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James Dean


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As I have recently seen James Dean's work, I was excited to come onto the message boards to see what you all had to say about this young screen legend.


I'd like to open up a group discussion about James Dean; the man and the actor.


Do you think he was a talent worthy of his legend, or a promising artist whose legend lies primarily in the fact that he was taken too soon?


Is his talent worth celebrating today, among the likes of so many other Hollywood giants?


Edited by: lizzi109 on Aug 5, 2013 1:29 AM

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lizzi, "welcome to TCM messageboard land". I hope you stick around. A lot of new people start out here, they initiate a thread about something or introduce themselves, and then for whatever reason, we never hear from them again.


I'm trying to think of something original to say about James Dean. I like him, he was great looking, he made some good films and worked with some good directors.

Of course he's become such a legend, such an icon of 50s cinema, that I feel almost as though every thing there is to say about him has been said.


I guess I'd have to say my favourite Dean film is *Rebel Without a Cause*. I've never liked *Giant* very much, partly because it's just so damn long, and I am not a fan of loooong movies. Of course you know this was Dean's last film, and he was killed in that car accident before they'd finished shooting his scenes. It makes the final scene he was supposed to appear in seem kind of weird.


As for *East of Eden* , I'd need to see it again, it's been a long time since I did. I know the first time I saw it I was distracted by the fact that it was very different from the book, which I'd recently read.



It's interesting to speculate on what might have happened with Dean and his career had he lived.

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I'm not a big James Dean fan, but I do appreciate the fact that he seems to have been a nice kid. One strange story about him: Alec Guinness talks in his autobiography about how concerned and accommodating he was when he and his wife were turned away from a restaurant because they didn't have a reservation, and met him coming in; he offered them his table and they had a pleasant meal together. After they left, Guinness writes, for the first and only time in his life he had a premonition. As Dean showed them his brand-new car, Guinness said, "They'll pull you out of it dead in a week." He had no idea why he said it. Dean just laughed and said, "Aw, don't be mean," and they said goodbye. And of course he was dead in a week.


I thought he was good in the movies he made, but quite raw. Much too young for the part in Giant, which took him into middle age. He was ridiculous-looking in those scenes. But that wasn't his fault.


Some longtime actors, notably Hume Cronyn, didn't like him because he used to pull tricks on them during their work together, experimenting as he went along. But I believe he was well-meaning and would have gotten past that stage and settled into a reasonable style of performing. He was a method actor, and method actors, as Helen Hayes complained, didn't really learn how to act; they could draw up memories and feel a part, but couldn't project it to the audience. She mentioned, at another time, that theatrical training was invaluable, and cited Clark Gable as an example of someone who had had ten years of theater before he went into the movies, and was a pleasure to work with, whereas Gary Cooper, who had had no stage training, had to be eased along by the cast, and they had to be very patient with him. I expect it could have been pretty confusing for any young actor who'd been led to believe that the system he learned was the best.


Anyway, God rest his soul.

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I'm a fan, but I recognize Dean was young and far from perfect. He has some occasional awkward moments with dialogue, such as the scene in Rebel where he tries to reason with his parents.


For me his finest scenes were giving the birthday money in East of Eden, and two from Giant: staking out the land and gloating in oil. All are essentially physical scenes (the staking out bit was actually shot silent, with only Dean, Stevens, and a cameraman present) and at least two were essentially improvised.


The EOE scene was written simply as Dean gives the money and walks out. But Dean began crying and hugging Massey (who was totally thrown for a loop and can only say "Cal!" in response), then stiffly walked away and open the door in a daze. As it happens, there is a live TV show (don't recall the title, unfortunately) where Dean leaves a room *the exact same way*, so Dean's improvisation was not dreamed up on the spot, but something he had used before and decided to add to the scene.


I don't know exactly how much of his gloating scene in Giant was improvised, though I suspect things like "I'm a rich 'un" and the psycho hillbilly laugh may have been Dean's additions.


You can get a sense of how Dean's career might have gone simply by looking at Paul Newman's. Somebody Up There Likes Me and The Left Handed Gun were both in fact intended for Dean, and you can easily see Dean playing The Hustler, Hud, Hombre, and Cool Hand Luke.

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I'm not a fan of Dean but I admit my view may be unfair since it is based on only 3 movies. To me he looks artificial. That I can see the acting coming. Of course all 3 of these movies were dramas with some very hyper dramatic scenes. I find these scenes annoying and I always associated Dean with that, but again, maybe that is unfair. Maybe they would be as annoying and over the top if someone else had the Dean role.


Based on those performance I don't know if Dean would of had the same impact as Newman in the movies listed. Newman was able to communicate with lower key performances. My guess is that Dean fans will say he could of done that, but again, no one really knows based on his very limited legacy.



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James Dean was a very talented actor. But if he wasn't such a fool, he'd be alive today. Who knows what roles he would've had if he'd lived. The CHP told him to slow down and gave him a ticket. Two hours later , he crashed into another car and died from a broken neck. The other day I thought about it. I think it was suicide. Dean had just lost Pier Angelli to another man. He felt no other reason to live. So he drove like a maniac and didn't care whether he crashed or not. That's why he died. He didn't slow down when he seen that other car because he wanted to be with his dead mother. Dean killed himself over Pier Angelli. His love for her was all he had to left to live for. Years later , Pier killed herself. Her real love was James Dean. So people have said Dean was obsessed with death. Some pics on the internet show Dean sitting up in a open coffin. Edited by: classiccinemafan on Aug 5, 2013 2:57 PM


Edited by: classiccinemafan on Aug 5, 2013 3:25 PM

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{color:maroon}"I saw my mother in bed dead. I made the funeral arrangements as a teen-ager in high school. She did not commit suicide," emphatically stated Perry Damone, the son of Vic Damone and the crooner's first wife, the late actress Pier Angeli, who had a long history of medical problems and was on prescription medication.*


*A biopic about Perry's mother is in the works called No Tomorrow centering on the three s words - salacious sex sells. It's the triangle of the delicate actress Pier Angeli, Damone and James Dean.


Quotes from the following article:



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The Human Ash Tray (per Kenny Anger, so beware) was okay. Even when he

went into anguished self-hugging mode, he's not all that bad. I even don't mind

his turn as the stumbling drunk middle-aged Jett Rink. It's too bad he passed

away at such an early age. I remember watching a program a few years back

that looked in detail at Dean's car accident, and from what I recall, it seemed

more like a case of careless driving than a suicide, though I suppose we'll

never know for sure.

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That there can STILL be discussions and debate over the talent( or lack thereof, depending on POV) of James Dean nearly 60 years after his untimely death must say something about his legend. Most who knew or worked with him admitted he showed a lot of promise, and I'm in that legion who often wonder what he might have accomplished had he lived on.






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Well I would think that most everyone is "in that legion who often wonder what he might have accomplished had he lived on".


While I'm not very impressed with his actual legacy, as others and I noted, the 3 movies he was in were very dramatic movies with playing very emotional characters. Of course he was also very young. So I assume even people like me that were not that impressed with him would like to see him do light comedy, a crime drama, etc...



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> I remember watching a program a few years back that looked in detail at Dean's car accident, and from what I recall, it seemed more like a case of careless driving than a suicide, though I suppose we'll never know for sure.


I've never heard anything in regard to his death even remotely being termed a "suicide", John. It's causes were deemed to be a result of three different factors...one being the poorly designed highway intersection where the accident took place in central California, one being that Dean was driving approximately 10-15 miles per hour faster than the posted speed limit as he came up to that intersection, and one being the driver of the Ford, Donald Turnupseed, failed to see the small Porsche 550 Spyder race car driven by Dean and coming in the opposite direction until it was too late.


(...btw, regarding the last cause, I've mentioned this before around here but I've owned a replica mid-engine Porsche 550 Spyder for about 6 years now, and ever since I purchased it my wife refers to it as "The Death Car"...and NOT just because this was the model of car being the one that James Dean met his fate while behind the wheel of one, but because the first time I took my wife for a little spin around SoCal with it, we happened to pull up between a Cadillac Escalade SUV and a Hummer H1 at a stoplight on a major boulevard, and she looked up at both of those monsters and said, You do think the drivers of those things can see us down here?", and to which I replied, "Probably not, and that's why I drive this little baby like I ride my motorcycles, VERY defensively, 'cause half the doofuses out here on the road who shouldn't be allowed to have a drivers license, don't notice motorcycles either, of course!")

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In general I like Dean's work, though it seems to me a little mannered

at times. Dean is one of those rare actors who went from being a

movie star to being a pop culture icon. Several years ago, Dean was

appearing in all kinds of print ads, for jeans, computers, and who knows

what else, kind of a symbol of rebellion and individuality made for mass

consumption. He was probably recognized by people who had never even

seen his movies. That may have died down recently, but it might take off

again at any time.

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I believe that's more or less what this program pointed out, though I

didn't recall all the details until you mentioned them. Guess it was

one of those "perfect storm" events where things came together in

a disastrous way.


Another poster thought it was suicide, but from what I do remember

about that program, it sounded more like an accident.

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Yep John, I suppose "a perfect storm of events" is as good a way to describe what happened as anything.


I just wonder how some folks could ever reason it was "suicide"?! The kid was on a roll career-wise, and must have thought his life was lookin' brighter and brighter every day.

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