The Life Of Hollywood’s Favorite Bad Boy: James Dean
James Dean was both a talented actor and a heartthrob of Hollywood’s Golden Age. While his life and career came to an abrupt end, he was nothing short of interesting. Here’s a closer look at his life and untimely passing.
Growing Up & Moving To The City Of Dreams
James Dean lost his mother to cervical cancer when he was just nine years old. He lived in California with his family at the time of her passing. His dad would soon send him back home to Indiana and become estranged from each other until after Dean finished high school.
Dean dropped out of school in 1951 in hopes of pursuing an acting career in New York. He struggled to get by at first. Dean befriended Jerry Lucci, the owner of Jerry’s Bar, who would let him eat for free. He would eventually land roles on television and productions on Broadway.
Bright Future & A Marlon Brando Superfan
Dean’s filmography includes just three movies: Giant, Rebel Without a Cause, and East of Eden. He reread The Authentic Life of Billy the Kid several times and dreamed of portraying Billy the Kid on the big screen.
James Dean was a big fan of Marlon Brando. Brando sort of blew him off when he tried to reach out to him. Eventually, Brando grew impressed when Dean began sporting similar clothing and even bought the same kind of motorcycle he owned. It was speculated that Brando and Dean might have been involved romantically, though we might never know the details about that.
Accident Prone & He Didn’t Learn His Lines
James Dean was involved in a trapeze accident at his family barn and lost his two front teeth, and ever since wore fake teeth. He didn’t seem to care for his appearance very much and would often take them out mid-conversation.
Not only was Dean an improviser, he apparently never learned his lines. Co-stars found this method challenging when it came time to shoot. Dean would often not move on cue or ignore his marks. He would prepare for filming alone and blew a whistle when he was ready to work.
The Immaculate Heart James Dean Appreciation Society & His Untimely Death
A group of high school girls started a fan club called the “Immaculate Heart James Dean Appreciation Society.” Thinking he wouldn’t show, the club invited Dean to their first meeting. He actually showed up and signed a few autographs for the members.
James Dean was killed in a car accident on September 30th, 1955. A Ford Tudor and Dean’s Porsche Spyder (which he bought just the week before) crashed at the intersection of Highways 41 and 46. Dean had internal injuries and a broken neck and died upon arriving at the hospital. He was just 24 years old.
Before That Tragic Night & His Gravestone Constantly Being Stolen
James Dean developed an infatuation with car racing before his death. He performed well in this new hobby, coming in second place in his first-ever race. Just two hours prior to the fatal accident, Dean was issued a speeding ticket for going 10 miles above the speed limit.
After being laid to rest in his hometown of Fairmount, Indiana, his gravestone was reportedly stolen. It was recovered and stolen once again that same year. It remained missing for several years and was found behind a fire station. It vanished again about a decade later and was found by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy.
Posthumous Nominations & Other Talents
Though he didn’t win, James Dean was twice nominated posthumously for an Academy Award for Best Actor. He was the first in Hollywood history to receive a nomination after their death.
Dean also had a passion for musical ventures. He played violin and bongos as a kid. His mom also signed him up for tap lessons when he was just three years old. Dance followed him well into his adulthood, eventually adopting ballet.
James Dean had a tough upbringing, with both of his parents absent from his life growing up. He struggled to make ends meet early in his career but pursued his Hollywood dream. He was multitalented and a bit reckless. And while his life and career were cut short, he left a lasting mark on the Golden Age of Hollywood and continues to be a big influence for so many.