James Dean facts for kids

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James Dean
James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause.jpg
Dean in 1955
Born
James Byron Dean

(1931-02-08)February 8, 1931
Died September 30, 1955(1955-09-30) (aged 24)
Cause of death Car accident
Resting place Park Cemetery, Fairmount, Indiana, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1950–1955
Signature
Firma de James Dean.svg

James Byron Dean (February 8 – September 30, 1955) was an American actor. He is remembered as a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment and social estrangement, as expressed in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), in which he starred as troubled teenager Jim Stark. The other two roles that defined his stardom were loner Cal Trask in East of Eden (1955) and moody ranch hand Jett Rink in Giant (1956).

After his death in a car crash, Dean became the first actor to receive a posthumous (after death) Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, and remains the only actor to have had two posthumous acting nominations. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him the 18th best male movie star of Golden Age Hollywood.

Early life

Dean was born in Marion, Indiana, he was an only child who was very close to his mother who died when he was nine years old. Unable to care for his son, Dean's father sent him to live with his aunt and uncle in Fairmount, Indiana.

Dean's overall performance in school was exceptional and he was a popular student. He played on the baseball and varsity basketball teams, studied drama, and competed in public speaking. After graduating from Fairmount High School in May 1949, he moved back to California . He enrolled in Santa Monica College (SMC) and majored in pre-law. He transferred to UCLA for one semester and changed his major to drama. While at UCLA, Dean was picked from a group of 350 actors to portray Malcolm in Macbeth. At that time, he also began acting in James Whitmore's workshop. In January 1951, he dropped out of UCLA to pursue a full-time career as an actor.

Acting career

James Dean - publicity - early
Dean in 1953

Dean's first television appearance was in a Pepsi Cola commercial. While struggling to get jobs in Hollywood, Dean also worked as a parking lot attendant at CBS Studios, during which time he met a radio director for an advertising agency, who offered him professional help and guidance in his chosen career, as well as a place to stay.

In July 1951, Dean appeared on Alias Jane Doe. In October 1951 Dean moved to New York City. There, he worked as a stunt tester for the game show Beat the Clock, but was subsequently fired for allegedly performing the tasks too quickly. He also appeared in episodes of several CBS television series.

Dean's career picked up and he performed in further episodes of early 1950s television shows. One early role, for the CBS series Omnibus in the episode "Glory in the Flower", saw Dean portraying the type of disaffected youth he would later portray in Rebel Without a Cause, this 1953 program was also notable for featuring the song "Crazy Man, Crazy", one of the first dramatic TV programs to feature rock and roll.

Death

Auto racing hobby

James Dean and Porsche Speedster 23F at Palm Springs Races March, 1955
Dean and his Porsche Super Speedster 23F at Palm Springs Races March 1955

In 1954, Dean became interested in developing an auto racing career. He purchased various vehicles after filming for East of Eden had concluded. Just before filming began on Rebel Without a Cause, he competed in his first professional event at the Palm Springs Road Races, which was held in Palm Springs, California on March 26–27, 1955. Dean achieved first place in the novice class, and second place at the main event. His racing continued in Bakersfield a month later, where he finished first in his class and third overall. Dean hoped to compete in the Indianapolis 500, but his busy schedule made it impossible.

Dean's final race occurred in Santa Barbara on Memorial Day, May 30, 1955. His brief career was put on hold when Warner Brothers barred him from all racing during the production of Giant. Dean had finished shooting his scenes and the movie was in post-production when he decided to race again.

Accident and aftermath

James dean3
The location of Dean's death, renamed "James Dean Memorial Junction"

Longing to return to motor racing, Dean was scheduled to compete at a racing event in Salinas, California on September 30, 1955. Rolf Wütherich, the German mechanic from the Porsche factory who maintained car, had encouraged Dean to drive the car from Los Angeles to Salinas to break it in, accompanied Dean in the Porsche.

As they traveled to the event at approximately 5:15 p.m. a 1950 Ford Tudor was passing through an intersection while turning, ahead of the Porsche. Dean, unable to stop in time, slammed into the driver's side of the Ford resulting in Dean's car bouncing across the pavement onto the side of the highway. Dean's passenger, Wütherich, was thrown from the Porsche, while Dean was trapped in the car and sustained numerous fatal injuries.

James Dean Park Cemetery Fairmont
James Dean Park Cemetery Fairmont

The driver of the Ford exited his damaged vehicle with minor injuries. The accident was witnessed by a number of passersby who stopped to help. A woman with nursing experience attended to Dean and detected a weak pulse, but "death appeared to have been instantaneous". Dean was pronounced dead on arrival shortly after he arrived by ambulance at the Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital at 6:20 p.m.

Dean's funeral was held on October 8, 1955 at the Fairmount Friends Church in Fairmount, Indiana. An estimated 600 mourners were in attendance, while another 2400 fans gathered outside of the building during the procession. He is buried at Park Cemetery in Fairmount.

Legacy

Los Angeles (California, USA), Hollywood Boulevard, James Dean -- 2012 -- 4997
Star “James Dean” at the Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California

American teenagers of the mid-1950s, when Dean's major films were made, identified with Dean and the roles he played, especially that of Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause. The film depicts the dilemma of a typical teenager of the time, who feels that no one, not even his peers, can understand him. Dean's iconic appeal has been attributed to the public's need for someone to stand up for the young of the era. His estate still earns about $5,000,000 per year, according to Forbes Magazine.

Numerous commentators have said that Dean had a singular influence on the development of rock and roll music. According a researcher in American culture and cultural theory, Dean was the first iconic figure of youthful rebellion. The persona Dean projected in his movies, especially Rebel Without a Cause, influenced Elvis Presley and many other musicians who followed.

As rock and roll became a revolutionary force that affected the culture of countries around the world, Dean acquired a mythic status that cemented his place as a rock and roll icon. Dean himself listened to music ranging from African tribal music to the modern classical music of Stravinsky, to contemporary singers such as Frank Sinatra. While the magnetism and charisma manifested by Dean onscreen appealed to people of all ages, his persona of youthful rebellion provided a template for succeeding generations of youth to model themselves on.

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Director Notes
1951 Fixed Bayonets! Doggie Samuel Fuller Uncredited
1952 Sailor Beware Boxing Trainer Hal Walker Uncredited
1952 Deadline – U.S.A. Copyboy Richard Brooks Uncredited
1952 Has Anybody Seen My Gal? Youth at Soda Fountain Douglas Sirk Uncredited
1953 Trouble Along the Way Football Spectator Michael Curtiz Uncredited
1955 East of Eden Cal Trask Elia Kazan Golden Globe Special Achievement Award for Best Dramatic Actor
Jussi Award for Best Foreign Actor
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor
1955 Rebel Without a Cause Jim Stark Nicholas Ray Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor
1956 Giant Jett Rink George Stevens Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor, (final film role)

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1951 Family Theater John the Apostle Episode: "Hill Number One: A Story of Faith and Inspiration"
1951 The Bigelow Theatre Hank Episode: "T.K.O."
1951 The Stu Erwin Show Randy Episode: "Jackie Knows All"
1952 CBS Television Workshop G.I. Segment: "Into the Valley"
1952 Hallmark Hall of Fame Bradford Episode: "Forgotten Children"
1952 The Web Himself Episode: "Sleeping Dogs"
1952–1953 Kraft Television Theatre Various Characters 3 episodes
1952–1955 Lux Video Theatre Various Characters 2 episodes
1953 The Kate Smith Hour The Messenger Episode: "The Hound of Heaven"
1953 You Are There Robert Ford Episode: "The Capture of Jesse James"
1953 Treasury Men in Action Various Characters 2 episodes
1953 Tales of Tomorrow Ralph Episode: "The Evil Within"
1953 Westinghouse Studio One Various Characters 3 episodes
1953 The Big Story Rex Newman Episode: "Rex Newman, Reporter for the Globe and News"
1953 Omnibus Bronco Evans Episode: "Glory in the Flower"
1953 Campbell Summer Soundstage Various Characters 2 episodes
1953 Armstrong Circle Theatre Joey Frasier Episode: "The Bells of Cockaigne"
1953 Robert Montgomery Presents Paul Zalinka Episode: "Harvest"
1953–1954 Danger Various Characters 4 episodes
1954 The Philco Television Playhouse Rob Episode: "Run Like a Thief"
1954 General Electric Theater Various Characters 2 episodes
1955 The United States Steel Hour Fernand Lagarde Episode: "The Thief"
1955 Schlitz Playhouse Jeffrey Latham Episode: "The Unlighted Road"

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