21 December 2002 | arneblaze
Dean superb in last live television drama
A LONG TIME TILL DAWN was one of James Dean's last television appearances (out of 25 or so between 1951 and 1954). A Kraft Playhouse hour long presentation in 1953, it starred Dean as Joe Harris, a sociopathic young man who has been unable to make it in NYC with his young wife and whose barely repressed rage has resulted in felony charges - beatings and robberies - that have ended in two prison terms. The drama opens as he has just been let out of his last six month prison term and returns to his NYC neighborhood, looking for his wife, who has returned home to their small town and is living with his father.
Joe's rage erupts at the storekeeper who advised his wife to leave and he assaults him. Back in his hometown he attempts to make believe he has turned over a new leaf and that all of his mistakes are behind him. However, the old man he has assaulted dies and the police are looking for Joe.
This production is typical of early television dramas but it is far better written (Rod Serling) than most and Dean is brilliant in a very complex role. He far outshines everyone else in the cast. Although the ending is melodramatic and a bit irrational in terms of continuity, it doesn't really hurt the essentially way ahead of its time character study of the sociopathic personality. All fans of Dean are encouraged to add this to their collection.
A kinescope of the final dress rehearsal in b&w is available on videotape. The lighting tends to vary from good to rather dark, but it tends to apply mainly to the quality of the commercials (which are left in) and only infringes on a few minutes of act two of the drama.