Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Happy birthday, James Dean

Banner hanging in
Fairmount. (DP July 2010)
Actor James Dean was born 80 years ago, February 8, 1931, in Marion, Indiana. Dean briefly lived in Santa Monica, California, from the ages of six to nine with his parents until the death of his mother, Mildred. After her death, Dean's father, Wilton, remained in California and sent Dean to live Fairmount, Indiana, where he was raised by his uncle Marcus and aunt Ortense on their farm. Following high school graduation, Dean went to California for college, attending Santa Monica City College and UCLA before dropping out. In 1951 Dean moved to New York to do theater and TV work and became part of the Actors Studio in 1953. Director Elia Kazan hired Dean to star in East of Eden in March 1954. Dean's talent was undeniable to audiences when East of Eden hit theaters in March 1955, and his career began to take off within the course of a couple months, in which time he completed filming Rebel Without a Cause and Giant one after the other. Before either of those films were released, Dean was killed in an automobile crash on the way to a car race in California in September 1955. September 30, 2010 marked the 55th anniversary of his death. Each year Fairmount, Indiana holds a James Dean Festival to celebrate his life and work.

East of Eden, released in March 1955
Find it in the catalog!
James Dean received a posthumous Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his role as Cal Trask.

Rebel Without a Cause (Finished filming in June 1955; film was released October 1955.)
Find it in the catalog!
We will be screening this film at the library this Saturday at 2 PM.

Giant (Finished filming in September 1955; film was released November 1956.)
Find it in the catalog!
James Dean received a posthumous Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his role as Jett Rink.

More about James Dean from the library:
*James Dean: Fifty Years Ago by Dennis Stock (2005)
Dennis Stock, a photojournalist, met James Dean at a party thrown by the director Nicholas Ray. The photos in this book were taken by Stock for a photo essay for Life magazine. Dean visits his hometown of Fairmount, Indiana, in February 1955, before the release of East of Eden. Photos capture him on the farm with his cousin, aunt, and uncle, walking around town, and visiting his old high school. Stock also photographs Dean around New York, where Dean kept a small apartment. Dean goes through ballet poses in a dance class and falls asleep in his accountant's office and even at the bar with a cigarette in his hand (Stock says he was an insomniac). Lastly Stock accompanies Dean to LA during the shooting of Rebel Without a Cause.

Rebel: The Life and Legend of James Dean by Donald Spoto (1996) and James Dean: Little Boy Lost by Joe Hyams with Jay Hyams (1992) are both located in the Biography section.

James Dean's grave in Park Cemetery in Fairmount. (DP July 2010)