Famous Hollywood Rebels: Nick Adams

Nick Adams was a young and volcanically intense actor of the 50’s and 60’s who was featured in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and also on TV on THE REBEL. He was a greatly admired counter culture-type actor because his image seemed to flaunt the rules of society so much. He wanted fame as an actor so much that he once put up his own name on a theater marquee while doing oddjobs there, and got himself fired for his stunt. He had hoped to meet directors, agents or others with this Hollywood movie theater job, but with no success. But, this setback didn’t deter the young actor who was bent on self-promotion to find his own rightful place among Hollywood’s headliners. His first role came in a 1951 film as a single line as a Western Union delivery agent in a film. He later auditioned for director John Ford which placed him in more films.

His small role in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE helped to place him among a group of young Hollywood rebels as one of this brat pack, and like James Dean, Nick Adams acquired a taste for fast cars, but that also escalated into street racing as well, and arrests. In fact, after James Dean’s death from an auto accident in 1955 during the production of GIANT, Nick Adams was called into to overdub his voice in some scenes so that the film could be completed. This gave Nick Adams additional credentials as the heir apparent to punk rebel actors like James Dean.

In 1959, Nick Adams started work in the Western TV series, THE REBEL, in which he played a former confederate soldier during postwar reconstruction days. His role as Johnny Yuma, was a classic among many fans of classic TV Westerns. Johnny Cash made the show’s theme song a hit song as well. It was one of the best Western themes ever. But, the show only aired just two seasons.

After THE REBEL, Nick Adams found a variety of work in a number of films and in the short lived TV series, SAINTS AND SINNERS. But, by the mid60’s the rebel actor found himself strangely cast in a number Toho Productions Japanese monster and Sci Fi films, although Nick Adams did later make one British film with Boris Karloff, DIE, MONSTER, DIE!, which had the notoriety of being one of Boris Karloff’s last acted roles.

But, with his career settling into a number of very low budget films, and even the cancellation of his last film project role in a Mexican-produced movie, Nick Adams apparently slipped into prescription drug abuse problems he was using to control a nervous disorder he had developed and was later found dead of an accidental prescription drug interaction. It was the end of the line for the actor who wanted to be loved so much as a film legend. And the end of one of cinema’s great young rebel actors. Like James Dean, Nick Adams was a legend who died way too soon.

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