JAMES DEAN BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY:
James Dean was born on February 8, 1931, in Marion, Indiana. When he was only five, his family moved to Los Angeles. After his mother passed away, he relocated back to the Midwest to stay with his aunt and uncle. In high school, he took drama classes. Upon graduation, Dean once again went to California to take up residency. He first attended Santa Monica College with a major in pre-law, but transferred to UCLA to major in drama instead. During his stay at college, he beat out three hundred and fifty other actors for the lead role in Macbeth. Dean also starting acting with James Whitmore’s acting workshop. Dean’s very first off-stage stint was in a Pepsi Cola television commercial. This led to a speaking role as John the Baptist in a TV Easter “Family Theatre” special titled “Hill Number One” (1951). Dean’s first appearance in a movie was as an uncredited extra in “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951). He then went on to appear in a handful of television series, plus a few films like “Fixed Bayonets” (1951), “Sailor Beware” (1952), and “Has Anybody Seen My Gal” (1952), in which he had small unlisted roles.
In 1951, the actor left California and college to move to New York to pursue a full time career in acting. This was due to suggestions made by his mentor, James Whitmore, to relocate for better job opportunities. While here, after months of auditioning, Dean was accepted into the Actor’s Studio. He went on to perform in a number of TV shows and Broadway plays. Dean’s first billed movie appearance was in a television film called “Harvest” (1952). That was also his first leading role. The actor continued to act in a good amount of TV shows before finally appearing in a big screen film, titled “East of Eden” (1955). For the role, he was sent back to Los Angeles to shoot. He played the leading part of young man Cal Trask. Cal was an emotionally troubled character, and an outcast craving love and attention from his estranged father. This ‘troubled youth’ persona foreshadowed his next and most famous picture. Many scenes in the film, amazingly, were improvised by the actor, and added greatly to the feel and realness of the film. For Dean’s involvement in this movie, he was nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best Actor in a Leading Role. However, this nomination was given to the actor after he died, which was the first time a nomination occurred posthumous in Academy Awards history.
Quickly following his breakthrough role, Dean landed the character of Jim Stark in “Rebel Without a Cause” (1955). In this film, he portrayed a sensitive high school misfit looking to belong, all while rejecting his elders and searching for a greater life purpose. This movie became wildly popular with the disheartened teenager, for it gave them a character that they could relate to and admire. Subsequent to this part, he again moved to Hollywood to continue performing in features.
Dean’s next and final film was the romantic drama/western “Giant” (1956). In this picture, the actor played a supporting role alongside Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. His distraught teen typecast was shed and he engaged the audience as Jett Rink, a racist southerner with discrimination towards Mexicans. One of the notable scenes in the film was when Dean portrayed an older version of his character, complete with gray hair and a receding hair line. Unfortunately, the movie was not released until he was already deceased. However, his part earned the actor an additional Oscar nomination, again one of a posthumous nature.
Shortly before Dean was finished filming “Giant”, he drove off in his silver Porshe to compete in a sports car rally in Salinas, California, as he was also a racer. While on Route 466, a Ford riding on the wrong side of the road hit the actor in a head on collision. Dean suffered from a broken neck, multiple fractures, as well as major internal injuries, and passed away shortly after the crash. His date of death was September 30, 1955.
While James Dean only appeared in three films in a little over a year, the impact he made lasted well into the next century. His very short career and abrupt death turned him into a classic cult icon. Since his passing away, Dean was commemorated on a 1996 thirty two cent postage stamp, and has been featured in a vast number of songs by artists ranging from Lady Gaga to Skid Row, and from Billy Joel to Hilary Duff. Furthermore, he was bestowed with Special Achievement and Henrietta Awards from the Golden Globes. Additionally, in 1995 he was chosen by Empire magazine as one of the Top 100 Sexiest Stars in film history, in 1997 he was again picked by Empire magazine to be #33 in their Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time list, Entertainment Weekly voted him the 22nd Greatest Movie Star of all time, the American Film Institute named him the #18th best actor on The 50 Greatest Screen Legends list, and Premiere Magazine elected for Dean to be the 30th Greatest Movie Star of all time. The record setting actor (only act or to be elected for an Oscar in 2/3 of his movies), will never be forgotten, and all can benefit from his famous words: “Dream as you’ll live forever, Live as if you’ll die tomorrow.”
1955 Rebel Without a Cause
1955 Schlitz Playhouse
1955 East of Eden
1955 The United States Steel Hour
1954 G.E. True Theater
1954 The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse
1953 Robert Montgomery Presents
1953 Armstrong Circle Theatre
1953 Campbell Summer Soundstage
1953 The Big Story
1953 Tales of Tomorrow
1953 Treasury Men in Action
1953 Trouble along the Way
1953 You Are There
1953 The Kate Smith Hour
1952 Lux Video Theatre
1952 Kraft Theatre
1952 Studio One in Hollywood
1952 Has Anybody Seen My Gal
1952 Hallmark Hall of Fame
1952 Deadline - U.S.A.
1952 CBS Television Workshop
1952 Sailor Beware
1951 The Stu Erwin Show
1951 Fixed Bayonets!
1951 The Bigelow Theatre
1951 The Day the Earth Stood Still
1951 Family Theatre