James Dean, an American Actor and Icon

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James Dean
Michael Egues
Ms. Stine
Per. 2
James Dean

James Dean may have been one of America’s greatest actors; however, due to his untimely death at a young age, his true success could never be measured. He is an icon, best known for his film, Rebel Without a Cause, in which he starred as a bad kid in Los Angeles. The other two roles that started up his career and being famous were in East of Eden playing Cal Trask, and in the movie Giant, were he played Jett Rink. Dean's popularity and fame is legendary because of his performances in these three films. James Dean was the first actor to receive an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and remains the only actor to have had two posthumous acting nominations ( Howlett 4).

James Byron Dean was born on February 8, 1931, in Marion, Indiana, to Winton Dean and Mildred Wilson. James and his family moved to Santa Monica, California after his father had become a dental technician(Howlett 5). James dean was said to be very close with his mother. According to Michael DeAngelis, she was "the only person capable of understanding him"(Perry 6). He attended Brentwood Public School in Los Angeles until his mother died of cancer when he was nine years old.

After his Mother’s death, his father sent him to live with his sister, Ortense and her husband Marcus Winslow on a farm in Fairmount, Indiana(Howlett 7). Dean seek the counsel and friendship of Methodist pastor Rev. James DeWeerd. DeWeerd had a huge impact on Dean. He got him in car racing and going out for the theater. Dean did poorly during his high school years. He was a popular school and was a good athlete. He did really well when he played on the baseball and basketball teams and studied drama. After graduating from Fairmount High School on May 16, 1949, Dean moved back to California to live with his father and stepmother(Sporto 15). He enrolled in Santa Monica College and majored in pre-law. Dean transferred to UCLA and changed his major to drama. While at UCLA, he was picked from a pool of 350 actors to land the role of Malcolm in Macbeth. In January 1951, he dropped out of UCLA to pursue a full-time career as an actor(Howlett 27).

It didn't take long for Dean to catch on. Between 1952 and 1954, he had two important Broadway roles, the first in See the Jaguar and the second in The Immoralist (Siegel). Dean's first appeared in a Pepsi Cola commercial. He quit college to act full time and was cast in Hill Number One and he had three walk-on roles in some movies(Sporto 35). His only speaking part was in Sailor Beware, Dean played a boxing trainer. Dean was struggling for a while to get a job in Hollywood. Meanwhile, Dean worked as a parking lot attendant at CBS Studios. While working there he met a man named Rogers Brackett, a radio director, who offered him help and guidance in acting, as well as a place to stay(Perry 28).

In October 1951 Dean moved to New York City. He worked as a stunt man for a game show called Beat the Clock. He also appeared in a bunch of episodes on CBS. He also got accepted into Actors Studio to study Method acting. Dean referred to the Studio in a 1952 letter to his family as "The greatest school of the theater. It houses great people like Marlon Brando, Julie Harris, Arthur Kennedy, Mildred Dunnock. ... Very few get into it ... It is the best thing that can happen to an actor. I am one of the youngest to belong."(Howlette 38)

On April 8, 1954, Dean left New York City and headed for Los Angeles to begin shooting the film East of Eden. Dean's performance in the film foreshadowed his role as Jim Stark in Rebel Without A Cause(Perry 62). A lot of the scenes in the film were unscripted, including his dance in the bean field and his fetal-like posturing while riding on top of a train-car. One of the scenes that he improvised was when Cal's father denies his gift of $5,000. Instead of running away from his father, like the script said, Dean turned to Massey,...
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