25 September 2011 | sol-kay
A life cut short
Impressive documentary of 1950's Hollywood icon James Dean in both rare photos film and video clips seen for the first time since they were shown on TV and the movies almost 60 years ago. Dean who started his acting career doing Pepsi Cola commercials ended up becoming one of the top stars in Hollywood five years later only to get himself killed in a traffic accident on a lonely stretch of a California highway at dusk, at approximately 5:45 PM, on that fateful Friday afternoon of September 30, 1955.
At the time of Dean's death the public were exposed to only one film that he stared in "East of Edan" with his next film "Rebel Without a Cause" slated to be released, in mid-October, just two weeks after he was killed. But as we see in this fascinating documentary Dean had already made a name for himself on both stage and TV with some three dozen roles that he cut his teeth and perfected his acting craft in. Holding his own against seasoned actors like John Carradine Rod Steiger Hume Cronyn and Robert Middleton Dean by the beginning of 1954 was ready to make the big time as well as big bucks in Hollywood. That's in famed Hollywood & Broadway director Elia Kazan casting him in the title role of the moody and ill tempered Cal Trusk in film version of John Steinbeck's best selling novel "East of Edan".
It was in "East of Eden" that the movie going public finally got to see what an electrifying and talented actor James Dean really was. What the public didn't know was that one of the reasons that Dean was able to convey such explosive tension and almost maniacal intensity in his roles was that he was extremely near-sighted, his vision was 20/400, and had to squint, in him not being able to see as close as ten inches in front of his nose, to see or make out the actors and actresses that were in the scenes with him.
After the success of "East of Edan" Dean was well on his way to movie immortality but his premature death at age 24 cut all that short; Or did it! In fact James Dean had become bigger in death then he ever was in life which is one of the many ironies and contradictions about him. And it's that his tragic death what makes Dean the legend that he is even more then any of the parts, on stage TV and in the movies, he played!
One of the many ironies in Dean's life was that fellow actor Paul Newman tested for the part, which we see in a never before shown film clip, of Dean's brother and rival for his father affection Aron in his beak-out film "East of Edan" and lost out to Richaed Davalos for the role. As fate would have it the very next role that Dean was to play before his untimely death the part of boxer Rocky Graziano in "Somebody up There Likes Me" eventually went to Paul Newman! That like in James Dean's part as Cal Trusk in "East of Edan" became Newman's beak-out movie role. That eventually made him the major film star,in Newman taking the part which by then Dean was not available for, which James Dean was very probably descant to become!
P.S Another ironic fact about James Dean is that on the day September 30, 1955 that he died he was exactly,in him being born on February 8, 1931, 9,000 days old!