James Dean, the actor who struck me as just a spirit, starred in only three major movies before his death – “Giant”, “East of Eden”, and “Rebel without a Cause.” All three were released within a year of the beginning of their makings. James was nominated posthumously for an Academy Award for best actor for “East of Eden” but, did not win. What a shame he did not have the opportunity to see his wonderful performances in “Giant”, for which he also was nominated for best actor and “Rebel without a Cause.”
James was the only child of parents who moved from Indiana to California when he was very young. A few years later, his mother died and his father sent him back to Indiana to live with relatives as ‘his mother was the only one who could understand him’ so it was said. He lived an Amish life and became good friends with a priest. There are tales that there was a homosexual relationship between James and the priest but, the main heterosexual love of his life was Pier Angeli and she married someone else.
He seemed broodish. Whether or not he was, I do not know. That is the impression I have of him, even though I admire him to the inth and his followers are referred to as the James Dean Cult (which I suppose we are). He will always be, to me, one of the greatest stars of our teen era. “Rebel without a Cause” was certainly one movie that needed to be made during those years.
He was born in Indiana in 1931 and lived only a short while for he was killed in a headon collision with his maintenance man, Rolf Weuthirich, in 1955, however, Rolf was only slightly injured. James had become fascinated with fast cars and bought a Snyder Porsche to race at Salinas. It’s so sad, that James had just finished his work on “Giant” and had a few days to play with his cars. He was to begin work on “The Corn is Green”, a play for National Broadcasting Company, when his death occurred.
James’ fame arrived posthumously. “Giant” and “Rebel without a Cause” were released after his death. Natalie Wood was most perfectly cast when she starred in Rebel and Sal Mineo, everyone loved anyway. I’m sure every troubled teenage girl transferred herself to Natalie’s body when watching her in Rebel. Somehow, I do not believe the movie would have been such a success had it not been for those three and Dennis Hopper.
James starred in several smaller movies and made some television appearances. He had entered college to major in pre-law but, later changed it to drama. He dropped out an became a full fledged actor. He was one of the youngest members of the Actors’ Guild and supposedly had affairs with men “for trade.”
James is gone but, he lives on through his movies and whenever I walk into the garage, there is a life size photo of him, I can study and try and figure out a mystery.