I’ve been a little busy the last couple of days, so Friday I didn’t have time to mention that it was fifty-six years ago Friday that screen legend James Dean died at the age of 24 in a car crash in California.
Dean would for a generation not just become the epitome of cool for many, but deliver performances that combined the qualities of an outsider with a sense of vulnerability through what was then a new approach to drama known as ‘method acting’. In this that farm boy from Indiana, who embraced the creative spirit to show us as an audience and as fellow human beings the many emotional dimensions of the human character whether it be as a restless boy separated from his mother and sparing with his father in East of Eden, a confused misfit in Rebel without a Cause, and a ranch worker turned millionaire who becomes a victim of his own success in Giant; to say nothing of a handful of other television and stage efforts.
Unfortunatly on that September day, Dean who if alive today would have been eighty years old; perished before he could realize the true extent of his fame. Only one of the three movies he stared in East Eden had been released during his lifetime. Rebel, which would cement Dean’s place in Hollywood and pop culture history as well as Giant; were releases posthumously in 1956.
Ironically soon before his death, the interview on the video clip above had Dean in an interview with fellow actor and television host Gig Young, spoke of the dangers of the road. In it he said ‘people say racing is dangerous but I will take my chances on the track any day than on a highway’ and urged the audience to be carefully on the road because ‘the life you save might be mine’. Given what would later transpire those are indeed haunting words with a tragic irony to them.