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James Dean (1 Viewer)

Caproni

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When I originally got into Old Hollywood a decade or so ago, James Dean was one of the primary attractions. Like Marilyn Monroe, he's forever solidified as that ageless poster boy for teenage rebellion. His three feature films ─ East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause, and Giant ─ prove he was a maturing actor destined for cinematic greatness. Following in the footsteps of his idols Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift, he helped usher in the method-style of big screen acting. He was a trailblazer and distinctive image of Old Hollywood youth.

I've always had an admiration of James Dean. With his filmography being sparse, one has to take a interest in his personal life, if only just to know more about him. His acting was quite good, but it's been eclipsed by the image. Just as Monroe's platinum-haired glamour girl persona has swept over her desire to be a serious actress, Dean's abilities as an actor have been sidelined by the bad boy stereotype. That red-leather jacket and torn jeans almost solely defines in him a society that likes him that way.

A variety of discussion topics can abound when talking about James Dean. As mentioned, we can talk about his acting, his personal life, his premature death, and whether or not he would've lived up to his supposed potential had he lived longer. Naturally, theories on the latter have people on many different spots on the spectrum. Some seem to think Dean would've matured as an actor and continued to turn out fine performances, while others side with the idea that he could've simply been a cinematic trend that would have cooled off with age. But we'll never know for sure.

Either way, James Dean is a pivotal part of Old Hollywood history. He is a legend, a myth, and a genuine individual continuing to captive audiences.

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ABOVE: Publicity still of James Dean in the film "East of Eden" (1955).
 
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