On February 8, 1931, something happened that would change the course of cinematic and pop culture history forever: James Byron Dean was born. More than just a pretty face, Dean was one of the most talented actors of his generation, which included such greats as Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, and Dennis Hopper. Today we’d like to celebrate the greatness that Dean gave the world through his iconic performances, that unfortunately only spanned a few films.
It’s hard to believe but Dean only appeared as the lead in three features: East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant. The latter two were released after his untimely death in 1955 at the age of 24. He received two Oscar nominations for his work on Rebel and Giant, which were well deserved. He co-starred with Hopper in both, one as a peer, and the other as an old nemesis of his character’s father.
Dean became a teen icon after his performance in Rebel, where he played Jim Stark, an L.A. youth who feels suppressed by all forms of authority. Who can forget him and his famous red jacket? By the time the actor hit the set of Giant, he was well on his way to becoming one of Hollywood’s elite but fate had other plans.
“Filming of Giant was coming to a close when Dean, driving his Porsche Spyder race car, collided with another car near Cholame, CA. on Sept. 30, 1955. Dean, who had received a speeding ticket just two hours prior, was killed almost immediately from the impact from a broken neck”
That moment changed the course of history forever. No one will ever know how far Dean’s talent could have taken him. Even after 50 years, younger generations consistently fall in love with the actor through his few movies, and the images that are plastered over memorabilia stores and sites. The love for Dean is still going strong because of what he accomplished in such a short period of time.
The actor is often associated with the saying, “Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die tomorrow” because that’s exactly what he did.
What’s your favorite James Dean film?