Friday, February 8, 2008

James Dean

Happy Birthday to American Film Icon James Dean.

James Byron Dean (February 8, 1931 – September 30, 1955) was an American film actor. Dean's status as a cultural icon is best embodied in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause, in which he starred as troubled high school rebel Jim Stark. The other two roles that defined his star power were as the awkward loner Cal Trask in East of Eden, and as the surly, racist farmer Jett Rink in Giant. His enduring fame and popularity rests on only three films, his entire starring output. As with Buddy Holly, Bruce Lee, and Marilyn Monroe, his death at a young age helped guarantee a legendary status. He was the first actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and remains the only person to have two such nominations posthumously.

Some interesting Dean Stories from WikiPedia
Since Dean's death, his Porsche 550 Spyder became infamous for being the vehicle that killed not only him, but for injuring and killing several others in the years following his death. In view of this, many have come to believe that the actor's vehicle and all of its parts were cursed. Legendary Hot Rodder George Barris bought the wreck for $2,500, only to have it slip off its trailer and break a mechanic's leg. Soon afterwards, Barris sold the engine and drive-train, respectively, to physicians Troy McHenry and William Eschrid. While racing against each other, the former would be killed instantly when his vehicle spun out of control and crashed into a tree, while the latter would be seriously injured when his vehicle rolled over while going into a curve. Barris later sold two tires, which malfunctioned as well. The tires, which were unharmed in Dean's accident, blew up simultaneously causing the buyer's automobile to go off the road. Subsequently, two young would-be thieves were injured while attempting to steal parts from the car. When one tried to steal the steering wheel from the Porsche, his arm was ripped open on a piece of jagged metal. Later, another man was injured while trying to steal the bloodstained front seat. This would be the final straw for Barris, who decided to store "Little Bastard" away, but was quickly persuaded by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to loan the wrecked car to a highway safety exhibit.

The first exhibit from the CHP featuring the car ended unsuccessfully, as the garage storing the Spyder went up in flames, destroying everything except the car itself, which suffered almost no damage whatsoever from the fire. The second display, at a Sacramento High School, ended when the car fell, breaking a student's hip. "Little Bastard" caused problems while being transported several times. On the way to Salinas, the truck containing the vehicle lost control, causing the driver to fall out, only to be crushed by the Porsche after it fell off the back. On two separate occasions, once on a freeway and again in Oregon, the car came off other trucks, although no injuries were reported, another vehicle's windshield was shattered in Oregon. Its last use in a CHP exhibit was in 1959. In 1960, when being returned to George Barris in Los Angeles, California, the car mysteriously vanished. It has not
been seen since.

Today, Dean is often considered an icon because of his "experimental" take on life, which included his ambivalent sexuality. There have been several accounts of Dean's sexual relationships with both men and women. William Bast was one of Dean's closest friends, a fact acknowledged by Dean's family. Dean's first biographer (1956),Bast was his roommate at UCLA and later in New York, and knew Dean throughout the last five years of his life. Bast has recently published a revealing update of his first book, in which, after years of successfully dodging the question as to whether he and Dean were sexually involved, he has finally admitted that they were. In this second book Bast describes the difficult circumstances of their involvement and also deals frankly with some of Dean's other homosexual relationships, notably the actor's friendship with Rogers Brackett, the influential producer of radio dramas who encouraged Dean in his career and provided him with useful professional contacts.

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