James Dean Biography: A Hollywood Legend Taken Too Soon

Monday, October 31 by Emilia Lamberto

Looking for a James Dean biography? James Dean was born on February 8, 1931 in Marion, Indiana. At the age of 5, Dean and his family traveled from Indiana to California where they would live for four years. After the death of his mother Mildred Wilson, Dean was sent to live with his aunt and uncle back in Indiana. Dean was raised on a farm with his relatives until he traveled back to California after graduatin high school. In California, Dean attended the University of California at Los Angeles where he studied theatre.


Dean landed his first acting role in a commercial advertising a soft drink. This seemingly simple role led to a speaking assignment as John the Baptist in a TV Easter special titled "Hill Number One" released in 1951. After several small roles in films such as "Sailor Beware" and "Fixed Bayonets", both released in 1951, Dean moved to New York City.

Dean didn't enjoy success immediately and instead landed several short-term jobs, which eventually led to his role in "See the Jaguar", a relatively unsuccessful Broadway number. Later, he played in another Broadway production, "The Immoralist", an adaption of André Gide's novel. He played a mischevious and slick homosexual and his role attracted Elia Kazan, film director. She later cast Dean in "East of Eden" as Cal Trask. The production was based on the book of the same title by John Steinbeck. Upon the release of "East of Eden" in 1955, James Dean became a household name and was even nominated for an Academy Award for his performance.


Dean experienced a more successful career after "East of Eden" and was later cast in "Rebel Without a Cause", directed by Nicholas Ray. His role was Jim Stark, an outcast, emotional teenager who rejected authority while also trying to fit in with the world. His role became the epitome of the teenage frame of mind which subsequently turned him into the hero for teenagers of his generation.


James Dean was later cast in "Giant" by George Stevens. After completing filming for the production, Dean headed to compete in a sports car rally. While flying down the California highway, James Dean slammed his Porsche into another vehicle, ending his life on impact at only 24-years-old. When news of his death hit the airwaves, James Dean became a cultural icon and enjoyed more success in death than when he were living. Today he is remembered as a Hollywood legend.

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