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Film Appreciation... James Dean


One of the greatest screen legends of our time, James Dean was the embodiment of the misunderstood teenager. The myth of Dean becomes even more incredible as you examine his career: he was able to make a huge impact with only three films.

Dean was born on February 8, 1931, in Marion, Indiana, to Winton and Mildred Dean. His father was a dental technician. They moved to L.A. when Dean was six. When his mother died in 1940, he was shipped back to Indiana to live with an aunt and uncle. After high school, Dean attended junior college and UCLA in California. Once deciding to have a serious acting career, he moved to New York. There he worked on several TV shows. His big break came with the play, "The Immoralist."

Having earned rave reviews for his role of an Arab boy in "The Immoralist," Dean went to Hollywood for a screen test. He won the part, the role of Cal Trask in East of Eden (1955). After completing a few more TV spots in New York, he permanently moved to L.A. after obtaining the role of Jim Stark in Rebel Without A Cause (1955), the part he is most known for. With his success with Eden, he bought himself his first Porsche and began entering races.

In June 1955, he began filming Giant (1956), with Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. Just as the 44-day schedule was closing, James Dean died in an automobile accident on September 30, 1955, near Paso Robles, California. His head was almost severed from his body. Ironically, he had received a speeding ticket two hours earlier.

James Dean was nominated for two Academy Awards for his roles in East of Eden and Giant. Although he made only three films in less than a year, today he remains a marvel and a myth, a flame blown out before his time.

Other Suggested Films of James Dean...

"East of Eden" (1955)
In this film, Dean plays the often forgotten son of a dominating father. No matter how hard he tries, his father is not pleased, instead favoring the younger son. The film Legends of the Fall with Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, and Adian Quinn, follows this same plot.

"Rebel Without A Cause" (1955)
Dean plays Jim Stark in this film about a restless teenager who can't make friends. In the opening scene, Dean mumbles the words which set the tone of the movie and the mantra for a generation: "My parents never understand." This film symbolizes the struggle and angst of the teen years.

"Giant" (1956)
This film, set in Marfa, Texas, tells the story of the Benedict family, played by Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor. The only problem in their happy existence is Jett Rink, played by Dean. Rink is fueled by his hatred of Bick Benedict, who stole all the land for miles, and his desire for Leslie Benedict, a well-mannered Southern belle who interrupts his world. This masterpiece of epic proportions blew America away with its vastness and depth.


1999 Debbie Twyman. All rights reserved. TERMS OF USE