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3. THE JAMES DEAN STORY (documentary)

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The Evocative James Dean

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About James Dean James Dean was born February 8, 1931, in Marion, Indiana, to Winton and Mildred Dean. His father who was a dental technician, moved the family to Los Angeles when Jimmy was age five. The father and son returned to the Midwest after his mother passed away and James was then raised by his aunt and uncle on their Indiana farm. After graduating from high school, he returned to California where he attended Santa Monica Junior College and UCLA. James Dean began acting with James Whitmore's acting workshop, appeared in occasional television commercials, and played several roles in films and on stage. In the winter of 1951, he took Whitmore's advice and moved to New York to pursue a serious acting career. He appeared in seven television shows, in addition to earning his living as a busboy in the theater district, before he won a small part in a Broadway play entitled See the Jaguar.

In a letter to his family in Fairmount in 1952, he wrote: "I have made great strides in my craft. After months of auditioning, I am very proud to announce that I am a member of the Actors Studio. The greatest school of the theater. It houses great people like Marlon Brando, Julie Harris, Arthur Kennedy, Mildred Dunnock...Very few get into it, and it is absolutely free. It is the best thing that can happen to an actor. I am one of the youngest to belong. If I can keep this up and nothing interferes with my progress, one of these days I might be able to contribute something to the world." [He worked with Arthur Kennedy in "See the Jaguar"; he would later star with Julie Harris in "East of Eden" and Mildred Dunnock in "Padlocks," a 1954 episode of the CBS television program "Danger."] Dean continued his study at the Actors Studio, played short stints in television dramas, and returned to Broadway in "The Immoralist" (1954). This last appearance resulted in a screen test at Warner Brothers for the part of Cal Trask in the screen adaptation John Steinbeck's novel "East of Eden." He then returned to New York where he appeared in four more television dramas. After winning the role of Jim Stark in 1955's "Rebel Without A Cause," he moved to Hollywood.

In February, he visited his family in Fairmount with photographer Dennis Stock before returning to Los Angeles. In March, Jimmy celebrated his Eden success by purchasing his first Porsche and entered the Palm Springs Road Races. He began shooting "Rebel Without A Cause" that same month and Eden opened nationwide in April. In May, he entered the Bakersfield Race and finished shooting Rebel. He entered one more race, in Santa Barbara, before he joined the cast and crew of "Giant" in Marfa, Texas.

James Dean had one of the most spectacularly brief careers of any screen star. In just more than a year, and in only three films, Dean became a widely admired screen personality, a personification of the restless American youth of the mid-50's, and an embodiment of the title of one of his film "Rebel Without A Cause." En route to compete in a race in Salinas, James Dean was killed in a highway accident on September 30, 1955. James Dean was nominated for two Academy Awards, for his performances in "East of Eden" and "Giant." Although he only made three films, they were made in just over one year's time. Joe Hyams,

in the James Dean biography "Little Boy Lost," sums up his career: "..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." Nexr: Natalie Wood, Gig Young biographies.

About Natalie Wood Born July 20, 1938 to Russian-immigrant parents, Natalie Wood made her first film appearance at age four as an extra in Happy Land (1943). When she was promoted to supporting roles, the young Wood was well prepared for the artistic discipline expected of her: She'd been taking dancing lessons since infancy. By 1947, she earned up to a thousand dollars per week for such films as Miracle on 34th Street. She made a reasonably smooth transition to grown-up roles, most notably as James_Dean's girlfriend in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Warren_Beatty's steady in Splendor in the Grass (1961). She was also a regular on the 1953 sitcom Pride of the Family, playing the teenaged daughter of Paul_Hartman and Fay Wray.

Despite being romantically linked with several of her leading men, Wood settled down to marriage relatively early, wedding film star Robert Wagner in 1957. The union didn't last, and she and Wagner were divorced in 1962. Continuing to star in such important films as West Side Story (1961), Gypsy (1963), Inside Daisy Clover (1967), and Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice (1969), Wood always managed to bounce back from her numerous career setbacks, and in 1971, after an interim marriage to screenwriter Richard Gregson, Wood remarried Robert Wagner, this time for keeps. Opinions of her acting ability varied: Her adherents felt that she was one of Hollywood's most versatile stars, while her detractors considered her to be more fortunate than talented. The Oscar people thought enough of Wood to nominate her three times, for Rebel Without a Cause, Splendor in the Grass, and Love With the Proper Stranger (1963). In the midst of filming the 1981 sci-fier Brainstorm, 43-year-old Natalie Wood drowned November 29, 1981 in a yachting accident just off Catalina Island. More...

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Oldies Television Notation: How eerie is it that just days after James Dean's 1956 appearance on a Public Service Announcement with Gig Young to promote driving safety to teens (having been branded as a "bad influence who promoted juvenile delinquency" by critics) had been re-aired on DuMont in 1957, he would tragically be killed in a tragic accident. "Rebel Without A Cause" was originally titled under the screenplay as "Rebel Without Cause." The studio, Warner Brothers, tinkered with releasing the film with both titles." Ultimately the "a" won out...because the young audience kept saying it that way. A screen legend, James left with us these and other immortal, moving screen memories. Much more...

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About Gig Young
Byron Ellsworth Barr (Gig Young) was a career supporting player who won an Oscar late in his career for the 1969 film They Shoot Horses, Don't They? He took the stage name Gig Young after playing a character by that name in the movie The Gay Sisters (1942). After serving in World War II, Gig became a reliable supporting player in the movies, earning Oscar nominations for Come Fill The Cup (1951) and Teacher's Pet (1958). Young had alcohol and marital problems, and his career began to wane in the 1960s, but he rallied to win the best supporting actor Oscar as an abrasive dance marathon emcee in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (with Jane Fonda). Young killed his fifth wife and then himself with a pistol in 1978.

Among Young's five wives was actress Elizabeth Montgomery, star of TV's Bewitched - they were married from 1956-63... Young was originally cast as the lead in Blazing Saddles, but was replaced by Gene Wilder.

On a lighter note, it was almost two decades later when Gig Young made personal appearances at movie theatres to promote They Shoot Horses, Don't They, a movie about depression era dance marathons (Al Lewis, Jane Fonda and Red Buttons co-starred). When Gig showed up one Saturday evening at RKO-Stanley Warner's Route 4 Cinema in Paramus he was....well, he was feeling good. He never got much beyond bellowing "Yowza, Yowza, Yowza" in the lobby among a deluge of patrons. "Yowza" was the exclammatory bark of the dance marathon jockeys.


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8.11.12 MarthaV, PA James Dean was and is my favorite actor. There will never be another like him. He left us too young.

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