For someone who completed just three big feature films in his brief career, the effect of James Dean on popular culture is truly remarkable. It is not just the films themselves, but the persona and the magnetism that James Dean exhibited that attracts such fascination and admiration. James Dean's performances hint at so much more. His reaction to the world around him seems to sum up how so many young people around the world relate to their lives.
He was reared by his aunt and uncle in Fairmont Indiana and every September they have a James Dean festival there which runs for a week. There is a concert and open air film screenings held in the town centre as they remember their famous son. His appeal is more widespread though. The James Dean's fan club is a worldwide phenomenon. Pictures of the young star, the brooding pale, hurt-looking man adorn T-shirts and bedroom walls. His image, like that of Marilyn Monroe, is universal and instantly recognisable. Many films have been made about his short life and endless articles and books have been written about him. His violent death at the wheel of his beloved Porsche racing car has been re-examined from every angle. The driver of the other car in the collision spent his life being pursued for interviews about that fateful afternoon. A car museum in the US offered one million dollars for the remnants of the wrecked car that Dean drove that September day.
It seems as though people are trying endlessly to draw closer to the enigma that was James Dean. He has become the idol of every teenager who mumbles ‘You don't understand me' to bemused parents. Yet Dean somehow encapsulates far more than that. There is a confusion in his presence, an unanswered question and a hidden quality about him. As far as people can tell his real life and off-screen persona seem to be inseparable. He expresses vulnerability as well as an amount of danger and unpredictability. You could never be sure what he was going to do or say next. In the...
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