James Dean

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James Byron Dean (born February 8, 1931 in Marion , Indiana , † September 30, 1955 near Cholame , California ) was an American theater and film actor . His early death in a car accident and his role in ... because they don't know what they are doing made him a youth idol. He received two posthumous Academy Award nominations for Best Actor for his roles in Beyond Eden and Giants .



childhood and education

James Dean was born on February 8, 1931 in Marion , Indiana , in the home of his parents Winton (1907-1995), a dental technician, and Mildred Marie Wilson Dean (1910-1940). After the birth of their son, whom they nicknamed "Jimmy", Dean's parents moved to live with their relatives in Fairmount , Indiana, where they first lived with their father's parents and then on the farm of Winton Dean's brother-in-law and his sister, Marcus and Ortense Winslow moved. After another move back to Marion, the mother began to promote the artistic talent of her son, who was characterized by great curiosity and stubbornness. She enrolled him in the College of Dance and Theater, a former entertainer's private drama school. There he learned the tap dance in a few weeks and already appeared in a public performance in June 1936; he also received violin lessons.

Shortly after, at the age of five, he and his parents moved to Santa Monica , California , where his father took a higher-paying position as director of a dental laboratory at Sawtelle Veterans Hospital. In California, Dean first attended the Brentwood Public School. After the family moved downtown, he moved to McKinley Elementary School on Santa Monica Boulevard after first grade, which he attended through third grade. During this time, the artistic inclination of the young Dean expressed itself above all in sculpting and creating clay figures with his bare hands.

In 1940 Dean's mother was diagnosed with uterine cancer; she died on July 14 at the age of 29; Dean was nine years old at the time. Shortly thereafter, he was placed in the care of his grandmother and paternal aunt, who had traveled to California because of Mildred Dean's illness, by his father Winton, who is described as rather indifferent. Eighteen months later, Winton Dean was drafted into the military as a medic and served in Europe during World War II .

Return to Indiana

James Dean lived from now on again in Fairmount, Indiana, where he grew up on the farm of his uncle Marcus Winslow, his wife Ortense and the older daughter Joan, about three miles north of the city. In the two-story white farmhouse with 13 rooms and an L-shaped veranda at the front, the couple even gave him his bedroom, as Dean particularly liked the furniture in it. Both encouraged Dean to continue drawing, painting, and modeling in clay, and soon he was talking to aunt and uncle about mom and dad . But it was difficult for him to come to terms with the stroke of fate; According to relatives, he often burst into tears over the loss of his mother. Soon afterwards he also gave up playing the violin and dancing.

Dean found distraction in the fall of 1940 when he switched to fourth grade at the West Ward Elementary School of Fairmount, which, unlike the North Ward Elementary, was attended mainly by children from the surrounding farms. The teachers described him as a good, nice student who did not attract attention and displayed a certain restraint and reserve. He got used to a regular daily routine. He spent much of his time in front of the radio , which played radio drama and entertainment programs by Bob Hope , Red Skelton and Arthur Godfrey . During this time, his wish to become a film actor is said to have arisen , which his relatives only ridiculed. At the age of nine, Dean got the lead role in a Back Creek Friends Church nativity play . In To Them that Sleep in Darkness he played a blind boy who gradually regains his eyesight. He also acted in other plays at the West Ward Elementary.

In the fall of 1943, Dean started seventh grade at downtown Fairmount High School. At the same time, Marcus and Ortense Winslow had their second child, a son whom they named Marcus jr. gifts. James Dean made friends with the new "little brother", in contrast to the older Joan, who soon after the birth of Marcus jr. moved out to start her own household with her husband. One day he fell from the hayloft in the barn and lost four front teeth , forcing him to wear dentures for the rest of his life .

Collaboration with Adeline Brookshire

In the fall of 1946, Dean met the unconventional teacher Adeline Brookshire for the first time. He attended her beginners' speech training course , and she shared his passion for acting as the head of the theater group. Taking lessons from her encouraged his desire to be an actor and starred in two high school theatrical productions. Under the stage name Jim Dean he was in the play The Monkey's Paw as Herbert White, while he interpreted the role of John Mugford in Mooncalf Mugford . Other appearances in school performances followed with An Apple from Coles County , Gone with the Wind , Our Hearts Were Young and Gay and You Can't Take It with You , and he also excelled in the school team as a good hurdler and basketball player. Since he always needed glasses because of his severe myopia, he always wore sports glasses when playing basketball.

Another hobby of James Dean was motorcycles. His first was a Whizzer moped, which he got from his uncle Marcus as a present in 1947, after which he owned a Czech 125cc ČZ . Dean later drove a Harley , a 500 cc Norton , an Indian 500 and a British Triumph T-110 with the inscription Dean's Dilemma on the side .

In 1949, in his senior year of high school, Adeline Brookshire's speech training course taught students about a reading competition organized by the Indiana National Forensic League. Dean got excited about this competition, picked a manuscript from a lunatic from Charles Dickens ' The Pickwick Papers and rehearsed the lecture with Brookshire. On April 8, 1949, the first round of the competition took place in Peru, Indiana. Dean was able to convince with his lecture, he took first place and became state winner. He qualified for the federal competition that was held in Longmont , Colorado , later that month . The excitement at Dean's school was great and he was bid farewell like a hero at the train station when he and Adeline Brookshire traveled to the competition. But since he also improvised a lot in his production (as in his later film career), he exceeded the time limit of ten minutes. In the first round no attention was paid to it - but in the final round the next day. Dean did not want to listen to his mentor and shortened the text, presented it unchanged and only ended up in sixth place. The disappointment was heavy.

Return to Los Angeles

James Dean graduated from high school on May 16, 1949 and was honored with awards for his performance in the fields of visual arts , sports, and drama. As an exam gift, he was allowed to travel to Indianapolis to attend a car race, which apparently encouraged him to take part in car races himself later. Although his longtime mentor Adeline Brookshire advised him to go to college somewhere in the Midwest, he moved to California to live with his father (he had visited his father in California three times in recent years, while Winton Dean went to Fairmount several times had traveled), who had meanwhile given up his existence as a widower and married Ethel Case in 1945. Following his father's advice, Dean chose to study law at Santa Monica Junior College. As a foreign student, however, he had to attend preparatory courses before the two-year undergraduate degree. Winton Dean was now trying in his own way to fulfill his father role, which he had avoided for many years. He bought James Dean a used 1939 Chevrolet so he could move around town freely. Despite his father's objections to acting, Dean became a member of the Miller Playhouse Theater Guild in Los Angeles. Through his knowledge of the stage and his artistic skills in designing sets, he soon got the post of stage manager and played under the stage name Byron James a small supporting role in the play The Romance of Scarlet Gulch .

After summer courses, James Dean enrolled at Santa Monica City College, which was being remodeled. The courses therefore took place at Santa Monica High School in 1949/50. Dean took several preparatory courses for the upcoming law degree, but also theater history and the beginner's course in acting , both of which were directed by Jean Owen. She became his most important advisor and read works by William Shakespeare with him outside of the regular courses in order to drive out his unclear pronunciation, which was partly due to his Indiana dialect and partly to his dental bridge.

Dean did passably in his first semester, but the grades in the law preparatory courses were below his father's expectations. For Dean, the focus was on working with Jean Owen. He also became a member of the basketball team and the Drama and Jazz Appreciation Club . That spring, Dean was elected to the Opheleos Men's Honor Service Organization , a club that only included the college's top 21 students.

Although Dean continued his acting training with Jean Owen in the next semester, taking her voice training, pronunciation and radio courses as well as appearing for the May celebration in a show called She Was Only a Farmer's Daughter , he preferred the state University of California in Visit Los Angeles (UCLA).

Move to UCLA

Dean was obsessed with moving to UCLA , despite his acting instructor's assessment that he wasn't ready for college. In his eyes, it offered far more opportunities than his current college. His grades were so good that he was immediately admitted to the course he began in the 1950s winter semester . In order not to compromise his father, he continued to take introductory law courses. Even so, his decision sparked a fight with his father and Dean decided to move to the UCLA campus . As a member of the student brotherhood Sigma Nu , he moved into their association house at the beginning of the semester.

Despite the apparent break with his father, he only majored in law and theater studies as a minor. He earned the money for tuition fees, rent and meals with part-time jobs at UCLA, including as a projectionist in courses in which audiovisual media were used. When auditioning for the play Macbeth , he benefited from working with Jean Owen and landed the role of Malcolm . The play was performed four times in UCLA's 1,600-seat Royce Hall from November 29 to December 2. Although James Dean received only moderate reviews, the film agent Isabelle Draesemer became aware of the young actor. He got on 13 December 1950 its first paid role in a two-minute Pepsi - commercial in which he friends on a carousel handed Pepsi bottle from a chest. He got $ 25 and a snack for the day of shooting.

However, the triumph was soon followed by a setback when he was ridiculed by a member of his association for his involvement with Macbeth . A brawl broke out and James Dean was identified as the culprit. He had to leave the fraternity house and so he and his fellow student Bill Bast moved into an apartment in Santa Monica, very close to the place where he had spent his childhood with his parents. In his new home Dean painted numerous oil paintings and dealt with the works of Henry Miller , Kenneth Patchen and Stanislawski (the latter developed the Stanislawski system named after him , which founded the American method acting ).

Collaboration with James Whitmore and dropout

Over the next few months, Dean attended auditions that his agent Isabell Draesemer organized for her protégé. Like his roommate Bill Bast, he also became a member of James Whitmore's theater workshop. Whitmore had trained at the Actors Studio in New York City , played on Broadway and was just nominated for an Oscar for best supporting role in the war drama Kettle Battle . Although he was not a trained drama teacher, Whitmore pledged to give ten gifted drama students unpaid tuition. In those days Dean auditioned for the UCLA play The Dark of the Moon , but couldn't even get a supporting role in the most important production of the semester.

Out of disappointment and also because he did not like the dry academic education, he dropped out of his studies at UCLA and decided to concentrate entirely on the entertainment industry. Almost as if she had to justify Dean's decision, his agent gave him a supporting role as John the Baptist in the religious film Hill Number One by Jerry Fairbank , with whom he had previously worked on the Pepsi commercial. The role, for which he was paid a $ 150 fee, got him his first fan club, which some students at the Immaculate Heart Catholic School in Los Angeles founded when they saw the film on Easter Sunday . In fact, he accepted her invitation, gave a speech in front of the girls and gave autographs .

Start of the film career

Dean completed more auditions in the next few months, but could not get a role after Hill Number One in Hollywood and, as friends later reported, fell into depression. In the end, he attended numerous local parties to make new contacts. But at auditions, he was repeatedly rejected as too small because of his height of 173 centimeters (with a weight of 65 kilograms). His roommate Bill Bast got him a job as an usher at CBS , which he gave up after a short time. He moved out of the apartment he shared with his fellow actors, took a room at the Gower Plaza Hotel, and got a job as a parking attendant near the CBS radio studio on Sunset Boulevard. There he landed minor roles in the three broadcasts Alias ​​Jane Doe, Hallmark Playhouse and Stars over Hollywood .

In 1951 James Dean was seen in his first feature film: In Samuel Fuller's Korean war drama The Last Attack , he had a minor supporting role. By 1953 he made small appearances in four other films without receiving any credits in the credits: Seaman, watch out , Has anyone seen my bride? , The mask off and trouble across the board . Another extra role followed on television on the Alan Young Show .

Move to New York

In the winter of 1951, James Dean took the advice of his acting mentor James Whitmore to move to New York and start a serious acting career in the theater. After a short detour to see his relatives in Fairmount, Dean rented a room in the Hotel Iroquois in New York. Since he was troubled by money, he soon took a room in a home run by the Christian Association of Young People (YMCA) and did a job as a dishwasher in a bar.

In November 1951 he got a job on the show Beat the Clock . He served there for five dollars an hour as a kind of test candidate and got the audience in the mood for the show. His agent was Jane Deacy, who represented later celebrities like Martin Landau and George C. Scott . Through her he got a supporting role in the television drama The Webb and extras in the science fiction series Tale of Tomorrow and in the studio one episode Ten Thousand Horses Singing .

On May 21, 1952, Dean appeared in Prologue to Glory , an episode of the Kraft Television series . Shortly thereafter, he played a small but important role in an episode of Studio One , that of Abraham Lincoln acted, and made an appearance in Forgotten Children , an episode of the series Hallmark Hall of Fame . In July and August 1952, he took a job as an assistant director at NBC .

Recording at the Actors Studio

James Dean took a significant step forward when he applied for a place at the renowned Actors Studio . Together with 150 other applicants, he came to the audition and, together with his colleague Christine White, performed a self-written script in which a wealthy southern woman and a talented homeless young man confided their life stories over the course of a few weeks through nightly beach walks. Though the Actors Studio disliked actors auditioning with their own lyrics, and they both missed the time limit, Dean and White were among the fifteen applicants accepted. “They played simply and believably. It was just wonderful. Exactly what we want to see with applicants ”, so later the founder of the drama school Lee Strasberg , who was also present at the audition. In a 1952 letter to his uncle and aunt in Fairmount, Dean wrote of his success:

“I've made great strides in my job. After months of rehearsals I am proud to announce that I am a member of the Actors Studio. The best school for the theater. It is home to such famous people as Marlon Brando , Julie Harris , Arthur Kennedy , Elia Kazan , Mildred Dunnock , Kevin McCarthy , Monty Clift , June Havoc and many others. Very few are allowed to visit, and it's absolutely free. It's the best that can happen to an actor. I am one of the youngest. If I can keep up this upward trend and if nothing interferes with my progress, one day I might be able to contribute something to the world. "

At the Actors Studio, James Dean took early classes, watched other actors perform their scenes, and befriended several members of the studio, including Roddy McDowall, Lonny Chapman, Vivian Nathan and David Stewart. The first scene Dean prepared was from a passage from the novel Matador by Barnaby Conrad; Dean chose them because he loved bullfighting himself . The monologue about a bullfighter preparing for his last fight, however, was inconsistent, and Dean broke off the performance and had to take heavy criticism from Lee Strasberg, who found the selected text and Dean's acting performance appalling.

After this failure, Dean's passion for the Actors Studio cooled noticeably. He didn't go to it for a long time until he got a role in the play The Scarecrow , staged by Actors Studio member Frank Corsaro at the Theater de Lys. Corsaro persuaded Dean to visit the Actors Studio again, and he then took part in several improvisations by Corsaro. In the following years Dean dealt with music and literature and took dance lessons with Eartha Kitt and Katherine Dunham . He developed a strong affinity for playing the bongo and took piano lessons from the composer Leonard Rosenman . A short time later he hitchhiked with two friends to Fairmount to see his uncle and aunt, where he met his old mentor Adeline Brookshire, who let him teach her theater course.

First Broadway appearance

In Fairmount, Indiana, Dean also got word from his agent that theater director Lemuel Ayers was looking for actors for his Broadway play See the Jaguar and had asked about James Dean. Back in New York, Dean memorized his lines. The play by N. Richard Nash is set in the country in the southern United States and tells the story of a 17-year-old boy who is isolated from the outside world by his domineering and mentally confused mother, who is often locked in an ice cellar. When his mother dies, protagonist Wally Wilkins meets a couple who run a walking zoo in the next town. When Wally accidentally kills the couple's jaguar , he is locked in the exhibition cage, next to which is emblazoned the See the Jaguar sign (German: Visit the Jaguar ).

At the audition, Dean was able to convince as an emotionally crippled Wally and got the role. The first test performances, in which Dean also had to sing the song Green Briar, Blue Fire , took place on November 12, 1952 at the Parsons Theater in New Haven , Connecticut . See the Jaguar premiered on Broadway on December 3rd . However, while the piece was panned and only performed for four days, James Dean received praise from the critics.

Confirmed by the good reviews as a serious actor, Dean received engagements for various television films. On January 8, 1953, he starred in The Capture of Jesse James, directed by the then unknown Sidney Lumet . He acted as Bob Ford , the man who shot Jesse James . On April 14th, Dean starred in the television movie No Room , which was broadcast as part of the series Danger . Two days later, he appeared in The Case of the Sawed-off Shutgun , an episode of the Treasury Man in Action series .

In May 1953, Dean played a small role in the play End as a Man , which he staged three times at the Actors Studio before it was performed off-Broadway with another actor. He also starred in Edna St. Vincent Millay 's Aria da Capo and The Sea Gull , for which Dean was praised by Lee Strassberg. This was followed by further television appearances in the series Tales of Tomorrow , Campbell Playhouse , Studio One Summer Theater and Campbell Soundstage . On October 4, 1953, Dean acted in Glory in the Flower alongside Hume Crown and Jessica Tandy . On November 11, 1953, he played his first leading role on television in the episode A Long Time Till Dawn from the Kraft Television Theater series , in which he mimes a criminal trying to get on the right track. A short time later followed a role in Harvest , the Thanksgiving episode of Robert Montgomery Presents , in which he starred alongside Ed Begley , Dorothy Gish and Vaughn Taylor . The many television roles gave Dean a lot of security in his game.

Breakthrough on Broadway

At the end of 1953, Ruth and Augustus Goetz were commissioned to adapt André Gide's autobiographical novel The Immoralist for Broadway. The novel is set in France at the turn of the 19th century and tells the story of the young archaeologist Michel, who suppressed his homosexuality and married a woman named Marcelline. When the couple is spending their honeymoon in Biskra , North Africa , Michel is seduced by the house boy Bachir. Bachir mocks Michel because he is unable to sleep with his wife. When the marriage was not consummated after two months, Michel gets drunk, impregnates his wife, and both return to France.

James Dean auditioned for the role of Bachir and got it. Geraldine Page played Marcelline, Louis Jourdan the part of Michel. Rehearsals, which began on December 18, 1953 at the Ziegfeld Theater, were dominated by a conflict between Jourdan and Dean. Both were differently trained actors, Jourdan classic, Dean acted spontaneously and unpredictably in his role as Bachir and played him flirtatious and over-the-top. After Dean visited his relatives in Fairmount over Christmas , test performances of The Immoralist took place in Philadelphia . The conflict came to a head, and the previous director Herman Shumlin , with whom Dean got along very well, was replaced by Daniel Mann , whom Dean couldn't stand. Consideration was given to replacing Dean with another actor, but the time to the first performance in New York was too short and leading actress Geraldine Page was categorically committed to James Dean. The pre-performances took place in New York from February 1, 1954, and by the time the play premiered in the Royal Theater on Broadway on February 8, 1954, Dean's 23rd birthday, he had completely internalized the character of Bachir.

The reviews were overwhelmed by Dean's play, especially by a sequence that went down in theater history as a scissor dance. In this scene, James Dean danced across the stage in a wide evening coat, in his hand scissors that he opened and closed, symbolically cutting the figure of Michel out of his previous life and pulling it into that of Bachir.

Beyond Eden : Breakthrough in Hollywood

Immediately after the fabulous reviews for the Broadway play The Immoralist , James Dean gave up the part of Bachir. His termination took effect two weeks later. Dean had been offered a leading role in his latest film Beyond Eden by director Elia Kazan . He knew Dean from his time at the Actors Studio and had seen him on The Immoralist .

James Dean looked just like Cal Trask in Beyond Eden, and he spoke that way too. As soon as he walked into the Warner Bros. New York office , I knew I had found the right man for the role. He was cautious, stubborn, and suspicious, and seemed full of repressed emotions. “, Says Kazan. Although the Warner Brothers film studio had not yet given its director permission to film the film, Dean was naturally drawn to the idea of ​​starring in a Hollywood film, and on February 17, 1954, he performed his part as Herakles' son Hyllos in which Sophocles -Stück the Trachiniae on the side of Anne Jackson and Eli Wallach at the New School for Social Research in Manhattan, and on February 23, his last appearance in the immoralist .

On March 8, 1954, James Dean flew with Elia Kazan from New York to Los Angeles . Two days earlier it had been officially announced that Dean would get the lead role in Kazan's latest film. Kazan was the most sought-after director in the theater and film business at the time and had received the Oscar for best director for Taboo of the Just in 1948 . Dean carried the belongings he needed in two tied paper bags. Arrived in Los Angeles, James Dean and Elia Kazan visited his father at his place of work in the hospital. Kazan later wrote, “The strong tension between the two was evident and it was not a productive tension. I had the feeling that the father didn't like the son. "

It was precisely this leitmotif that ran through Elia Kazan's planned drama Beyond Eden . The film adaptation is based on the novel of the same name by John Steinbeck , with whom Kazan was friends. Both had worked together on the original script for Viva Zapata (1952). Beyond Eden is set in Salinas , California, around the time of the First World War . The title of the novel goes back to a quote from the Old Testament . The film is about the two twin brothers Cal and Aron, who are brought up strictly according to the Bible by their Puritan father Adam Trask. While Aron, obedient and obedient, is in the favor of his father, Cal is brooding and difficult. When the father loses almost his entire fortune in a speculation, Cal hopes in vain to win his love and appreciation with a generous gift of money, but he is repulsed by his father, as has often been the case in his life. In revenge, Cal reveals the truth to his brother Aron about his mother, believed to be dead, who runs a prosperous brothel in town. Aron collapses, gets drunk and volunteers for military service . The news of Aron's fate is too much for the father, and he collapses with a stroke . Paul Osborn's script is based only on the last two chapters of Steinbeck's novel.

In order to appear like a healthy farm boy in the film and not like a pale city dweller, Kazan advised his leading actor to get a tan in the desert for a week , which Dean did too. James Dean received a thousand dollars a week for Beyond Eden ; he signed on April 7, 1954 his contract with the film company Warner Brothers. He was represented by Dick Clayton, who was supposed to look after Dean's interests on the west coast, as his agent in New York had advised him. With the money he bought his first racing car, a red MG , built in 1954. Richard Davalos later joined the acting ensemble and snatched the role of Aron from Paul Newman . The main female role of Abra, which stands between the two brothers, was cast with Julie Harris . At the casting, she had prevailed against Joanne Woodward , who later became the wife of Paul Newman, among others . Raymond Massey slipped into the role of the strict father .

The filming began on May 22, 1954 in Mendocino , Monterey . The film crew was housed three miles away in a hostel in the village of Little River . At the beginning of the shooting there was an incident when James Dean came into contact with the poisonous plant poison sumac and suffered from an inflammation of the skin. He was nursed back to health by the hostess of the inn.

Filming Beyond Eden turned out to be difficult because Dean was keen to visit Hollywood's party scene while production was moving to the Warner Brothers studio in Burbank . Elia Kazan then quartered James Dean in a bungalow directly across from his own on the Warner Brothers' studio site so that he could keep an eye on his leading actor, as he admitted in his 1988 autobiography A Life . Dean also manipulated his film father Raymond Massey away from the film camera by provoking him again and again so that Massey not only played his anger towards Dean and thus appeared even more convincing in his role. Massey was also bothered by Dean's improvisational talent, who often couldn't memorize the texts from the script. Although Elia Kazan had toyed with the idea of ​​casting Marlon Brando (whom James Dean had a crush on) and Montgomery Clift as dissimilar brothers, John Steinbeck, with whom Kazan corresponded regularly during filming, was fond of James Dean, and the The film was finished on August 9, 1954, after ten weeks of shooting.

Building a cult figure

During this time James Dean was stylized by Warner Brothers as a cult male figure in order to ensure the film's financial success. Dean was brought together with the attractive actress Pier Angeli , who, like Dean, was just being built into a Hollywood star and at that time had shot the film The Silver Cup with Paul Newman. The campaign was successful, and Dean and Angeli were soon touted as Hollywood's dream couple by the gazettes. In fact, both got closer in private.

After filming, James Dean flew back to New York, where he starred in an episode of the Philco Television Playhouse series . When he returned to Los Angeles two weeks later, his relationship with Pier Angeli, whose mother did not tolerate interaction with James Dean, slowly broke up. Dean continued to appear in public with attractive starlets , including Ursula Andress and Terry Moore . Dean and Angeli last appeared together as a couple at the premiere of the film A New Star in the Sky . Pier Angeli married the pop singer Vic Damone on November 24, 1954 .

While Beyond Eden was still being edited , the Warner Brothers film studio refused to rent James Dean for the MGM production The Lost . Dean has taken on several television roles again, including in the film Padlocks , an episode of the CBS program Danger with Mildred Dunnock and the episode I'm a Fool of the General Electric Theater , in which he plays a poor farm boy alongside Natalie Wood . who pretends to be rich. On the side, Dean took acting lessons from Jeff Corey.

On December 12, 1954, Dean was televised again in an episode of the General Electric Theater series before spending Christmas with his uncle and aunt in Fairmount and some friends in New York. James Dean hadn't given up his old apartment in New York, despite renting an apartment in the hills of West Hollywood. Meanwhile, the theatrical release of Beyond Eden was set for May 1955.

On December 29th, James Dean was photographed by photographer friend Roy Schatt for Life , the largest magazine in the United States at the time . However, the pictures in which Dean poses unshaven in a sweater were rated by Life as too cheeky and not published. After Dean starred in The Thief from the US Steel Hour series , he was called back to Los Angeles. While the advertising machinery for Jenseits von Eden was running and Dean was mentioned several times in magazines as the coming star of the year, he was accompanied by photographer Dennis Stock , who was planning a photo report with the future star again for the magazine Life . Stock accompanied Dean in Los Angeles for two weeks; in the first week of February 1955 they traveled to the farm of Dean's relatives in Fairmount. Dennis Stock recorded James Dean at various locations in his life so far - on the farm where he grew up, in town or on the stage of his high school, where he also spent Valentine's Day as a guest of honor and played on the congas of the George Columbus Combo . There was general discrepancy when Dean had himself photographed in a coffin at Hunt’s funeral home . Dean then traveled with the photographer to New York, where he was photographed in Times Square , in his apartment and backstage with Geraldine Page. Dean also interviewed Howard Thompson of the New York Times at his agent's apartment. Dennis Stock's pictures were published by Life on May 7, 1955 . In 2015 this story was filmed with Life . Dane DeHaan took over the role of Dean .

On March 9, 1955, the premiere of Beyond Eden took place, but Dean did not attend. He celebrated success by buying his first Porsche , a Porsche 356 1600 Speedster (chassis no. 82621), with which he took part in the two-day Palm Springs California road race on March 26, 1955 . Dean won the qualifying race with his Porsche and competed in the final against veterans like Ken Miles and Cy Yedor , both of whom drove MG Specials. James Dean finished the race in third, but was later placed in second after Miles was disqualified for a technical irregularity in his car.

... because they don't know what they're doing : work with Nicholas Ray

That same month began filming ... because they don't know what to do after Dean recently won a lead role in George Stevens Giants , but filming was postponed due to scheduling difficulties with co-star Elizabeth Taylor . In Nicholas Ray's film, Dean again plays an outsider, Jim Stark, a youngster who is looking for recognition after moving to the new town. He fights knife fights and car races with a gang of young people and finds a substitute family with the naive Judy and the introverted loner Plato, who secretly has feelings for Jim.

The film is based on a sociological study of the same name by Robert M. Lindner . The studio acquired an option on Lindner's work because of the tempting-sounding title (Rebel Without a Cause) , but didn't know what to do with it. Lindner later wrote a short story about youth gangs, which was also bought and adapted for the screen. Eight years after the rights to the film studio were sold, Ray discovered her potential and James Dean as the perfect projection screen for adolescent needs, and filming began on March 28, 1955.

Dean, who got malaria while filming , was taught knife fighting by Frank Mazzola, a gang member who played a supporting role as Crunch in the film . Dean improvised the opening scene in which he turns his attention to a found toy monkey and broke his ankle in a scene at the police station when he slapped his hand against a desk. The red jacket that James Dean wears in the film and which symbolizes the rebellion was chosen for Dean by director and costume designer Moss Mabry after a decision was made four days after filming began ... because they don't know what to do in color rotate to enhance the film. Previously, it had been considered to provide the main actor with glasses and a brown jacket to make him look more stupid than heroic. The atmosphere on the set was shaped by the harmony between the main actor and the director, with director Ray James Dean allowing a lot of freedom in his acting interpretation. He did this because he realized early on that this was the only way to show Dean's full talent. Dean expressed itself once the desire director to lead and his favorite book, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince to film.

During the two months of filming ... because they don't know what they're doing , James Dean took part in a car race again on May 1, 1955 in Bakersfield , California. In Bakersfield he was third again, behind Marion Playan in an MG Special and John Kunstle in a Panhard Devin , but won in the 1300-2000 cc class. Before filming Giants , he took part in his third race from May 28 to 29, 1955. He was fourth in the Santa Barbara Road Race before an engine piston broke on his Porsche .

Giants : His final role

In his last film, Giants , James Dean starred alongside Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor . The shooting, which began for James Dean on June 3, 1955 in Marfa , Texas , was dominated by a rivalry between the two main characters, which however increased the authenticity of their roles. Giganten is based on the successful novel of the same name by Edna Ferber and describes the relationship between the cattle baron Bick Benedict and his wife Leslie (played by Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor) and the simple farm worker Jett Rink (James Dean) over a period of over forty years. When Rink finds oil on his own plot of land, he becomes the most powerful competitor of his previous employer. But wealth begins to change Rink's life too, and he becomes a lonely alcoholic . The film character Deans is based on the life of the Texan oil millionaire Glenn McCarthy (1908–1988), who was an Irish immigrant and who built the Shamrock Hotel in Houston , Texas in 1949 . In Giganten , Dean's figure aged from 19 to 46 years, a challenge for the makeup artists of the time .

The relationship with director George Stevens , who promised him the role of Jett Rink after the rejection of his preferred candidate Alan Ladd, was also tense for Dean . Stevens didn't like actors who tried to experiment during the scenes. The director was also known in Hollywood for his perfectionism. Stevens loved to shoot every scene from many angles, so it took countless shots. Dean succinctly called Stevens' technique the around-the-clock method. He barely lived up to Stevens' demands the first week, and the director squeezed his leading actor in front of the entire film crew. Dean sought solace in his female co-stars Elizabeth Taylor and Mercedes McCambridge . Taylor gave him a kitten towards the end of the shoot. Dean spent a lot of time on the shoot, which took a long time, with dialogue coach Bob Hinkle. Hinkle taught Dean lasso tricks, and both of them hunted rabbits at night during the five-week shoot.

The conflict between Dean and Stevens culminated on July 23, when filming was relocated to Los Angeles. Dean didn't show up on the set; he didn't have a scene to shoot that day either. Stevens had Dean tracked down by his assistants - he had taken a day off to move into a recently rented house in the San Fernando Valley . Stevens was so angry that he announced that he would never work with James Dean again. He had a letter drawn up to Warner Brothers that contained all the points in which Dean had hindered the shooting. Dean commented on the problems during the shoot with exhaustion, since the work too ... because they don't know what they are doing and Giants took a lot longer and he had only had a three day break between the two productions. Even before the filming of Giants , Dean had been exhausted and put on a protein diet by a doctor.

After the successful start of Jenseits von Eden and the productions ... because they don't know what they are doing and Giants negotiated Dean's agent Jane Deacy a new contract for him. The previous $ 1,500 per week of shooting was to be increased dramatically and, if possible, brought in line with the top salaries of Rock Hudson or Elizabeth Taylor, who were receiving $ 100,000 per film at the time. In return, Dean will undertake to act in nine Warner Brothers films over the next six years. In addition, Dean asked to found his own production company for film and television projects, which should operate under the umbrella of the Warner Brothers.

The contract was supposed to be signed in the first week of October 1955. Dean, if Warner Brothers had agreed to the deal, would have started the next film. Before that, however, he should have turned off the film Hell is in me , a film biography planned by MGM about the boxer Rocky Graziano , as well as two television films. MGM had loaned their star Elizabeth Taylor to Warner Brothers for giants , which is why Dean should appear in a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film in return. In the meantime, the shooting of giants , which devoured $ 5.4 million and 115 days of shooting, had ended. For Beyond Eden , Dean had $ 10,000, for ... because they don't know what they're doing, he got 15,000 and for giants around $ 20,000.

Early death

Dean filmed a traffic safety television commercial on the giants' set for the National Safety Council on September 17, 1955, two weeks before his death . In his cowboy outfit, he casually gave actor Gig Young answers with a cigarette in his mouth. When asked what he thought of people racing on the highway, Dean replied:

“I used to race a lot and risk unnecessarily much. But since I've been racing, I've been particularly careful on the road. People often have no idea what dangerous crap they are building. You never know what a guy like that will do next on the street. There are a lot of people on the racecourse thinking about new rules and safety measures. I've been very careful in traffic lately. I don't feel like racing anymore. It is said that life as a racing driver is dangerous, but I prefer to challenge my luck on the racetrack than on the highway. "

His parting words in the commercial were: “Drive carefully! Maybe it will be me who will one day save his life. "

Also in September 1955, James Dean bought his second racing car, a silver-colored Porsche 550 Spyder . The number 130 was painted on the hood of the car, while on the rear was his nickname Little Bastard , which his dialogue coach Bill Hickman gave him on the set of Giants . Only 82 of this car were built in 1955. 78 were advertised for sale and the owner of the Competition Motors car dealership in Hollywood, John von Neumann, had five of them imported into the United States.

For the Porsche 550 Spyder, Dean had traded in his old 356 Super Speedster and added 3,000 US dollars. With the car he wanted to take part in a car race in Salinas , California on October 1, 1955 . At the required check, Dean was found to be in excellent health and the medical report was forwarded to the Sport Car Club of America (SCCA). Days earlier, Dean had had a minor accident with the car on Sunset Boulevard , so the Porsche had to be repaired before the race. During these days he visited his father again, with whom Marcus and Ortense Winslow were visiting.

One of the last people he spoke to on September 30, 1955, was his friend, multimillionaire motor sports enthusiast Lance Reventlow , whom he met on the way to Salinas. Ursula Andress remembers that day: “In the morning at seven o'clock he picked me up at home. Jimmy said, 'Come on, we're going to San Francisco together.' "At that moment, John Derek , her future husband, had come. “James saw John and knew I loved John Derek. He said, 'Okay, John, let's take a ride' and raced around the neighborhood with John to have a conversation with men. When he came back, he said to me, 'I know you are not coming with me.' And then he went away. ”A few hours later, at dusk, Dean was together with his mechanic Rolf Wütherich on a highway north of Los Angeles near Cholame . They were followed at some distance by his friend Bill Hickman and photographer Sandy Roth, who was supposed to deliver a photo report about Dean for Collier’s magazine .

Junction of State Routes 41 and 46 at Cholame, now known as the James Dean Memorial Junction

At the intersection of California State Route 41 and California State Route 46 ( ) near Cholame, Dean met a Ford . Its driver Donald Turnupseed (1932–1995) suddenly turned left after accelerating and braking several times with his car and gave Dean the right of way - according to his own statement, he did not see Dean's Porsche coming. Dean hadn't switched on the headlights in spite of dusk and hadn't had time to swerve, so he drove into the Ford without braking. Wütherich was thrown out of the vehicle, the Porsche remained lying on the embankment. Both men were admitted to a nearby hospital, Dean could only be found dead. The 23-year-old Turnupseed had suffered a shock and the German Wütherich broke his jaw and hips.

The Failure Analysis Associates (now Exponent ) in Menlo Park , California, recreated the accident in 1990 in full detail on September 30th. They came to the conclusion that the speed of Dean's vehicle must have been 55 to 60 miles per hour (around 88 to 96 km / h) at the time of the accident. In doing so, they contradicted the police report, according to which Dean had been traveling at extremely excessive speed. It was therefore more likely that Turnupseed could have caused the accident through his unusual behavior. The then responsible magistrate had acquitted him, however. Another team of experts in a 2008 analysis for National Geographic concluded that Dean must have driven 70 to 75 miles per hour (about 113 to 121 km / h).

James Deans gravestone in Fairmount, Indiana

One day after Dean's death, his body was airlifted to Indianapolis and buried on October 9th in Park Cemetery in Fairmount . James Dean's estate was $ 105,000. Most of the money came from a life insurance policy Dean had taken out shortly before his accident. His father Winton Dean was judged to be the heir.


Within a few weeks of the posthumous premiere of ... because they don't know what they are doing , a real cult around James Dean arose, especially among young people. Some teenagers even followed Dean to death by suicide. Furthermore, even after his death, several letters for him arrived at Warner Brothers and the newspapers - three years after his death, Dean received even more mail than any living Hollywood star. The great fuss about Dean was promoted by Warner Brothers, who released the film Giants exactly on the first anniversary of Dean's death.

“The flappers created a haunted scene at the dead hero's grave when a memorial service was held at the Fairmount, Indiana) cemetery on September 30th, the first anniversary of James Dean's death. Two pastors remembered the dead film idol in soulful speeches, while television cameras broadcast the sobs of the youthful Dean congregation in the most distant corners of the country. The scene was barely over when packs of howling flappers literally stormed the grave, tore wreaths valued at a thousand dollars, and dragged off earth, grass and flowers as "relics". At the same hour, the intersection of highways 466 and 41 in California had to be closed by the police because hundreds of motorized teenagers rolled into the scene of the accident for a quiet minute of silence, blocking traffic. Strong police forces did not let the cliffs of California out of their sight: Some young people had announced by telephone the intention to throw themselves into the sea with the car in the honor of "Jimmys" at the hour of his death. However, nobody made the attempt. "

Plays, films and several books dealt with the James Dean phenomenon. His role in The Immoralist helped spark rumors of Dean's sexual orientation . Dean's love life was illuminated by numerous biographies in the following decades and Dean's relationships with both women and men became known. He is now often listed as bisexual. Far more important, however, was his symbolic character as a youthful rebel, which made him a popular symbol of rebellion against established structures in conservative America of the 1950s and 1960s, especially among the youth. Contributing to this were his three film leading roles, which showed him in conflict with authorities, as well as his early death, which left him forever as a young man.

Elizabeth Taylor later reported in an interview that while filming together, James Dean confided in her that he was sexually molested by a clergyman when he was 11 years old after his mother's death. This experience haunted him all his life.

References to Dean

Several musicians were inspired by Dean and wrote musical works and contributions about him and his life. In 1963 the Beach Boys album Little Deuce Coupe featured the title A Young Man Is Gone , in which the life and death of Dean were sung about. Phil Ochs sang about Dean in his 1970 song Jim Dean of Indiana as well as the Eagles on their 1974 album On the Border entitled James Dean . Also in the song American Pie by Don McLean , reference is made in a text line to Dean; also in the song Sie ist 40 by Udo Lindenberg . The trumpeter Chet Baker has been called the "James Dean of Jazz". The German punk band Abwärts recorded a song in 1991 called The Voice of James Dean .

Dean is also in the song Rockstar by Nickelback in Movie Star of Harpo in Vogue by Madonna in These Days by Bon Jovi , in Rather Die Young by Beyoncé in New Americana from Halsey , in style of Taylor Swift in Blue Jeans by Lana Del Rey , in We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel , in Ghost Town by Adam Lambert , in Moonlight by Ariana Grande , in James Dean by Olson , in Famous by Scouting for Girls , in Live Fast Die Young by Hollywood Undead , Mentioned in James Dean by Ufo361 , in If I'm James Dean, You're Audrey Hepburn by Sleeping with Sirens, and Cool by the Jonas Brothers . Various feature films and documentaries have been made about Dean since 1956.

German dubbing voice

In the German versions of his three films Jenseits von Eden , ... because they do not know what they are doing and Giants , James Dean was dubbed by the later famous actor and TV presenter Dietmar Schönherr .



Television appearances

  • 1951: Family Theater (TV series)
  • 1951: The Bigelow Theater (TV series)
  • 1951: The Stu Erwin Show / Trouble with Father (TV series)
  • 1952: CBS Television Workshop (TV series)
  • 1952: Sailor, watch out! (Sailor Beware)
  • 1952: The Web (TV series)
  • 1952: Hallmark Hall of Fame (TV series)
  • 1953: The Kate Smith Hour (TV series)
  • 1953: You Are There (TV series)
  • 1953: Treasury Men in Action (TV series, 2 episodes)
  • 1953: Tales of Tomorrow (TV series)
  • 1952–1953: Studio One (TV series, 3 episodes)
  • 1953: The Big Story (TV series)
  • 1953: Omnibus (TV series)
  • 1953: Campbell Summer Soundstage (TV series, 2 episodes)
  • 1952–1953: Kraft Television Theater (TV series, 3 episodes)
  • 1953: Armstrong Circle Theater (TV series)
  • 1953: Robert Montgomery Presents (TV series)
  • 1953: Harvest (TV short film)
  • 1954: The Philco Television Playhouse (TV series)
  • 1953–1954: Danger (TV series, 4 episodes)
  • 1954: General Electric Theater (TV series, 2 episodes)
  • 1955: The United States Steel Hour (TV series)
  • 1952/1955: Lux Video Theater (TV series, 2 episodes)
  • 1955: Schlitz Playhouse of Stars (TV series)
  • 1955: Crossroads (TV series)

Theatrical appearances



  • 1956: Nominated for Best Actor for Beyond Eden
  • 1957: Nominated as Best Actor for Giants

British Film Academy Award

  • 1956: Nominated for Best Foreign Actor for Beyond Eden
  • 1957: nominated for Best Foreign Actor for ... because they don't know what they are doing

Golden Globe

  • 1956: Best Actor - Drama
  • 1957: World Film Favorite - Male


Étoile de Cristal

  • 1956: Best Foreign Actor for ... because they don't know what they're doing


  • 1956: Best Foreign Actor for Beyond Eden

Bravo Otto

  • 1957: Golden Bravo Otto


Web links

Commons : James Dean  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Uwe Schmitt: The curse of the Porsche Spyder. In: Welt.de. August 24, 2005. Retrieved June 19, 2019 .
  2. Fabian Hoberg: James Dean's death drive in a Porsche - From little bastard to giant. In: Spiegel Online. October 10, 2015, accessed June 19, 2019 .
  3. Donald Gene Turnupseed , on de.findagrave.com
  4. Stimme.de: The road ends for both in eternity
  5. Archive link ( Memento of the original from March 7, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.exponent.com
  6. ^ Reconstructing James Dean's Fatal Crash. Retrieved July 16, 2020 .
  7. James Dean 1965 , article in the period from 1965
  8. The early death made him a legend , article on the 75th birthday of James Dean in Stern
  9. The early death made him a legend , article in the Spiegel from 1956
  10. NNDB James Dean
  11. Style instead of style , article in Süddeutsche from 2010
  12. Elizabeth Taylor Interview About Her AIDS Advocacy, Plus Stars Remember. Retrieved July 16, 2020 . by Kevin Sessums in "The Daily Beast"
  13. The James Dean of Jazz on deutschlandradion.de
  14. YouTube. Retrieved on July 16, 2020 (German).