by Shelbie Condie
This past Thursday, September 30, marked six decades since James Dean left his mark as a Hollywood icon. The twenty-four year old heartthrob got into a car accident near Bakersfield on his way to a car race in Salinas, where he died immediately.
James Dean emerged when America was in need of comfort. The Great Depression had been over for some years, World War II nearly ended, and folks just simply wanted to experience good times— James Dean provided that sanctuary.
Born in Indiana, on February 8, 1931, James Byron Dean was the only child to Winston and Mildred Dean. His father moved the family to Santa Monica, but moved James back to Indiana after his mother passed away from cancer. James Dean attended law school at Santa Monica College, but then transferred to UCLA to major in theatre. He then moved to New York City and joined the Actor’s Studio. His first two major films, a book adaptation of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden and the teen classic Rebel Without a Cause, both debuted in 1955. Dean’s role in his last film Giant premiered after his death, in 1956, and earned him an Academy Award nomination; James Dean was the first actor in history to be an Oscar nominee after death.
James Dean is most remembered for his boyish charm, mysterious demeanor, his daring red jacket, and bad boy persona. He had an admirable vulnerability and gentleness about him. Over fifty years later we still reference him today—Taylor Swift’s song “Style”, Quentin Tarantino’s movie, Pulp Fiction, and Seth MacFarlane’s show,Family Guy are just a few instances. James Dean will continue to influence our pop culture for generations to come. He is the epitome of immortality. “Being a good actor isn't easy. Being a man is even harder. I want to be both before I'm done.” I’d say he did just that.
This summer I visited Los Angeles for the first time and was finally able to see James Dean’s Hollywood star in person.
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