Historic Unedited Photos They Don’t Want You To See
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Historic Unedited Photos They Don’t Want You To See
Dean can be seen here on the day he died; he stands beside "Little Bastard," the supposedly-cursed Porsche 550 Spyder that he died in.
“Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.” Despite having only a handful of film credits to his name, James Dean is a legendary actor who is praised as one of the greatest movie stars of all time. The Indiana native launched his acting career in the 1950s and quickly became a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment and social estrangement thanks to his starring role as a troubled teenager in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), which earned him a Golden Globe Special Achievement Award for Best Dramatic Actor. He then went on to star as loner Cal Trask in East of Eden (1955) and as the gruff ranch hand in Giant (1956). Advertisements:
Dean was at the height of his career when he was tragically killed in a car accident on September 30, 1955, at only 24 years old. With Giant premiering at the box office just months later, Dean became the first actor ever posthumously nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. So, what’s Dean’s life story and how did an Indiana native make such a lasting impression on the Golden Age of Hollywood? Let’s find out!
Life and Career
James Bryon Dean came into this world on February 8, 1931, in Marion, Indiana where his father was a farmer turned dental technician. The family eventually relocated to Santa Monica, California where Dean’s relationship with his father grew more turbulent as he grew closer to his mother. Dean suffered his first great loss in 1939 when his mother lost her battle with uterine cancer and died, leaving the nine-year-old orphaned as his father sent him back to Indiana to live with his aunt and uncle on their Quaker farm.
In his teens, Dean developed a variety of interests in acting, bullfighting, and car racing. He also befriended the local pastor, Reverend James DeWeerd, who many assumed was Dean’s mentor. However, rumors later suggest that Dean confided in actress Elizabeth Taylor and confessed that DeWeerd sexually molested him for years. The rumors have never been confirmed although numerous reports suggest they are true.
Despite the ongoing physical abuse, Dean excelled at Fairmount High School where he was involved in drama, basketball, and baseball. After graduating in 1949, he moved in with his father in California and enrolled at Santa Monica College to study law. He later transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles to study drama, which enraged his father who kicked him out of the house.
Dean spent one semester at UCLA but made a lasting impression when he was cast out of 350 actors to star as Malcolm in a production of Macbeth. Dean joined James Whitmore’s acting workshop to hone his talents and, after the production, left UCLA to focus on acting full time. He made his television debut in a Pepsi commercial and landed his first speaking role on Hill Number One.
Dean’s good looks helped, but he struggled to find work as an actor. He picked up a job as a parking lot attendant at CBS Studios, which is how he met radio director Rogers Brackett. Brackett helped Dean find a place to live and encouraged him to look for work in New York City. Doing exactly that, Dean found work in the Big Apple and made a handful of guest appearances on Lux Video Theatre (1952-1955), The Web (1952), Hallmark Hall of Fame (1952), and Westinghouse Studio One (1953).
Dean’s hard work finally paid off when he was accepted into Lee Strasberg’s Actors Studio. He saw his career gain momentum as he picked up minor roles in Robert Montgomery Presents (1953), Danger (1953-1954), General Electric Theater (1954), The United States Steel Hour (1955), and Schiltz Playhouse (1955). In 1954, he turned his attention to theater and starred as Bachir in a production of The Immoralist. His performance caught the attention of Hollywood director Elia Kazan who was looking for the perfect actor to play Cal Trask in the film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.
Although Kazan originally wanted a more popular actor like Marlon Brandon for the role, Steinbeck fought for Dean to get the part. Dean didn’t disappoint and gave a stellar performance as the complex, emotional outcast and won a Golden Globe Special Achievement Award for Best Dramatic Actor. He landed his next starring role as Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), which made him an overnight star as teens around the country couldn’t get enough of Hollywood’s newest and hottest rebel. However, Dean feared being typecast and shook things up in 1956 with his next role as a gruff ranch hand in Giant.
Death and Legacy
Shortly after wrapping up filming for Giant, the 24-year-old Dean turned his attention to his favorite pastime, car racing. He was scheduled to race in Salinas, California in October 1955 and was driving his Porsche racecar from Los Angeles to Salinas to break it in on September 30th when he t-boned a 1950 Ford Tudor turning in front of him on US Route 466. Unable to stop in time, Dean slammed into the Ford’s passenger side, which caused the car to bounce across the pavement and on the side of the highway ejecting his passenger, German mechanic Rolf Wütherich, from the car. Dean was trapped inside where he sustained numerous fatal injuries including a broken neck.
Dean was later pronounced dead at Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital. He was laid to rest on October 8, 1955, at Park Cemetery in Fairmount, Indiana. Months later, his final film, Giant, took the silver screen by storm and earned him a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. Today, his memory lives on in his work and in his reputation as the poster child of rebellion in the 1950s.