Famous Birthdays this week: James Dean
08/02/1931 - 30/09/1955 (died aged 24).
"Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today”.
1931: James Byron Dean was born in Marion, Indiana, USA and was an American actor and car racing enthusiast. He was primarily of English descent, with smaller amounts of German, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh ancestry. Six years after his father had left farming to become a dental technician, Dean and his family moved to Santa Monica, California. He was an only child.
1938: Dean was close to his mother and during this year she was suddenly struck with acute stomach pain and quickly began to lose weight. She died of uterine cancer when Dean was nine years old.
1940: Unable to care for his son, Dean's father sent him to live with his aunt and uncle, Ortense and Marcus Winslow, on their farm in Fairmount, Indiana.
1943: In his adolescence, Dean sought the counsel and friendship of a local Methodist pastor, the Rev. James DeWeerd, who appeared to have an influence upon Dean, especially upon his future interests in bullfighting, car racing, and theatre. According to Billy J. Harbin, Dean had "an intimate relationship with his pastor, which began in his senior year of high school and endured for many years”.
1949: 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 through the Indiana High School Forensic Association after graduating from Fairmount High School in May of this year.
1950: He moved back to California with his dog, Max, to live with his father and stepmother and enrolled in Santa Monica College (SMC) and majored in pre-law. He transferred to UCLA for one semester and changed his major to drama, which resulted in estrangement from his father. 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.
1951: He dropped out of UCLA to pursue a full-time career as an actor. Dean's first television appearance was in a Pepsi Cola commercial. He then appeared on Alias Jane Doe, which was produced by Rogers Brackett. In October of this year, following the encouragement of actor James Whitmore and the advice of his mentor Brackett, Dean moved to New York City.
1952: Dean appeared in episodes of several CBS television series The Web, Studio One, and Lux Video Theatre, before gaining admission to the Actors Studio to study method acting under Lee Strasberg. He referred to the Actors Studio as "the greatest school of theatre”.
Actress Liz Sheridan details her relationship with Dean in New York during this time. Speaking of the relationship in 1996, she said that it was "just kind of magical. It was the first love for both of us.” Dean also dated Swiss actress Ursula Andress. "She was seen riding around Hollywood on the back of James's motorcycle," writes biographer Darwin Porter. She was also seen with Dean in his sports cars, and was with him on the day he bought the car that he died in. At the time, Andress was also dating Marlon Brando.
1953: Director Elia Kazan was looking for a substantive actor to play the emotionally complex role of 'Cal Trask', for screenwriter Paul Osborn's adaptation of John Steinbeck's 1952 novel East of Eden. Before casting Cal, Elia Kazan said that he wanted "a Brando” for the role and Osborn suggested Dean, a relatively unknown young actor. Dean met with Steinbeck, who did not like the moody, complex young man personally, but thought him to be perfect for the part. Dean was cast in the role and on April 8, 1954, left New York City and headed for Los Angeles to begin shooting.
1954: Positive reviews for Dean's 1954 theatrical role as Bachir, a pandering North African houseboy, in an adaptation of André Gide's book The Immoralist, led to calls from Hollywood. Dean also became interested in developing an auto racing career. He purchased various vehicles after filming for East of Eden had concluded, including a Triumph Tiger T110 and a Porsche 356.
1955: 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. Dean achieved first place in the novice class, and second place at the main event. Dean's final race occurred in Santa Barbara on Memorial Day, May 30. He was unable to finish the competition due to a blown piston. Dean quickly followed up his role in East of Eden with a starring role as Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause, a film that would prove to be hugely popular among teenagers. The film has been cited as an accurate representation of teenage angst.
The German mechanic from the Porsche factory who maintained Dean's Porsche 550 Spyder "Little Bastard” Rolf Wütherich, had encouraged Dean to drive his car from Los Angeles to Salinas, California to break it in for a racing event on September 30. Following a car accident in Cholame, California at approximately 5.15pm, Dean was pronounced dead on arrival shortly after he arrived by ambulance at the Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital at 6.20pm.
Dean's funeral was held on October 8 at the Fairmount Friends Church in Fairmount, Indiana. The coffin remained closed to conceal his severe injuries. An estimated 600 mourners were in attendance, while another 2400 fans gathered outside of the building during the procession.
1956: Giant, which was posthumously released in this year, saw Dean play a supporting role to Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson. This was due to his desire to avoid being typecast as a rebellious teenager like Cal Trask or Jim Stark. In the film, he plays Jett Rink, a Texan ranch hand who strikes oil and becomes wealthy. His role was notable in that, in order to portray an older version of his character in the film's later scenes, Dean dyed his hair grey and shaved some of it off to give himself a receding hairline. Giant would prove to be Dean's last film. At the end of the film, Dean was supposed to make a drunken speech at a banquet; this is nicknamed the 'Last Supper' because it was the last scene before his sudden death. Due to his desire to make the scene more realistic by actually being inebriated for the take, Dean mumbled so much that director George Stevens decided the scene had to be overdubbed by Nick Adams, who had a small role in the film, because Dean had died before the film was edited.
1957: Dean received his second posthumous Best Actor Academy Award nomination for his role in Giant at the 29th Academy Awards for films released in 1956.
1999: The American Film Institute ranked him the 18th best male movie star of Golden Age Hollywood in AFI's 100 Years...100 Stars list.
2011: It was reported that Dean once confided in Elizabeth Taylor that he was sexually abused by a minister approximately two years after his mother's death. Other reports on Dean's life also suggest that he was either sexually abused by James DeWeerd as a child or had a sexual relationship with him as a late teenager.
Sexuality - Rebel without a Cause director Nicholas Ray is on record as saying that Dean was gay, while author John Howlett believes that Dean was "certainly bisexual”. George Perry's biography attributes these reported aspects of Dean's sexuality to "experimentation”. Martin Landau stated, "A lot of gay guys make him out to be gay. Not true.” Mark Rydell stated, "I don't think he was essentially homosexual. I think that he had very big appetites, and I think he exercised them.” Elizabeth Taylor, with whom Dean had become friends after they first met on the set of Giant, referred to Dean as gay during a speech at the GLAAD Media Awards in 2001.
His brief motor racing 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. It was during his trip to a motor racing event that he was killed.