Monday, September 30, 2019

64 Years Ago Today…

Sixty-four years ago today James Dean was killed in a car crash as he was driving his Porsche 550 Spyder to a car race in Salinas, California. He is probably best known for playing the title role in “Rebel Without A Cause,” released shortly after his death. His birthplace in Marion, Indiana is marked by a rock and a plaque, as the house has since been torn down.

Dean’s childhood was spent in sunny California until he turned nine. His mother had died of uterine cancer, and his father thought it best for the child to be raised by his Aunt and Uncle back in Fairmount, Indiana. Here’s the farmhouse where he lived:

The High School he attended in Fairmount, where he first got bitten by the acting bug:

…and the stage where it all happened:

After graduation, Dean attended UCLA where he pledged the Sigma Nu fraternity:

He dropped out of school in 1951 and pursued acting full-time, eventually moving to New York City when his career was going nowhere in Hollywood. This is the apartment he lived in:

Want to see his sink?

A classic shot of Dean in NYC:

After studying method acting at the Actors Studio and performing in a few plays and TV shows, Dean returned to Hollywood in 1954 for his first starring role in a motion picture, “East of Eden.” This is probably my favorite Dean movie of the three major motion pictures that he made…and the only one released while he was alive. It is a timeless film that has not become dated, unlike “Rebel” and “Giant” which both seem a bit dramatic and overblown when watched today.

In early 1955, Dean returned to Fairmount for a visit, taking photographer Dennis Stock with him to record the trip. Here’s a shot of him back on the Winslow farm where he was raised.

The last movie he completed before his death was the George Stevens production of the Edna Ferber novel, “Giant.” Here, Dean’s character has passed out at the party given in his honor.

Many of the exterior scenes were shot in Marfa, Texas. Despite having done a Pepsi commercial, Dean is shown drinking a Coke! He is standing next to Bob Hinkle, Rock Hudson's dialogue coach for the movie. He also taught Dean how to operate a lasso for the movie.

The marquee at Grauman’s for “Giant,” which was also released posthumously.

It would have been interesting to see what direction Dean’s career would have taken had he lived. It is a tragedy that he died so young at age twenty-four before his full potential was revealed.

See more James Dean photos at my main website.

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Stefano said...

A fine tribute to a star which blazed out too soon.

Dean continues to move and influence new generations of youth. Last year I attended a theatrical screening of "Rebel Without a Cause"; the packed audience was mostly teenaged through early twenties. Several guys were dressed in jeans, red windbreaker and slicked hair. Though there was some laughter at the overwrought bits, in general the crowd was quite engrossed, especially during that quiet, touching "family" scene in the deserted mansion.

Anonymous said...

The darn thing is that Dean got a speeding ticket just a couple hours before his fatal crash...adding to the mystique that lasts today. KS

Major Pepperidge said...

Notice that Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" is playing at the movie theater behind Dean in that famous rainy photo!

Daveland said...

Stefano - The mansion scenes are among my they try to create a new "healthy" family. So cool.

KS - The safe driving commercial he filmed before his death is pretty creepy to watch, too!

Major - Yes! Good catch. I didn't notice that until recently.