James Dean (February 8, 1931 - September 30, 1955)

James Dean personified the troubled youth of the 1950s in films like East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause, co-starring Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo (who grew backyard marijuana during the filming).

Dean's mother gave him the middle name Byron for Lord Byron, before dying when he was nine of uterine cancer. He was sent to live with an aunt and uncle in Indiana, and reportedly told Elizabeth Taylor that he was sexually abused by a local pastor around two years after his mother's death.

As a struggling actor in New York, Dean dated actresses Geraldine Page and Liz Sheridan, who went on to play Jerry Seinfeld's mom on TV. Sheridan says in her book Dizzy & Jimmy that Dean had a homosexual relationship with a Hollywood producer (thought to be Rogers Brackett) as a means to get ahead.

Dean's first speaking part was as John the Beloved Disciple in Hill Number One, an Easter television special dramatizing the resurrection of Jesus. Positive reviews for his 1954 theatrical role as Bachir, a homosexual North African houseboy in an adaptation of André Gide's book The Immoralist, led to calls from Hollywood. In 1953, Dean played a teenager out on bail for possession of marijuana who spikes the drink of the owner of a roadside diner (played by Hume Cronyn) in William Inge's teleplay Glory in the Flower, broadcast live on CBS. In Los Angeles, he took dancing lessons from Eartha Kitt.

Others dispute the idea that Dean's homosexual activities were merely career-oriented, and have said that his lifestyle included using marijuana. Actor John Gilmore, who hung out with Dean, recalled encountering him and a fellow actor named Ray Curry in New York as they were on their way to "smoke some reefers" with a black drummer Dean knew. "Another time he asked if I had any marijuana," Gilmore said. "He wanted to get high and was sorry Curry wasn't around because he always had grass." Dean borrowed books from Gilmore, including Arthur Rimbaud's A Season in Hell.

Ann Doran, who played Dean's mother in Rebel Without a Cause, was put off by his unwelcome acting recommendations, and more. "Doran was annoyed by a habit she says Dean sometimes indulged in on set, which would become a source of great friction between parents and their kids in years to come. 'I couldn't stand his marijuana smoking,' she said. 'I absolutely refused to let him come into my room if he'd been smoking.'" Yet, by the end of filming, Dean and Doran's relationship "grew surprisingly close" when he would visit her house at odd hours, drinking "gallons of coffee" and smoking pot. "I did a lot of listening. He widened my life," Doran said. (Source: Live Fast, Die Young: The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without a Cause by Lawrence Frascella and Al Weisel.)

After the car crash that killed him in 1955, Dean was nominated posthumously for the Academy Award as Best Actor for East of Eden, the first official posthumous acting nomination in Academy Awards history. Actors Johnny Depp, Nicholas Cage, and Leonardo DiCaprio have all named Dean as an influence, as have Bob Dylan, Buddy Holly and David Bowie. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Dean the 18th best male movie star of Golden Age Hollywood in AFI's 100 Years...100 Stars list. His estate still earns about $5,000,000 per year, according to Forbes magazine. (Source: Wikipedia)


Home | Search | About Us | Contact Us | ©2002-2020