James Dean


Actor
James Dean

About

Also Known As
James Byron Dean
Birth Place
Marion, Indiana, USA
Born
February 08, 1931
Died
September 30, 1955
Cause of Death
Car Accident

Biography

One of the most iconic figures in American cinematic history, James Dean remains forever etched as a brooding, romantic figure, the quintessential 1950s teenager thanks primarily to his roles in "East of Eden" (1955) and "Rebel Without a Cause" (1956). Intelligent and projecting a sexual charisma that appealed to men and women, Dean may be best recalled for his three major movie roles, b...

Photos & Videos

Giant - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
East of Eden - Movie Poster
Giant - Movie Poster

Family & Companions

Rogers Brackett
Companion
Producer. Dean allegedly was "kept" by Brackett.
Liz Sheridan
Companion
Actor. Revealed she had relationship with Dean in the early 1950s; wrote memoir "Dizzy & Jimmy".
Pier Angeli
Companion
Actor. At one time engaged to be married.

Bibliography

"Dizzy & Jimmy"
Liz Sheridan, ReganBooks (2000)
"Live Fast, Die Young: Remembering the Short Life of James Dean"
John Gilmore (1997)
"James Dean: The Untold Story of a Passion for Speed"
Philippe Defechereux and Jean Graton, Mediavision Inc. (1997)
"James Dean: A Bio-Bibliography"
David Hofstede, Greenwood Press (1996)

Notes

There is an official Web site at www.jamesdean.com

"An actor must interpret life, and in order to do so must be willing to accept all the experiences life has to offer. In fact, he must seek out more of life than life puts at his feet. In the short span of his lifetime, an actor must learn all there is to know, experience all there is to experience, or approach that state as closely as possible. He must be superhuman in his efforts to store away in the core of his subconscious everything that he might be called upon to use in the expression of his art." --James Dean

Biography

One of the most iconic figures in American cinematic history, James Dean remains forever etched as a brooding, romantic figure, the quintessential 1950s teenager thanks primarily to his roles in "East of Eden" (1955) and "Rebel Without a Cause" (1956). Intelligent and projecting a sexual charisma that appealed to men and women, Dean may be best recalled for his three major movie roles, but behind that small output was a serious-minded, disciplined and trained actor.

James Byron Dean was born on February 8, 1931 in Marion, Indiana to a dental technician and his wife. Dean's father relocated the family to California in 1935 but following his mother's untimely death from cancer in 1940, young Jimmy was sent back to Indiana to live with relatives. A star athlete in high school, he also excelled in theatrics and was encouraged by the school's drama teacher Adeline Nall. After graduation, Dean landed his first professional gig, a 1950 TV commercial for Pepsi Cola and then headed West to attend college, but he soon dropped out in favor of pursuing an acting career. After making his TV debut as the Apostle John in "Hill Number One" and landing bit roles in films like "Sailor Beware" (both 1951), he began studying acting with James Whitmore who encouraged the talented neophyte to move to Manhattan and work with famed teacher/coach Lee Strasberg. Heeding Whitmore's advice, Dean landed in the Big Apple in the fall of 1951 and worked odd jobs (including pre-testing the stunts on TV's "Beat the Clock") until he gained a berth at the Actors Studio. He soon was landing roles on stage ("See the Jaguar," "The Immoralist") and in many of the live television dramas of the day.

By 1954, Dean was put under contract by Warner Bros. to star in Elia Kazan's film version of "East of Eden" (1955). As Cal Trask, the troubled son of a wealthy businessman, he perfectly captured the neurosis and jealousies of the character. While Dean did have a tendency toward over-emoting, the cumulative effect of his performance ultimate proves rewarding to viewers and was recognized by the Academy with a posthumous Oscar nomination as Best Actor.

One can only speculate on what heights (or what depths) Dean may have hit had he not been killed in a car accident on the night of September 30, 1955, Combining the sensitivity of a Montgomery Clift with the incoherent, explosive anger and sexuality of a Marlon Brando, James Dean came to epitomize the phrase "rebel without a cause." His hypnotic, angst-ridden turn in the 1955 film of that name (released less than a month after his death) struck a chord with teenagers the world over and solidified his reputation as the voice of his generation. Dean's early death forever froze him as that surly but sensitive teenager and made him the epitome of all that was "cool." His third and last film, "Giant" (1956), was a sweeping generational epic and his strong turn as the lonely tortured Jett (which netted a second Best Actor Academy Award nomination) helped raise the material above its soap opera-ish qualities.

While critics were divided over Dean's work in his own time (Bosley Crowther in The New York Times called him a "mass of histrionic gingerbread" in "East of Eden" but praised his "stylized spookiness" in "Giant"), history has upheld his popularity and seen dozens upon dozens of emerging actors hailed as "the new James Dean." A virtual cottage industry for the literary set with over a dozen biographies, Dean and his life also have been plumbed by filmmakers ranging from Robert Altman (the 1957 documentary "The James Dean Story") to Mark Rydell (2001's TV biopic "James Dean"). Not since Valentino had a film actor attracted such legions of fans in life and in death.

Life Events

1935

Family moved from Indiana to L.A.

1940

Sent to live with aunt and uncle in Indiana after mother's death

1949

Returned to California following high school graduation

1950

Appeared in TV commercial for Pepsi Cola; also featured was Nick Adams

1951

TV acting debut as John the Apostle in "Hill Number One"; aired on April 1

1951

Screen debut (as extra) in "Fixed Bayonets"; also appeared as an extra in "Sailor Beware"

1951

Moved to NYC (September)

1951

Hired to pre-test the stunts for the TV series "Beat the Clock"

1952

Delivered first on screen line ("Hey Gramps, I'll have a choc malt, heavy on the choc, plenty of milk, four spoons of malt, two scoops of vanilla ice cream, one mixed and one floating") in "Has Anybody Seen My Gal?"

1952

Appeared on Broadway in "See the Jaguar"

1953

Acted in numerous TV productions including "Kate Smith Hour: Hound of Heaven" (NBC), "You Are There!: The Capture of Jesse James" (CBS), and "Studio One Summer Theatre: Sentence of Death" (CBS)

1953

Appeared in NYC production of "The Scarecrow"

1954

Final Broadway appearance in "The Immoralist" portraying an Arab boy

1954

Signed contract with Warner Bros. (April)

1954

Co-starred with Mildred Dunnock in the TV presentation "Padlocks" (an episode of CBS' "Danger")

1954

Portrayed a killer who runs afoul of a country doctor (Ronald Reagan) in "General Electric Theatre: The Dark, Dark Hours"

1954

Starred opposite Natalie Wood and Eddie Albert in the TV production "I'm a Fool"

1955

Final TV acting appearance in the "Schlitz Playhouse" presentation of "The Unlighted Road"

1955

Achieved star status in "East of Eden"; earned posthumous Best Actor Oscar nomination

1955

Killed when his Porsche Spyder sports car collided with another car; he had received a speeding ticket earlier in the day and a few days before had appeared in a safe-driving commercial for the National Highway Committee (September 30)

1957

Profiled in the documentary "The James Dean Story"

1961

Received posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

1975

Subject of British made documentary "James Dean, the First American Teenager"

1976

"James Dean", an NBC biopic with Stephen McHattie as the actor, aired

1988

"Forever James Dean", a documentary screened as part of Cinemax's "Crazy About the Movies"

1995

Disney Channel aired the documentary "James Dean: A Portrait"

1996

Honored by US Postal Service with a commemorative stamp

1997

Casper Van Dien portrayed Dean in the feature film "James Dean: Race with Destiny"

2001

"James Dean", starring James Franco and directed by Mark Rydell, aired on TNT

Photo Collections

Giant - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are several photos taken during production and post-production of Giant (1956). Look for director George Stevens, source novel author Edna Ferber, and stars James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor, and Rock Hudson.
East of Eden - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for East of Eden (1955), starring James Dean. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Giant - Movie Poster
Here is the American One-Sheet Movie Poster for Giant (1956), directed by George Stevens. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.

Videos

Movie Clip

Giant (1956) - You Are An Odd One Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor), new bride of Texas rancher Bick, in a forthright talk while on errands with hired hand Jett (James Dean), director George Stevens interjecting a scene with the sister-in-law (Mercedes McCambridge) teaching the downtrodden Angel (Victor Millan) a lesson, in Giant, 1956.
Giant (1956) - So Fascinating And Uncouth After maybe the biggest single leap in time, still before WWII, the Texan Benedict kids have grown up to be Carroll Baker as Luz II, and Dennis Hopper and Fran Bennett as twins Jordan and Judy (Earl Holliman her boyfriend), perplexing their parents Bick and Leslie (Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor), in Giant, 1956.
Giant (1956) - Mr. JETEXAS Himself Christmas time in Texas, early 1940’s, now-patriarchal rancher Bick Benedict (Rock Hudson), with bouncy daughter Luz II (Carroll Baker) receives ex-employee Jett Rink (James Dean), now oil-rich from land willed to him by Bick’s late sister Luz, and is finally willing to discuss drilling on his own land, in Giant, 1956.
Giant (1956) - You're Gonna Meet Some Folks Newlywed Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) on her first morning at Reata, with rugged sister-in-law Luz (Mercedes McCambridge) whom she’s just met, who sets up a social gauntlet, with husband Bick (Rock Hudson), featuring Monte Hale, Charles Watts and especially Jane Withers as Vashti, Jett (James Dean) brooding, in George Stevens’ Giant, 1956.
In Studios Now - Billy Bob Thornton, James Dean Actor, writer and director Billy Bob Thornton, appearing on June 7th at 8pm ET as Guest Programmer on TCM, on James Dean.
East Of Eden (1955) - You Have No Repentance! Salinas, California, 1917, righteous Christian dad Adam (Raymond Massey) is angered by Cal (James Dean) who resists a bible reading, brother Aron (Richard Davalos) fleeing, after which they discuss the boys’ long-absent mother, in Elia Kazan’s film from John Steinbeck’s novel, East Of Eden, 1955.
East Of Eden (1955) - Monterey, 1917 Director Elia Kazan’s opens his treatment of the last section of John Steinbeck’s novel, nervous Cal (James Dean, in his first starring role) follows cagey Kate (Jo Van Fleet) through Monterey (actually Humboldt County), California, not explaining their relationship, in East Of Eden, 1955.
East Of Eden (1955) - Is There Anything Nice About Her At All? Anxious Cal (James Dean) charms hired-girl Anne (Lois Smith) into showing him to the office of Kate (Jo Van Fleet), who runs the brothel and also, the audience has surmised, is his long-lost mother, in Northern California, 1917, Elia Kazan directing, from John Steinbeck’s novel, East Of Eden,1955.
East Of Eden (1955) - They Dug Up A Mastodon Teen Cal (James Dean) returns to Salinas, California after an unauthorized visit to coastal Monterey, where director Elia Kazan introduces his brother Aron (Richard Davalos), and girlfriend Abra (Julie Harris), and their father Adam (Raymond Massey) in East Of Eden, 1955, from John Steinbeck’s novel.
Rebel Without a Cause (1955) - Why Do We Do This? Getting ready for their "chickie-run," Jim (James Dean) and Buzz (Corey Allen) converse, ebullient Judy (Natalie Wood) cheering both on, in Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without A Cause, 1955.
Giant (1956) - I'm A Tough Texian Now Having fainted the day before, bride Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) making a better show for rancher husband Bick (Rock Hudson), director George Stevens proving the scale of his shoot outside Marfa, twisted sister Luz (Mercedes McCambridge) worrying, James Dean taking orders, in Giant, 1956.
Giant (1956) - You Are The Boss... Escorted by hired-hand Jett (James Dean), Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) again shows unorthodox compassion for Hispanic help, visiting Mrs. Obregon (Pilar Del Rey) at "Little Reata" in Giant, 1956, George Stevens' film from the Edna Ferber novel.

Trailer

Family

Winton Dean
Father
Dental technician. Died February 21, 1995 at age 88.
Mildred Marie Dean
Mother
Born on September 15, 1910; married Winton Dean on July 29, 1930; died of cancer in April 1940.
Ortense Winslow
Aunt
Helped raised Dean after mother's death.
Marcus Winslow
Uncle
Helped raise Dean after mother's death.

Companions

Rogers Brackett
Companion
Producer. Dean allegedly was "kept" by Brackett.
Liz Sheridan
Companion
Actor. Revealed she had relationship with Dean in the early 1950s; wrote memoir "Dizzy & Jimmy".
Pier Angeli
Companion
Actor. At one time engaged to be married.

Bibliography

"Dizzy & Jimmy"
Liz Sheridan, ReganBooks (2000)
"Live Fast, Die Young: Remembering the Short Life of James Dean"
John Gilmore (1997)
"James Dean: The Untold Story of a Passion for Speed"
Philippe Defechereux and Jean Graton, Mediavision Inc. (1997)
"James Dean: A Bio-Bibliography"
David Hofstede, Greenwood Press (1996)
"The James Dean Story: A Myth-Shattering Biography of an Icon"
Ronald Martinelli, Citadel Press (1996)
"James Dean: The Biography"
Val Holley, St. Martin's Press (1995)
"Boulevard of Broken Dreams: The Life, Times, and Legend of James Dean"
Paul Alexander, Viking (1994)
"James Dean: Behind the Scenes"
Leith Adams and Keith Burns, Carol Publishing Group (1990)
"The Death of James Dean"
Warren Newton Beath, Grove Press (1988)
"The Mutant King"
David Dalton, St. Martin's Press (1983)
"James Dean: A Portrait"
Roy Schatt
"James Dean: Shooting Star"
Barney Hoskyns
"Rebel: The Life and Legend of James Dean"
Donald Spoto
"James Dean: A Biography"
John Howlett

Notes

There is an official Web site at www.jamesdean.com

"An actor must interpret life, and in order to do so must be willing to accept all the experiences life has to offer. In fact, he must seek out more of life than life puts at his feet. In the short span of his lifetime, an actor must learn all there is to know, experience all there is to experience, or approach that state as closely as possible. He must be superhuman in his efforts to store away in the core of his subconscious everything that he might be called upon to use in the expression of his art." --James Dean

"Being a good actor isn't easy. Being a man is even harder. I want to be both before I'm done." -- James Dean GQ September 2002