James Dean, the acting rebel without a cause, was born in Marion, Indiana on February 9, 1931. His parents were Winton Dean and Mildred Dean. During his first six years of his life he and his family lived in Marion Indiana. Because of a military transfer between his father and the military he moved to California. His father was a dentist and performed his practices in the military. There his mother became ill and died when he was very young at the age of nine. He claimed to not have known why she died but he said it was probably the reason he got where he was because it changed his direction.
James led a talented life where he played the violin, tap danced, and played in concerts. He also loved art very much and wanted it to be a part of his life which is why he joined acting. He loved drama because it was a part of art. Many including his family criticized him for his ambitions but that did not stop him from being the successful. He always was doing things that involved some kind of art, sculpting and molting things with his hands and that was just the beginning of it. He always felt his life was devoted to art and dramatics. When he was still young he went to go live with his uncle back in Indiana. He lost interest in the violin and dancing but not the art interest and ability.
Outside of his aptitude, he was also doing other things while living on a farm. He was involved in farming, sports, science, geology, coaching ,and teaching music. He felt very open to things. He also loved the idea of being a mechanic with motorcycles. He worked on them a lot and rode them. He was a racer and owned a motorcycle and a bicycle. When he was not doing that he engaged in athletics which he thought were the heartbeat of every American boy. Dean also like to travel. By the time he was in High School he had been in every state west of Indiana.
While living in Indiana, Dean did not like much of his farm life. One thing he did like was the constant opportunity of getting recreation. He was always doing things everywhere. When starting to get in athletics, he would play basketball in a barn close to his farm where older guys would play with him. He would also play on a trapeze there when he was young. People around him involved his childhood always described him as a young man who could catch on to things quickly. His uncle said that you would teach him to do things and the next week he would do it better than you. He was taught to use a revolver once by his father and surprised him when he was shooting better than him on the first day. One mistake they claimed to have made during his childhood was teaching him to use the trapeze where he lost his front teeth and had to wear false ones for the rest of his life.
In High school Dean was a basketball star. He played for a school called Fairmont High school. He was their leading scorer. He had brought them to beat many teams. Dean was usually athletic with all of the sports he was involved in. He was popular in High school and many like him. Though he was popular with many, he was unlike by the authority of his school. He in his High School days was a bit immature and pulled many pranks. One time, to aggravate some of the girls in his high school, he brought another girl to one of his proms. Although sometimes he struggled socially he was still successful in high school and was able to continue his dream of being an artist in some way.
At first he decided to go to a school in California. It was a Junior College called Santa Monica Junior college. Then he started at the University of California Los Angeles in Los Angeles. There he did what he always wanted to do and that was theater arts. After struggling with money, he dropped out and began working for a place called Ted Auto Park. Several of other young men worked there. Many UCLA drop-outs. There he made small wages and sometimes he had no place to sleep. He worked a lot and rarely had any fun unless he was driving his car wildly. This was the beginning of his career that wasnt very pleasant. Luckily he was eventually picked up by a man named Rogers Brackett He gave him acting opportunities and a place to sleep. Still this was a small opportunity but he was an opportunist who took on anything. Brackett slowly got him started in radio acting and stage drama. During this time his family wasnt happy with him because they thought he was making stupid decisions. His farther always discouraged him from his acting ambitions and told him that the actors involved in movies were a bunch of pansies. He never really listened to them and continued his acting career. Together Brackett and Dean were in the James Whitmores acting shop. This appeared in occasional TV commercials, and played several roles in films and on stage. James Whitmore the owner of the organization gave Dean the advice to move to New York to take up a serious acting career. the 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 TV dramas, and returned to Broadway in The Immoralist (1954). This last appearance resulted in a screen test at Warner Bros. for the part of Cal Trask in John Steinbeck’s East of Eden. He then returned to New York where he appeared in four more television dramas and completed the “Torn Sweater” series. 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 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” 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 films, Rebel Without A Cause (1955). En route to compete in a race in Salinas, James Dean was killed in a tragic 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 3 films, they were made in just over one year’s time. Joe Hyams, in Little Boy Lost, sums up his career:
Dean was an exciting person in his childhood and his adulthood. He was always active and meant a lot to millions around the nation. Obviously its people like this that we need to entertain our country.
Some book on him.