In Nicholas Ray’s classic 1955 film Rebel Without A Cause there’s a short exchange between Jim Stark (James Dean), the rebellious protagonist, and leather-jacketed Buzz Gunderson (Corey Allen), the popular crowd favorite and daring, darling meathead who has challenged Jim to a game of chicken: a drive at full speed in stolen cars toward the edge of a cliff overlooking the rocky southern California coast. Jim is up for it, but sees the absurdity of the contest and questions whether they ought to be doing something so obviously stupid. But there are adolescent hormones and women involved, and Buzz is all about the group image, the whole respect/disrespect system of manly measurement, and so he nervously proclaims that the show must go on. In a private moment before the duel, Jim and Buzz share a few words.
Buzz: This is the edge. That’s the end.
Jim: Yeah. It certainly is.
Buzz: You know something? I like you. You know that?
Jim: Why do we do this?
Buzz: You got to do something, now don’t you?
Spoiler Alert: And so they fire up their pilfered chariots and race headlong towards the brink. Jim, of course, dramatically bails at the very last minute, but Buzz gets his leather sleeve caught on the door handle and plunges to his fiery death on the rocks at the edge of the sea. Poor Buzz!
I was reminded of this scene this morning when I opened my Gmail, found Google’s Buzz in my sidebar, and looked for the link to turn it off. I wonder if Nicholas Ray’s flaming wreckage had anything to do with the naming.