Today is the 90th birthday of James Dean. What is is about him that he has influenced so many people? Sixty years after his death, he is still one of the most widely-recognized Hollywood actors of all time. His few films have all gone on to become absolute classics. The world is a better place because he was in it and still feels the loss that he has left.
NAME: James Dean
OCCUPATION: Film Actor
BIRTH DATE: February 08, 1931
DEATH DATE: September 30, 1955
EDUCATION: University of California at Los Angeles
PLACE OF BIRTH: Marion, Indiana
PLACE OF DEATH: Paso Robles, California
REMAINS: Buried, Park Cemetery, Fairmount, IN
HEIGHT: 5′ 8″
HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME 1719 Vine Street (motion pictures)
BEST KNOWN FOR: American motion picture actor James Dean became a symbol of the confused, restless, and idealistic youth of the 1950s.
James Byron Dean was born on February 8, 1931, in Marion, Indiana, to Winton Dean and Mildred Wilson. Dean’s father left farming to become a dentist and moved the family to Santa Monica, California, where Dean attended Brentwood Public School. Several years later, Dean’s mother, whom he was very close to, died of cancer, and Dean’s father sent him back to Indiana to live on his aunt and uncle’s Quaker farm. During this time, Dean sought counsel from his pastor, the Rev. James DeWeerd, who influenced his later interest in car racing and theater. The two formed an intimate relationship that is rumored to have been sexual.
In 1949, Dean graduated from high school and moved back to California. He studied law at Santa Monica College, but eventually transferred to University of California, Los Angeles, and majored in theater.
After appearing in just one stage production, as Malcolm in Macbeth, Dean dropped out of UCLA. His first television appearance was in a Pepsi Cola commercial, and his first speaking part was in Sailor Beware, a comedy starring Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. To make ends meet, Dean worked as a parking-lot attendant at CBS Studios, where he met Rogers Brackett, a radio director who became his mentor.
In 1951, Dean moved to New York City and was admitted to the Actors Studio to study under Lee Strasberg. His career began to pick up, and he performed in such 1950s television shows as Kraft Television Theatre and Omnibus. In 1954, Dean’s success in a theatrical role as an Arab boy in The Immoralist led to interest from Hollywood. Over the next 18 months, Dean starred in three major motion pictures, beginning with the film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel, East of Eden. Director Elia Kazan chose Dean after Dean met with Steinbeck, who thought him perfect for the part. Many of Dean’s scenes in the film were unscripted improvisations. He would eventually be nominated for an Oscar for this role, making him the first actor in history to receive a posthumous Oscar nomination.
In his next film, Dean starred as the agonized teenager Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause, a role that would define his image in American culture. Dean then landed a supporting role to Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson in Giant, playing an older, oil-rich Texan. Giant was Dean’s last film. It was released after his death in 1956. Dean received an Oscar nomination for this role, making him the only actor in history to receive more than one Oscar nomination posthumously.
When Dean wasn’t acting, he was a professional car racer. On Friday, September 30, 1955, Dean and his mechanic, Rolf Wütherich, drove Dean’s new Porsche 550 Spyder to a weekend race in Salinas, California. At 3:30 p.m., they were stopped just south of Bakersfield and given a speeding ticket. Later, while driving along Route 466, a 23-year-old Cal Poly student named Donald Turnupseed suddenly turned his Ford Custom in front of Dean’s Porsche. The two cars collided almost head-on, flipping the Spyder in the air and landing it on its wheels in a gully. Dean was killed almost immediately. He was 24.
Dean is mentioned or featured in various songs, which include titles such as “Allure” by Jay-Z, “American Boy” by Chris Isaak, “American Pie” by Don McLean, “A Young Man is Gone” by The Beach Boys, “Bla bla bla (Blah Blah Blah)” by Perfect, “Chciałbym umrzeć jak James Dean (lit. I Wish to Die Like James Dean)” by Partia, “Come Back Jimmy Dean” by Bette Midler, “Daddy’s Speeding” by Suede, “Electrolite” by R.E.M., “Famous” by Scouting for Girls, “Five Years Time” by Noah & The Whale, “Just Like a Movie Star” by The 6ths, “Flip-Top Box” by Self, “Girl on TV” by LFO, “Hello my Hate” by Black Veil Brides, “Jack and Diane” by John Mellencamp, “James Dean” by Bonnie Tyler, “James Dean (I Wanna Know)” by Daniel Bedingfield, “James Dean” by That Handsome Devil, “James Dean” by the Eagles, “Jim Dean of Indiana” by Phil Ochs, “Jimmy Dean” by Icehouse, “Lost on Highway 46” by Sham 69, “Choke On This” by Senses Fail, “Mr. James Dean” by Hilary Duff, “My Kind of Girl” by Collin Raye, “My Shine” by Childish Gambino, “Peach Trees” by Rufus Wainwright, “Picture Show” by John Prine, “Rather Die Young” by Beyoncé, “Rock On” by David Essex, “Rockstar” by Nickelback, “Speechless” by Lady GaGa, “Teenage Wildlife” by AJ McLean of the Backstreet Boys, “These Days” by Bon Jovi, “Under the Gun” by The Killers, “Vogue” by Madonna, “Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou Reed, and “We Didn’t Start The Fire” by Billy Joel.
Dean’s estate still earns about $5,000,000 per year, according to Forbes Magazine.
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Giant (10-Oct-1956) · Jett Rink
Rebel Without a Cause (27-Oct-1955) · Jim Stark
East of Eden (9-Mar-1955) · Cal Trask