Little Bits of History

Rebellion

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 30, 2014
James Dean

James Dean

September 30, 1955: A cultural icon dies prematurely in a car crash. James Dean was born in Marion, Indiana on February 8, 1931. The family moved to Santa Monica, California. Dean was close to his mother and she was said to be the only person who understood the child. She became ill in 1938 and died from uterine cancer when her son was only nine. Dean’s father could not care for his son and James was sent to his aunt’s farm back in Indiana. He was raised as a Quaker. James was a mediocre student in high school but was popular and played sports. After high school, he moved back to California to attend college, majoring in pre-law.

James transferred to UCLA and changed his major to drama. His first TV appearance was in a Pepsi commercial. He quit college to pursue acting fulltime. He got his first speaking part in a made for TV Easter special. He next got walk-on roles in a few movies. He worked as a parking lot attendant for CBS Studios and met Rogers Brackett there. His new mentor suggested he move to New York City which he did and got more work there. He also picked up more TV roles. He eventually got starring roles and made three box office successes. East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant were his three major films.

He was also interested in racing, fast cars, and motorcycles. He purchased some of both. He traded up and eventually acquired a Porsche 550 Spyder. On this day, he was taking his new car to race over the weekend. The first plan was to tow the car behind his Ford station wagon. But the car was new and James needed to get some miles on it as well as learn the handling. He left home with Rolf Wutherich, a Porsche factory-trained mechanic, in the sports car with him and with Bill Hickman (movie stuntman) and Sandford Roth (a professional photographer) following in the Ford. Their route along the path to Salinas was well documented.

Around 5.15 PM, the two cars left Blackwells Corner and the Porsche pulled away from the Ford, passing cars along the way. They were speeding toward the junction of Route 466 and Route 41 going about 85 mph. Donald Turnupseed made a left turn onto Route 41 and as he headed toward Fresno, Dean tried to pull a side stepping racing maneuver but had not enough time or space. The two cars hit, nearly head-on. Donald’s heavier car was pushed 39 feet down the road. The Spyder flipped into the air and landed back on its wheels in a gully. Dean survived the crash with many injuries, both visible and internal. He was taken to Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital and pronounced dead on arrival at 6.20 PM. He was 24 years old.

Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.

If a man can bridge the gap between life and death, if he can live on after he’s dead, then maybe he was a great man.

Being a good actor isn’t easy. Being a man is even harder. I want to be both before I’m done.

Studying cows, pigs and chickens can help an actor develop his character. There are a lot of things I learned from animals. One was that they couldn’t hiss or boo me. – all from James Dean

Also on this day: Meet the Flintstones – In 1960, The Flintstones come to prime time television.
FBI HQ – In 1975, The J. Edgar Hoover Building was dedicated.
Farm Work – In 1962, the first meeting of the National Farm Workers Association took place.
Magic – In 1791, The Magic Flute premiered.

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