James Dean Dies in Car Crash
A rising star in Hollywood, James Dean’s death on September 30, 1955 was a shock to us all.
Dean was a rebel who took the nation by storm during the conservative 1950s. A New York Times article dismissed Dean as “an honor graduate of the black leather jacket and motorcycle school of acting and living it up.” Ironically, that’s exactly what appealed to his youthful following. Dean symbolized the frustration of teenagers everywhere.
Dean’s big break came in East of Eden. He became an overnight star after its release in March of 1955. A special celebrity preview was held on Broadway with Marilyn Monroe as a guest usherette. Dean, who had begun filming Rebel Without a Cause, skipped the premiere. The film made Variety’s list of top grossing films by the end of the month and would eventually reach number one. Dean received a Best Actor nomination, one of only five actors to be nominated in the category for a first film.
Dean then portrayed an emotionally confused teenager in Rebel Without a Cause. Although parents were disturbed by the violence in the film, teens identified with the timeless story of a teenager’s struggle to become an adult. The film was released one month after his death and became synonymous with Dean.
Giant was Dean’s third and final movie. Once again Dean portrayed a sullen young man, tortured by envy and unattainable love. Giant received ten Academy Award nominations when it was released in 1956.
A few days after he finished filming for Giant, Dean drove his silver Porsche 550 Spyder roadster to a race in Salinas, California. As he was driving, a college student pulled in front of him at the intersection of Highways 41 and 46 near Cholame. Dean was unable to stop in time and crashed into the other car. James Dean was dead at the age of 24.
James Dean lived fast, died young, and was idolized by many. We can’t help but wonder what his career could have held in store.
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