|James Dean Quick Info|
|Height||5 ft 7 in|
|Date of Birth||February 8, 1931|
James Dean was an American actor of the 1950s who achieved immense popularity with roles like Cal Trask in East of Eden (1955), Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and Jett Rink in Giant (1956). His talent as an actor in addition to his ability to improvise scripted scenes helped elevate his performances and made him a force to be reckoned with. Although he starred in only 3 films, his portrayal of angst-ridden protagonists gave a new face to the teenage rebellion that was never seen before. Sadly, his soaring career was cut short in 1955, when his thrill-seeking adventures caused his untimely demise at the young age of 24. Nevertheless, in his death, Dean became an enduring cultural figure whose embodiment of the troubled outcast inspired future generations of actors and fans throughout the world.
James Byron Dean
Jimmy Dean, One-Speed Dean, JD, Little Ba***rd
James was born on February 8, 1931.
James died on September 30, 1955, in a car accident while driving on the U.S. Route 466 Highway. He was 24 years old at that time.
Marion, Indiana, United States
James studied at the Brentwood Public School in Los Angeles but soon, got enrolled at McKinley Elementary School in Santa Monica. After moving to Fairmount, he attended the Fairmount High School and graduated in 1949.
He began taking classes in pre-law at the Santa Monica College after shifting to California to live with his father again. However, he transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) for 1 semester and decided to major in Drama instead. James pledged the Sigma Nu fraternity at UCLA but dropped out of college in 1951 before being initiated.
He also learned method acting under the tutelage of Lee Strasberg at the historic Actors Studio in New York City.
- Father – Winton Arlando Dean (Farmer, Dental Technician, World War II Veteran)
- Mother – Mildred Marie (née Wilson) (Died from uterine cancer in 1940)
- Others – Charles Desco Dean (Paternal Grandfather), Emma J. Woolen/Woollen (Paternal Grandmother), John William Wilson (Maternal Grandfather), Minnie Mae/Mary Slaughter (Maternal Grandmother), Ethel Case (Step-mother), Ortense Winslow (Paternal Aunt), Marcus Winslow (Uncle) (Husband of Ortense), Marcus Winslow Jr. (Cousin Brother)
During his short film career, James was represented by actor-turned-talent agent Richard Clayton.
5 ft 7 in or 170 cm
63 kg or 139 lbs
Girlfriend / Boyfriend / Spouse
James Dean had dated –
- Beverly Wills – Dean began dating Beverly Wills, an actress with CBS Studios, while studying at UCLA. The couple split up after Dean physically threatened a guy at a party for asking his girlfriend to dance.
- Jeanette Lewis – Jeanette Lewis was Dean’s classmate at UCLA, whom he was also romancing.
- William Bast – William Bast and James met while studying at UCLA and soon became roommates and close friends. Bast, a journalist and author, also became his first biographer in 1956. In his tell-all Surviving James Dean (2006), Bast described his relationship with the actor in more details revealing that the two often engaged in s**ual activities.
- Barbara Glenn – James and Barbara Glenn dated for about 2 years while he was in college. The young couple regularly exchanged love letters, which ended up being sold at an auction for $36,000 in 2011.
- Rogers Brackett – The 20-year-old Dean met radio director Rogers Brackett, 15 years his senior, during his struggling days. Dean moved into his apartment in Los Angeles and was financially looked after by Brackett. He even paid for Dean’s acting classes in New York and introduced the budding actor to industry heavyweights leading to his first film break. Dean was speculated to be his kept boy who provided s**ual favors in exchange for support in launching his movie career.
- Elizabeth “Liz” Sheridan (1952) – Actress Liz Sheridan, best known for playing Jerry Seinfeld‘s mother Helen on the sitcom Seinfeld, had reportedly dated James Dean in the past. According to her book, Dizzy & Jimmy: My Life with James Dean: A Love Story (2000), the two had a short-lived romance and were briefly engaged during his struggling days in New York City.
- Alice Denham (1952) – Dean was said to have hooked up with glamor model Alice Denham in 1952.
- Pier Angeli (1952-1953) – James first laid eyes on Italian actress Pier Angeli when she was shooting for The Silver Chalice (with co-star Paul Newman) on the adjacent Warner Bros. lot. The couple fell madly in love but Pier’s religious mother did not see James’s rebellious attitude and non-Catholic background as a fitting match for her daughter. Angeli eventually married singer Vic Damone and Italian composer Armando Trovajoli, however, both marriages ended in divorce. Before her death from a drug overdose in 1971, Angeli had reportedly admitted that Dean was the only true love of her life.
- Betsy Palmer (1953) – James dated actress Betsy Palmer when the two actors worked together on the TV series Studio One in Hollywood in 1953.
- Terry Moore (1954) – In 1954, Dean had a fling with actress Terry Moore, famous for starring in Come Back, Little Sheba (1952).
- Marilyn Monroe – RUMOR
- Mitzi McCall (1955) – Actress Mitzi McCall and James got involved with each other in 1955.
- Sal Mineo (1955) – Sal Mineo starred as John “Plato” Crawford opposite James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. Years later, Sal aroused speculation that they were lovers by stating that Jimmy was special to him.
- Paul Newman – RUMOR
- Marlon Brando – James was known to follow every move of his idol Marlon Brando, which irked The Godfather star no end. But, things got weird when reports speculated that the two were also lovers and had a torrid affair for years.
- Rock Hudson (1955) – Actor Rock Hudson was allegedly one of Dean’s se**al conquests. According to reports, Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson (his co-stars from Giant) both had a bet on who could get Dean to sleep with them first. Hudson apparently won the bet. Hudson was known to be gay amongst his close friends in Hollywood but the larger public only found out about his s*@uality after his death from AIDS in 1985.
- Ursula Andress (1955) – Towards the last months of his life, James was in a relationship with Swiss actress Ursula Andress. The two were spotted riding around Hollywood on his motorbike and Ursula accompanied James when he purchased his fatal Porsche 550 Spyder. Years later, Ursula became famous for playing Bond girl Honey Ryder in Dr. No (1962).
Race / Ethnicity
James had English, Scottish, Welsh, German, Irish, distant Dutch, and Native American ancestry.
James’s sexual orientation had always been shrouded in mystery. He frequently got involved with men and women; sometimes in the pursuit of experimentation, while at other times to further his career. His close friends and biographers have labeled him as being gay, heterosexual, bisexual, and omnisexual.
- Squinty eyes
- Chiseled jawline
- Heavy smoker
- His red jacket, white t-shirt, and blue denim jeans from Rebel Without a Cause
James had done endorsement work for the following brands –
- Pepsi-Cola (1950)
- Sexy Hair (2016)
- Jeep (Automobile brand) (2019)
- Allan Gray (South African investment company)
James was brought up in a Quaker household while living with his aunt and uncle in Fairmount.
Additionally, his funeral service was held at a Quaker church house in Fairmount.
Best Known For
- Being the personification of teenage angst and rebellion that helped transform him into an enigmatic cultural icon after his tragic death at the age of 24
- His incredible acting style and moving performance in his 3 films – East of Eden (1955), Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and Giant (1956)
James made his theatrical film debut as Doggie in the war film Fixed Bayonets! in 1951. However, his role was uncredited.
His first credited performance was in director Elia Kazan’s film East of Eden as Caleb Trask in 1955.
First TV Show
In 1951, James made his first TV show appearance as John the Apostle in the Hill Number One: A Story of Faith and Inspiration episode of the series Family Theatre.
James Dean Favorite Things
- Song – When Your Lover Has Gone by Billie Holiday
- Album – Songs for Young Lovers (1954) by Frank Sinatra
- Book – The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
- Drink – Coffee
- Hobbies – Writing, Painting, Photography, Car Racing, Bullfighting, Horse Riding, Sculpting, Playing the Bongos
- Ice-Cream Flavors – Coffee, Raspberry
- Foods – Aunt Ortense’s Banana Salad, Brick Oven Pizza from Villa Capri
- Restaurant – Villa Capri in Hollywood
- Musical Instrument To Play – Bongo drums
Source – IMDb, JamesDean.com, EatDrinkFilms.com, FlavorWire.com, GoshenNews.com
James Dean Facts
- Although James was born in Indiana, his family moved to Santa Monica, California, when he was young. After his mother’s death, James was sent to live with his aunt and uncle on a farm in Fairmount, Indiana.
- James was active in sports and played baseball, basketball, was on the track team, and set a record in pole vault while in high school. He was considered a popular student at school and his interests also extended to drama and public speaking.
- He lost 2 of his front teeth in a trapeze accident while growing up in Indiana. He ended up wearing false teeth and sometimes, would take them off during a conversation to freak people out.
- A local Methodist pastor, Rev. James DeWeerd was said to have played an influential role during Dean’s formative years; having introduced him to car racing, theater, and bullfighting. It has been alleged that Dean had either been s**ually abused by DeWeerd or the two had been in an intimate s#@ual relationship when Dean was a teenager.
- Empire Magazine had included him in the 1995 list of ‘100 Sexiest Stars in Film History’ at the 42nd spot.
- Before getting his big break, Dean worked as a stunt tester on the 1950s game show Beat the Clock. His job was to check the safety of the stunts and set optimum time limits for the show contestants to beat. However, he proved to be so quick in completing the tasks that it could not be practically used and he was fired from that show.
- He was learning to sculpt under artist Pegot Waring in 1955. Waring described his experience as frustrating since Dean was relentless with asking questions.
- James became the first actor in history to receive an Academy Award nomination posthumously. He was nominated twice in the ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role’ category for his first film, East of Eden in 1956 and his last ever performance in Giant in 1957. However, he did not win both times.
- James was honored with a 32¢ commemorative postage stamp when the Legends of Hollywood series was issued on June 24, 1996.
- James Dean has been referenced in several songs by popular artists such as Mr. James Dean by Hilary Duff, Electrolite by R.E.M., Vogue by Madonna, Style by Taylor Swift, We Didn’t Start the Fire by Billy Joel, Ghost Town by Adam Lambert, Speechless by Lady Gaga, Rather Die Young by Beyoncé, and many more.
- James’s maternal ancestry can be traced back to the 14th century English Prince John of Gaunt (who was the son of King Edward III) and Blanche of Lancaster, his first wife.
- Dean was a race car enthusiast and drove his Porsche Super Speedster during the Palm Springs Race in March 1955. He finished in the 2nd place in the main event.
- James’s infamous Porsche 550 Spyder had the number ‘130’ inscribed on the front hood, rear deck lid, and the doors. He also had ‘Little Ba***rd’ painted on the rear cowling.
- Dean was driving his Porsche 550 Spyder on September 30, 1955, along the U.S. Route 466 (now SR 46) when his car collided with an incoming 1950 Ford Tudor. Dean suffered multiple internal and external injuries along with a broken neck as a result of the crash. The driver of the other car, Donald Turnupseed escaped with minor injuries.
- The German auto mechanic Rolf Weütherich, who was riding in the passenger seat with Dean, survived the crash with multiple injuries. After suffering from depression for many years, Wolf died in 1981 in an eerily similar automobile accident in Germany.
- Turnupseed was cleared of any criminal charges as an inquest into the accident concluded that Dean was overspeeding at the time of his fatal crash. The claim has since, been disputed with some sources proving that Dean was driving within the speed limit.
- With time, his Porsche 500 Spyder cultivated an ominous reputation as future owners, who bought parts of the car, ended up in fatal crashes or sustained minor injuries themselves.
- The young actor lived long enough to only see the release of his first film, East of Eden (released in March 1955). His 2nd film, Rebel Without a Cause had a release date of October 27, 1955, less than a month after his tragic death. His last film Giant was released the next year in 1956.
- Just 2 hours before his death, James had received a speeding ticket for driving at 65 mph, 10 miles over the speeding limit. He was scheduled to appear in court in the next few weeks to answer to the charges.
- James did not leave behind a will and so, all his possessions after his untimely death were bequeathed to his estranged father. His dad Winton received a sum of around $100,000 from the settlement of his estate, life insurance policy, and bank account balance.
- According to Marlon Brando’s autobiography, Songs My Mother Taught Me (1994), Dean idolized Brando and was known to copy his acting style and based his life on how he thought his idol lived.
- In fact, Dean even purchased a 500cc TR5 Trophy Thunderbird after watching Marlon’s famous 650cc 6T Triumph Thunderbird model in his film The Wild One (1953). Photographer Phil Stern took a series of iconic shots of Dean riding his Thunderbird. After his death, the bike became a permanent fixture at the James Dean Museum in Fairmount, Indiana.
- In 1999, the American Film Institute added his name to the list of ’50 Greatest Screen Legends’ at #18.
- He was famously declared as ‘America’s Rebel’ by actor and future-President Ronald Reagan after the two worked together on the series General Electric Theater in 1954.
- James Franco, who is a dead ringer for Dean, played the iconic star in the television film James Dean in 2001. Moreover, Franco voiced the character of the Fox in the animated film version of The Little Prince (2005), Dean’s all-time favorite book.
- Dean’s next film was set to be MGM’s production Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), based on the life of boxing legend Rocky Graziano. He was loaned out to MGM (by Warner Bros.) in return for Elizabeth Taylor, who starred in Giant (by Warner Bros.) with Dean.
- Ironically, James’s death helped launch the career of Paul Newman, who replaced him in several of his purported film commitments like Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), The Left Handed Gun (1958), etc. Incidentally, both Dean and Newman had auditioned for the role of Cal Trask in East of Eden and would compete for the same roles often.
- James ranked at #33 in Empire Magazine‘s (UK) list of ‘Top 100 Movie Stars of all Time’ in 1997.
- Dean had several hobbies, none more captivating than writing, which he called his ultimate ambition.
- His good friend Elizabeth Taylor had gifted him a Siamese cat, who he named Marcus after his uncle.
- Dean’s obsession with Marlon Brando was so troublesome that once Brando confronted him at a party and told him that he needed psychiatric help.
- Amongst his closest friends in Hollywood were fellow actors like Martin Landau, Dennis Hopper, Elizabeth Taylor, and Betsy Palmer.
- His portrayal of Jim Stark in Elia Kazan’s Rebel Without a Cause was listed on the 43rd spot in Premiere Magazine‘s list of ‘100 Greatest Performances of All Time’ in 2006.
- James was nearsighted and thus, wore thick glasses at all times except when on camera.
- One of his biggest admirers was legendary musician Elvis Presley, who joined films in order to follow in his footsteps. Admittedly, he told friends that he wanted an acting career like Dean’s.
- A week before his sudden death, Dean was warned by actor Alec Guinness (best known as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars franchise) to get rid of his Porsche Spyder or else he would be dead within a week. Dean, however, laughed off the premonition which unfortunately came true.
- During a speech at the GLAAD Media Awards in 2000, Elizabeth Taylor called Dean as ‘one of her gay friends’.
- Actor Leonardo DiCaprio had revealed that he decided to become an actor after watching Dean’s performance in East of Eden.
- James was infamous for his unpredictable behavior and mood swings and was postulated to have suffered from undiagnosed Bipolar Disorder.
- His funeral took place on October 8, 1955, at the Fairmount Friends Church in Indiana. It was attended by 600 mourners and around 2400 fans showed up to pay their last respects. James was buried at Park Cemetery in Fairmount.
- Dean’s headstone was stolen on 2 different occasions but it was successfully recovered both times.
- Dean had repeatedly stated that he didn’t think he would live longer than 30 years.
- James was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on February 8, 1960, which would have been his 29th birthday. His star resides at 1719 Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California.
- Visit his official website @ jamesdean.com.
Featured Image by Insomnia Cured Here / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0