It was stunning news, even to a nine year old.
On October 1st, 1955, I was with my dad,
who had driven to the drug store on an errand.
I waited in the car and, when he returned, he had a newspaper, which he
dropped in my lap. On the first page,
about half way down, there was a picture of him with the story of his violent
death in a car crash. James Dean had
died the day before.
I couldn’t believe it. I had just seen him on TV about a week
before. It was an episode of the Schlitz
Playhouse production called The Unlighted Road.
The lead actor was this young man, James Dean. I thought he was really cool and I liked him
right away. Cool guys appealed to nine
The media frenzy started immediately, but seemed to
reach a peak in 1956, when his movies came out.
First was Rebel Without a Cause, a film that would become the legendary
symbol of teenage angst and rebellion.
He was nominated posthumously for the Best Actor award by the Motion
Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences. Later
was Giant, from the best-selling novel, in which he co-starred with Elizabeth
Taylor and Rock Hudson. Looking back, it
seems hard to believe how young they all were.
Weren’t we all.