Thursday, September 29, 2011

This Day in History September 30, 1955

Anyone recognize this person?  I know my mom would.  She was a big fan of James Dean.  And some of you may have been as well.  What you may not realize is that on this date in 1955, James Dean tragically died.  But before we get to that, let's examine his life.

James Dean was born on February 8, 1931, in Marion, Indiana.  When he was five, the family moved to L.A.  After his mom passed away, James Dean moved back to the Midwest to live with his aunt and uncle on their farm.  He graduated from high school and moved back to California.  He went to Santa Monica Junior College and UCLA.  He took an acting workshop and appeared in some films and stage works.

In 1951, he decided it was time to pursue a serious career in acting.  Taking some advice from his acting workshop teacher, he moved to New York.  He earned his living as a busboy in the theatres.  He did appear in a few television shows, but he finally landed a small part in a Broadway show called See the Jaguar.

By 1952, he informed his family that he had worked  hard in his acting career and finally became a member of the prestigious Actor's Studio.  Very select few ever get into this school of theatre, and he was one of the youngest.  He was confident that if he continued as he was, he would truly bring something of significance to the world.

He appeared in a few television dramas, and then he went back to New York in 1954 to appear in The Immortalist.  It was this appearance that finally landed him a screen test with Warner  Brothers.  He was cast as Cal Trask in the film adaptation of East of Eden.  He did a few move television shows, and then his epic role of  Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause came along in 1955.

In February of 1955, he returned to California and celebrated his Eden success by buying his first Porsche. He entered his first race--Palm Springs Road Races.  He began shooting Rebel the same month that Eden opened.  In between, he entered another race.  He did enter one more race before he joined the cast of Giant (which would be his final film).

His career was extremely brief--one year and three films--but he became instantly popular with America's youth.  He was nominated for two Academy Awards.  Tragically, he was killed in a car accident on the way to another race on this date in 1955.

This quote best sums up his career:  (from Little Boy Lost by Joe Hymas)

"..There is no simple explanation for why he has come to mean so much to so many people today. Perhaps it is because, in his acting, he had the intuitive talent for expressing the hopes and fears that are a part of all young people... In some movie magic way, he managed to dramatize brilliantly the questions every young person in every generation must resolve."

For more information, check out his official site.


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