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James Dean Overview:

Legendary actor, James Dean, was born James Byron Dean on Feb 8, 1931 in Marion, IN. Dean appeared in over 30 film and tv roles. His only three credited feature films are Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden and Giant. Dean died at the age of 24 on Sep 30, 1955 in Cholame, CA and was laid to rest in Park Cemetery in Fairmount, IN.

Early Life

James Byron Dean was born on February 8th, 1931 in Marion, Indiana to a farming family. However, when Dean was six, his father left the farm to work as a dental in Los Angeles. In 1939 his mother passed away of uterine cancer and Dean's father send the boy back to the Midwest to live with his aunt. Dean was very close to his mother and her death is said to have had a large effect on the young man. Although indifferent to academics, Dean was popular student and an athlete in high school. He not only played on the baseball and basketball team but also participated in the schools stage productions. Upon graduation, Dean moved back to southern California and enrolled in Santa Monica College majoring in pre-med before transferring to UCLA to major in Drama. The change in major caused a riff between Dean and his father, who did not approve of acting as a career choice. While at UCLA, Dean made his first Television appearance in Pepsi commercial. He also acted in the Universities of MacBeth playing Malcom. After only one semester, he dropped out of college to pursue acting full time.

Early Career

Dean struggled in his efforts to find work. He managed to land the role John the Beloved in the Easter special Hill Number One and few walk on roles in films but nothing substantial came his way. In 1951, upon the advice of acting coach James Whitmore, Dean headed east to New York with hopes of studying at the famed actors studio. He worked a series of odd jobs, including stunt tester for the CBS game show Beat the Clock, while pursuing his career. In 1952, Dean was finally accepted into the Actors Studios, studying under legendary method acting teacher, Lee Strasberg, an accomplishment of which the young Midwesterner was fiercely proud. Dean flourished under the tutelage of Strasberg and soon his career began to gain traction. He began being cast regularly in televised anthology series' such as Kraft Television Theatre and Robert Montgomery Presents. In 1954, Dean was cast as Bachir in Daniel Mann production of The Immoralist. He impressed the critics with his portrayal as the Arab houseboy and soon Hollywood took notice of the intense young actor.

Hollywood

In 1954 director Elia Kazan cast James Dean as Cal Trask in his filmic adaption of the novel East of Eden. Impressed by the actor's performance in The Immortals, Kazan embraced Dean's brand of method acting, having experience great earlier success with method actor Marlon Brando. In the film, Dean introduces the character Dean would be forever be associated with: the angsty loner whose aloof disposition masks with desperate need for patriarchal approval. The film was hit at the box office, but the critics seemed split. Many thought it bold, youthful, and energetic while others felt it all shine with little substance. And while the majority of critics praising Dean's deeply moving, instinctive performance others felt him amateurish and undisciplined. The film became, and Dean himself, emblematic of generational gap faced by the youth of the 1950's and 1960's.  Dean would receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination the role, the first nomination of its kind.

It was at this time Dean gained an interest for auto racing. He began purchasing choice racing vehicles and entered his first professional race, the Palm Springs Road Races, where he finished second over all. He continued to enter racing events in Bakersfield and Santa Monica before he put his burgeoning racing career on hold to shot his next film.

Rebel Without a Cause

With Dean's popularity skyrocketing, Warner Brother quickly offered the actor an extended long-term contract and a significantly larger salary. The studio also raised the budget of Dean's next film, Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without a Cause, which had already begun production as a black and white B-Picture. The film was now to be filmed in glorious Technicolor, which forced many scenes to be reshot. In the film, Dean plays rebellious teenager, Jim Starks, whose aloof and irreverent attitude causes tension with his parents and other authoritative figures in general. The film, released in 1955, was massive hit, particularly with teenagers who came to see Dean embodiment of their generation's collective angst and confusion. It has since gone on to become Dean's most popular, forever cementing his image as the symbol of a frustrated and misunderstood disenfranchised youth.  The film has since become a cultural keystone in the history of Americana.

Giant

In 1955, Dean began shooting his last film, George Steven's filmic adaption of Edna Ferner's America epic Giant opposite Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. The film chronicles the life of rancher Bick Benedict (Hudson), his relationship with his wife (Taylor) and his continuous rivalry with ambitious cowboy Jett Rink (Dean). The film spent an entire year in the editing suite before finally being released to the public in 1956. The film was an astounding hit critically and commercially. It was the highest grossing Warner Brothers picture of the year and remained the studios biggest moneymaker until the 1978 release of Superman. The film was also nominated for a total of nine Academy Awards. And although some critics called the performance over-indulgent, Dean received a posthumous nomination for Best Actor.

Death and Legacy

After wrapping production on Giant, Dean immediately returned back to auto racing. On September 30, 1955, Dean was entered in a race at Salinas, California. Rather than have a trailer take his car to the destination, Dean decided to drive the car to event instead when his mechanic and friend, Rolf Wutherich, suggested he "break-ins" the new car. While driving to the event, Dean's Porsche suffered a head-on collision with a truck outside Paso Robles on route 466.  Wutherich was thrown from the car and suffered serious injury. Dean remained trapped in the car and had to be extricated from the vehicle after  suffered multiple fatal injuries. At 6:30pm James Dean was pronounced dead on arrival at Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital. He was 24 years old. Wutherich survived the crash but with critical injuries and lifetime of psychological problems.

After his death, the celebrity of James Dean only grew. Already a symbol of youthful rebellion and teenage angst, his premature tragic, and ultimately irresponsible manner of death solidified Dean's place in the lexicon of "The Rebel" of American pop-culture. To this day Dean's popularity remains high, with his estate earning on average of $5,000,000 a year. His life and death have inspired an industry of merchandise, books, articles, gossip and films all centered on the cult of James Dean.

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).

HONORS and AWARDS:

.

Although Dean was nominated for two Oscars, he never won a competitive Academy Award.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1955Best ActorEast of Eden (1955)Cal TraskNominated
1956Best ActorGiant (1956)Jett RinkNominated
.

He was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. In addition, Dean was immortalized on a US postal stamp in 1996.

BlogHub Articles:

Classic Books Corner: The Real

By Amanda Garrett on Sep 10, 2016 From Old Hollywood Films

Today, I'm reviewing the new book, The Real : Intimate Memories From Those Who Knew Him Best, which is edited by Peter L. Winkler. The actor was many things during his short life: Indiana farm boy, New York City beatnik, Broadway wunderkind, and Hollywood movie star. The ne... Read full article


THE REAL , new from the Chicago Review Press

By The Lady Eve on Aug 1, 2016 From Lady Eve's Reel Life

61 years ago this September 30, newly-minted movie star , with an ace Porsche racing mechanic riding in the passenger seat, wrecked his brand-new Porsche Spyder on a remote northern California highway, bringing to an end his own turbulent 24-year-old life. The gone-too-soon Hollywood rebel... Read full article


THE REAL , new from the Chicago Review Press

By The Lady Eve on Aug 1, 2016 From Lady Eve's Reel Life

61 years ago this September 30, newly-minted movie star , with an ace Porsche racing mechanic riding in the passenger seat, wrecked his brand-new Porsche Spyder on a remote northern California highway, bringing to an end his own turbulent 24-year-old life. The gone-too-soon Hollywood rebel... Read full article


THE REAL , new from the Chicago Review Press

By The Lady Eve on Aug 1, 2016 From Lady Eve's Reel Life

61 years ago this September 30, newly-minted movie star , with an ace Porsche racing mechanic riding in the passenger seat, wrecked his brand-new Porsche Spyder on a remote northern California highway, bringing to an end his own turbulent 24-year-old life. The gone-too-soon Hollywood rebel... Read full article


Book Review--The Real : Intimate Memories from Those Who Knew Him Best

By KC on Jul 28, 2016 From Classic Movies

The Real : Intimate Memories from Those Who Knew Him Best Peter L. Winkler, Ed. Chicago Review Press, 2016 In his six years in Los Angeles and New York, packed in several decades-worth of living. Many who knew him would comment on his morbid world view and how he seemed to fore... Read full article


See all articles

James Dean Quotes:

Jim Stark: [referring to his parents] They think I can make friends if we move. Just move, everything will be roses and sunshine.


Jim Stark: I've got the bullets!


Jim Stark: If I had one day when I didn't have to be all confused and I didn't have to feel that I was ashamed of everything. If I felt that I belonged someplace. You know?


read more quotes from James Dean...



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