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Would you call James Dean an icon, a legend or neither?

 

I find it amazing that he is so revered after making only 3 films (albeit, terrific films), and having such a short career....and 58 years after we lost him, he is still so popular.

 

I think East of Eden is my favorite James Dean film. What a terrific actor - such a shame that we will never know what could have been and how he would have evolved as he got older by taking more complex, varied roles. He was a good actor and very handsome as well.

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Would you call James Dean an icon, a legend or neither?

 

I'd call him both, even though I OD'd on those three movies of his about a decade ago.

 

He's an icon because of his eternal Rebel look, which never got old because Dean never got old.

 

He's a legend because of a perfect storm:

 

- - - Handsome but also "cute" and decidedly unthreatening

 

- - - Women imagine either mothering him or reforming him, or maybe just riding on the back of his motorcycle

 

- - - Sensitive, misunderstood adolescent

 

- - - Died young; died glamorously, and in a sports car, yet

 

- - - Made only three films that showed both his talent and aroused speculation of What Might Have Been

 

- - - Rumors of being bisexual but not confirmed as such, giving him kind of the best of both worlds

 

I always loved the way that in Giant, both Dean and Liz Taylor played characters *much* older than they were in real life. Both of them were in their early 20's during the filming, but Dean played a grizzled coot in his late 30's/early 40's, while Liz played a grandmother. And both did a pretty good job at it.

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This thread gets my attention due to a somewhat unusual reason. I just returned home from seeing my father in the midwest who is not doing so well health-wise. He attended his 50th high school class reunion a few months ago. And one of the items he handed me was an enlarged image from his old h.s. yearbook. It had the photos of all the members of his graduating class on it. I couldn't get over how much my dad at 17 or 18 resembled James Dean. In fact, I told him he looked like a cross between James Dean and Rick Nelson. My dad could easily have been a movie star, I have no doubt about it. He became an educator instead. And he was/is a legend in many ways.

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Several sources have said he studied his directors and questioned them about their jobs so he might have done what Redford, Beatty, Eastwood and Gibson did way before they came on the scene. This makes me scream; if only he had been going slower. Maybe he would have ended up like Brando or others who self-destructed but I think we lost a bigger talent than we realize.

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I know he's an icon and believe he is a legend. He's not a favorite of mine and I find myself wondering many times what his future acting career would have produced. I'm sure he would have grown professionally and the films he would have been offered would have taken him into the 60s and 70s which, considering the impact those decades had on the film industry, would have given us a much different Dean.

 

I have no factual information about James Dean, other than what I can look up online, so I got to thinking what an interesting projection it would be to speculate on what existing films may have been entertained as James Dean material, and, for what it's worth, what future films may possibly have been made with him in mind.

 

Without any deep thought, and based on past performances, I would say these films may have supported him well - and vice versa. My personal opinion/choices:

 

Peyton Place

Picnic

Cowboy (as a straight-up drama / either lead)

Splendor in the Grass

Judgment at Nuremberg

Breakfast at Tiffany's

The Misfits

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He was set to play the lead in "Somebody Up There Likes Me" at the time of his death so it's easy to imagine him being offered many of the roles Newmn took on. I can easily imagine him in " Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" or later "Hud" . There was also talk before his death of him playing opposite Marilyn Monroe in "Bus Stop" . Imagine those two icons together!

 

And despite popular belief, though he was speeding in his Porsche (but fellow passenger says probably not over 70 at the time) Dean was not at fault in the fatal accident. A young college student, Donald Turnupseed (there is an ironic name) at dusk entered the highway, said he could not clearly see Dean's silver car and ploughed into him. Turnupseed and Dean's passenger survived, but Dean's broken neck killed him instantly.

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PS. Yes - Wouldbestar - was a little ahead of his time. He wanted to direct in the future, and in fact, costars say, in fact, he did direct the playing of several scenes, with Nicholas Ray's tacit approval, of "Rebel Without a Cause"

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>..costars say, in fact, he did direct the playing of several scenes, with Nicholas Ray's tacit approval, of "Rebel Without a Cause"

 

I have no doubt he would have become quite a director. No telling; as someone mentioned Clint Eastwood, who would have thought Clint would have majored in directing. I can envision James Dean behind the camera and doing well to boot, but I have no idea what his style would have been. With the message-films of the late 60s and early 70s coming, who knows what he could have produced and what it would have to say.

 

> Donald Turnupseed (there is an ironic name) at dusk entered the highway, said he could not clearly see Dean's silver car and ploughed into him. Turnupseed and Dean's passenger survived, but Dean's broken neck killed him instantly.

 

A low, silver car is hard to pick out from the background on a highway at any speed. I heard the errant sedan was approaching from the opposite direction and just turned (left, I believe) as Dean approached - he didn't have a clue.. nor did Dean.

 

My daily driver for many years was a '66 Corvette convertible with just such a paint job and I had the same weakness for fast driving. I had more than my share of close calls along these lines in which my car must have been nearly undetectable at times. The built-in qualities of the vehicle helped save my life several times over, not to mention the other drivers'.

 

ol' Betsy

xeol78.jpg

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I am always amazed about every 6 months or so a new thread pops up discussing James Dean-and it usually amasses a few pages before falling back into history.

 

James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and more recently Audrey Hepburn have all become "icons" in that their images evoke emotion beyond the person themselves. I'm not really hep to that, overlooking their talent is insulting.

 

The 16 y/o kid expressed it best, "Kids at school talk about Marilyn Monroe, James Dean & Audrey Hepburn as if they are so cool they want to emulate their "look". But not one of them has ever seen any of their films or even know anything about their lives."

 

While Marilyn and Dean both created their persona, Audrey Hepburn's "look" was completely created by Givenchy and Hollywood hair & make up people in an attempt to glamorize the "lean adolescent" look still popular today.

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Yes, and I think the reason my father's high school yearbook looks a lot like James Dean is because he probably styled himself after that type of cool. It was 1963, several years after Dean's death, and yet Dean was still influencing the youth of that generation. As were Elvis and Rick Nelson, to name a few more.

 

Incidentally, my mother at that time looked a lot like Sandra Dee. So the styles of cool and sexy up on screen were emulated by both sexes.

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It is very easy to condescend and put down others for their interests and enjoyment of icons. I believe James Dean was discussed here outside of his look/image in the current thread.

 

" The 18 year old discussed it best" etc. really? "The kids at school know not one thing about them or have not seen even one of their movies?" How does he or you know this to be true. - taken vast surveys did he? have you? And are there really a lot of high school kids running around today trying to look like Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn or James Dean for that matter? And Hepburn - lean adolescent look? I'd say it was adult women, not teenagers who like to emulate her timeless, sophisticated in her " little black dress" appeal and for that matter, why does it matter if the Givenchy she wore was chosen for her or by her? (and I undrstand she had a voice in that anyway.)

Sorry but your attitude on this topic seems rather smug; Icons are icons for a reason - it goes beyond their acting talent in movies. I would suggest you don't look at threads in the future that annoy you - they'll just "fall back into history" anyway and stick to topics to which you are "hep".

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> Incidentally, my mother at that time looked a lot like Sandra Dee. So the styles of cool and sexy up on screen were emulated by both sexes.

 

Did other people tell your mother they thought she looked like Sandra Dee? Or is this your opinion?

 

I only ask because it made me wonder, if she'd seen it, what she thought about that "Sandra Dee" song in GREASE?

 

Sepiatone

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It's interesting that some entertainers are now more icons remembered only for their image than for anything they did. In the world of music, that's happened to Elvis Presley. I'll bet practically every American teenager knows his name and what he looks like - especially fat Elvis, thanks to the large number of impersonators out there - but almost none of them can name any of his songs. Kids today, at least some of them, still actually listen to the music of the Beatles, but almost none of them listen to Elvis. His continuing relevance hinges almost entirely on the propagation of his image for commercial purposes - velvet paintings, postage stamps, etc.

 

Similarly, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn are all also in danger of having their relevance limited strictly to the propagation of their image, if it hasn't happened for them already. I occasionally work as a substitute teacher to augment my income, and I was in a high school art class one day, where the absent teacher had left behind a Power Point presentation on Andy Warhol for the kids to watch. So, Marilyn's image comes up, and I ask the kids if they know who this is, and they all answer in unison. The next frame was Elizabeth Taylor. Not one kid in the class could name her, and when I said her name out loud and asked if any of them had ever heard of her, they all said no.

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That's because they're all dead personalities from the "classic" (read bullsh--) studio era. Why would teenagers in general have reason to know them?

 

Now, the Beatles - at least Paul and Ringo still show up on Conan and SNL. Also, their music is not the crooning of dinosaurs - it holds up (with or without drugs).

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The 'take' you have here with regards to cultural icons is NOT limited to 'kids'. I would say it applies to most of the US population as it relates to most of the nanes you listed.

 

For example, I have a wall with pictures of classic movie actresses. Visitors will often say 'oh, you like those old movies,,, why no picture of Monroe'. Well the reason is that Monroe is NOT one of my favorites but I don't tell them that. Anyhow, the only actresses on my wall they do know are Garbo, Davis and Bacall. But when I ask them which movies they like from those stars few know any of their movies (some know a Davis movie or two, often Baby Jane).

 

BUT I'm very surprised even 'kids' of high school age don't know Liz. Did you show a very young picture of her? Liz is still on TV every single day in ads for perfume, so that one surprises me.

 

Audrey is well know by those in the fashion world, but again, when I ask people about her movies they don't know them.

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That song in "Grease" always freaks me out.

 

I find it eerie when I think that the first time Sandra Dee heard it, she'd probably be thinking about how she was molested by her family member, was it her stepfather or father, and how off her image was in the public eye to inspire such a song.

 

I read that book about Darin and just can't remember all the details. Something like that Dee's mother first was hitting on Darin but he was interested in Sandra, and that she had maybe been hit on by her mother's beau or hubby or whatever and then to compound things Darin finds out that who he thinks is his mother is really his sister and this should all be made into a Lifetime movie.

 

Yes I know I should go google this but I'm sure someone here will correct my version of the facts. But knowing all that perversity was going on makes the lines "look at me I'm Sandra Dee, loaded with virginity" a bit creepy to me.

 

As for Dean, I had the privilege of being in his bedroom in Indiana. My friend was friends with his cousin, Mark who kind of looked like him grown up and we visited the house Dean grew up in. I got to see Jimmy's broadway statuette award, which was cool and meet his high school teacher Adeline. They really celebrate Dean in Indiana and revere his image as a hometown boy who was well loved.

 

Edited by: CaveGirl on Nov 9, 2013 2:20 PM

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Hi CaveGirl,

 

I know this thread was created to discuss James Dean, but since Sandra Dee was also discussed here is an interesting interview with Sandra Dee in which she talks about how she became involved with and married Bobby Darin. The person who posted the video states that it was Sandra Dee's last interview. I don't know if this is correct.

 

 

 

Near the end of the clip, her GIDGET co-star James Darren makes an appearance. It always struck me how East Coast Sandra Dee and James Darren sounded even though they were supposedly California kids in GIDGET.

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>What role would Dean have played in JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG? The Clift role?

 

I suppose they could have swapped roles as you ask.. Monty was offered East of Eden and turned that down, so this postulate might have some traction.

 

Then again, Dean could have been written into the story as his own character. Hell, Hollywood threw the actor's phone directory at casting. It was pure serendipity all of these A and B actors being around at this particular point in history to produce such a film.

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