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James Dean was a legend and icon. His face, alone, was iconic. Rebel Without A Cause, on its own, would have made him a legend, because of the image, the jeans, red jacket, misunderstood youth, etc. But then he starred in Giant and East of Eden and those were also great films. I think the fact that Giant and Rebel premiered in theater's after Dean's death was another reason for the iconic status. People were just discovering him in the theaters and knew at the same time he had just passed away. Very tragic, he was a terrific actor and wish he could have lived longer to display more of his acting genious.

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I would say James Dean is an icon. I loved the movie East of Eden too. He improvised quite a bit in that film (which annoyed Raymond Massey).

 

James Dean was so cute, with the puppy dog eyes, the pouting lower lip, his crescent moon eyes. He looked so vulnerable, like a little boy that you'd want to take care of. He had some type of charisma and aura, which contributed to his iconic status. His face was phenemenal.

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Sorry, but I think that Dean was one of the most overrated actors of all time. Looks aside, he pouted and posed his way through every role with all the depth of an annoying 16 year old adolescent boy who has just discovered how "deep" he is.....

 

All of that slouching and slurring and shouting ("You're driving me INSANE...") is just too much. The only reason he's an "icon," is that modern audiences have no idea who he really is or what he did. He's a marketing bonanza, but never was a superstar -- and dare I say that he'd have burned out quickly had he not flamed out in his Speedster?

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I was too cowardly for the rants that might come if I expressed your opinion, overeasy. I completely agree. I saw Giant a few weeks back on another station, and Dean's dialogue was completely unintelligible. I couldn't see why the daughter in the story would be attracted to him.

 

I also think Rebel Without a Cause is an overwrought movie and Dean comes across as a neurotic and self-absorbed adolescent. Director Nicholas Ray did far superior work in They Live by Night with Farley Granger and Cathy O'Donnell (now, there are two really lost, desperate young people) and even in On Dangerous Ground, which was shown on Robert Ryan's birthday. Watch Ryan and Ida Lupino in that one -- some of those scenes were so full of sensitivity and loneliness that I was close to tears. Dean made 3 films and is lionized, whereas these two pros (one who became one of the first woman directors) don't have nearly the name recognition that he has.

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> and dare I say that he'd have burned out quickly had he not flamed out in his Speedster?

 

Will you people EVER get this STRAIGHT?!

 

It was a mid-engined 550 Spyder, NOT a run-of-the-mill rear-engined 356 Speedster!!!

 

;)

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>..he'd have burned out quickly had he not flamed out in his Speedster?

 

I'm no spell-checker but, had Speedster not been capitalized it would have been proper and we wouldn't be in this mess :P

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Interesting discussion. While not the biggest fan of James Dean, I would say he was an actor with great potential which was not fulfilled because of his early death.

 

I didn't like the film Rebel Without A Cause. Didn't like the premise of the movie and couldn't understand why none of those kids liked Jim Stark, even on his first day at school. He looked like a kid that would be very popular in school - with the red jacket and jeans. Perhaps they should have picked a very geeky looking actor to play the role.

 

As for Giant, it was too long a film and very boring. Not a big Elizabeth Taylor fan either. I did like the way James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor aged in the film - they were both in their early to mid '20's at the time and played characters who were in their 40's or 50's. I really didn't like the film at all. But James Dean was actually pretty good in the film.

 

My favorite of all James Dean's 3 films was EAST OF EDEN. One of the best films and a phenomenal performance by James Dean. The story mirrored his own personal life. He really was Cal Trask. I can watch that film over and over again. Dean was remarkable in it.

I also liked the part Jo Van Fleet played as Kate, the mother.

 

I'd say James Dean is not overated. I think he was a fine actor. It's tough to judge as he didn't have many films - but the 3 films he made, were very good performances, especially EAST OF EDEN.

 

I think his iconic status is well deserved and I don't feel he was overated either. I would have loved to see what type of films he could have played, more intricate characters, had he lived longer and outgrown the outcast, teenage type roles.

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Yes very good post. Just a question on East of Eden. Why was Aron so upset over finding out his mother was actually alive? I understand she didn't have an upstanding profession, but why would that bother Aron so much and cause him to go off the deep end? Also, when Cal asks Aron if he has a minute so he could show him something (he wanted to bring him to see his mother), did Aron actually go on top of the train to get there, as Cal had done on previous occassions? Did Aron actually climb on top of the train with that suit on?

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Aaron had been told all his life that his angelic mother (who actually was, in Steinbeck's words, a monster - who burned her own parents to death and shot Aaron's father as she walked out on them all immediately after giving birth) had died during childbirth.

 

Aaron was the innocent, trusting son. Finding out the truth f''ed him up good. Not that the movie fills it in all that well, but that's the reason.

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Although this is off the subject of James Dean, it always annoyed that Raymond Massey in EAST OF EDEN was inconsisent in the pronunciation of one of his son's names. Sometimes he pronounced Aron as "Erin" but sometimes he pronounced it as "Ay-ron." Everyone else in the movie always pronounced it as "Erin."

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Holden, I noticed that too. Massey always said "Ay-Ron". I cringed. There were other annoying things too, like when Julie Harris kept yapping and talking to Dean on the Ferris Wheel, in the field, under the tree, in the bar - she never left the guy alone. I don't know how he didn't stuff cotton in his ears. She was too old for the part and tried to act like some teenager in love and talking all kinds of nonsense and giggling. She was miscast in my opinion. She had to be 30 years old trying to act like 16. Also, I couldn't stand this brother Aron - he kept blaming his brother Cal and telling him to "stay away from Abra" - when it was Abra who kept running after Cal. Why didn't he tell his girlfriend off? It made no sense to me at all. However, in the end, I loved East of Eden - primarily for the great acting role James Dean played in it.

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Harris was 29 when making the movie (30 when it was released).

 

Yea, she was too old for the part. Harris had a mature look which made her look older even when she was young. Dean instead had a youthful look (he was 24), which made him look even younger. This made the age difference look greater than it actually was.

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I thought although, Julie Harris was 29 when the film was made, she looked older than that - about 40. Julie Harris was a good actress and nice person, but I thought she was totally miscast in this role.

 

Jo Van Fleet was very good in her role and James Dean gave a very good performance, but the rest of the cast didn't really impress me. Raymond Massey seemed too stiff and rehearsed as the father.

 

I think of the three films Dean made, East of Eden was his best.

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Isn't Erin a girl's name?

 

 

"Erin" is predominately a girl's name. It's also a poetic name for Ireland.

 

The point was that "Aaron" and "Aron" are pronounced the same as "Erin" by most American English speakers today although I think at one point "Aaron" was pronounced as "Eh-run" and "Aron" was pronounced as "Ah-run." Raymond Massey's pronunciation of "Ay-ron" is not correct for either spelling.

 

Both "Aaron" and "Aron" derive from the same Hebrew name.

In the novel EAST OF EDEN when Adam Trask's sons were named there was an explanation as to why the spelling of "Aron" was chosen rather than "Aaron" but I can't remember what it was. Both his sons' names were taken from the Bible.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I think James Dean's acting captivated a lot of people when his movies were first released because that kind of "emotionality" (for lack of a better word) was rarely seen on screen by male actors before --- unlike today where it is seen a lot.

 

His best scenes in EAST OF EDEN (in my opinion) are those with Jo Van Fleet because they both were actors who tried to convey real moments rather just trying to "perform" a "character." Both took risks rather than making easy, expected choices ---- case in point: James Dean's reaction to his father's rejection of his birthday present.

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