebel Without a Cause. (Warner Bros.,1955) Black-handled switchblade manufactured in Italy by Astor. Engraved with the studio production number “WBM 28730” (Warner Bros. Movies). The spring mechanism currently non operational, but easily repaired. This knife is used by Dean as “Jim” in the thrilling fight scene at Griffith Observatory, where Jim is confronted by Natalie Wood’s leather-clad hoodlum boyfriend “Buzz” (Corey Allen), who is armed with a similar white-handled knife. Jim is given this black-handled switchblade by one of the other teenagers, “Jim” and “Buzz” exchange numerous slashes (with James Dean getting the worst of it!), until “Jim” disarms his assailant and presses this switchblade to Buzz’s neck. Since the actors were using actual knives, they were both fitted with chain mail tunics, worn underneath their shirts, to protect them during the filming of this dangerous scene. The knife is fully 13 in. long when opened, and exhibits some abrasions to one side of the handle, incurred when it was thrown to the ground and then kicked towards James Dean in the scene. The knife is accompanied with a letter of provenance from a previous owner, stating that the knife was originally acquired from Red Turner, the property master on Rebel Without a Cause. It is hard to imagine a better James Dean piece from any of his films. Not only an important prop from a key scene, this switchblade virtually defines Dean’s character in the film, and indeed, is a symbol of the rebellious youth culture embodied by Dean himself.
$20,000 - $25,000

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