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James Byron Dean
February 8, 1931
Marion, Indiana, U.S.
|Died||September 30, 1955 (aged 24)|
Cholame, California, U.S.
|Cause of death||Car accident|
|Resting place||Park Cemetery, Fairmount, Indiana, U.S.|
|Education||Santa Monica College|
James Byron Dean (February 8, 1931 – September 30, 1955) was an American actor. He is remembered as a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment and social estrangement, as expressed in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), in which he starred as troubled teenager Jim Stark. The other two roles that defined his stardom were loner Cal Trask in East of Eden (1955) and surly ranch hand Jett Rink in Giant (1956).
After his death in a car crash, Dean became the first actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, and remains the only actor to have had two posthumous acting nominations. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him the 18th best male movie star of Golden Age Hollywood in AFI's 100 Years...100 Stars list.
Early life and education
James Byron Dean was born on February 8, 1931 at the Seven Gables apartment on the corner of 4th Street and McClure Street in Marion, Indiana, the only child of Mildred Marie (Wilson) and Winton Dean. He also claimed that his mother was partly Native American, and that his father belonged to a "line of original settlers that could be traced back to the Mayflower". Six years after his father had left farming to become a dental technician, Dean moved with his family to Santa Monica, California. He was enrolled at Brentwood Public School in the Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, but transferred soon afterward to the McKinley Elementary School. The family spent several years there, and by all accounts, Dean was very close to his mother. According to Michael DeAngelis, she was "the only person capable of understanding him". In 1938, she was suddenly struck with acute stomach pain and quickly began to lose weight. She died of uterine cancer when Dean was nine years old. Unable to care for his son, Dean's father sent him to live with his aunt and uncle, Ortense and Marcus Winslow, on their farm in Fairmount, Indiana, where he was raised in their Quaker household. Dean's father served in World War II and later remarried.
In his adolescence, Dean sought the counsel and friendship of a local Methodist pastor, the Rev. James DeWeerd, who seems to have had a formative influence upon Dean, especially upon his future interests in bullfighting, car racing, and theater. According to Billy J. Harbin, Dean had "an intimate relationship with his pastor, which began in his senior year of high school and endured for many years". Their alleged sexual relationship was suggested in Paul Alexander's 1994 book Boulevard of Broken Dreams: The Life, Times, and Legend of James Dean. In 2011, it was reported that Dean once confided in Elizabeth Taylor that he was sexually abused by a minister approximately two years after his mother's death. Other reports on Dean's life also suggest that he was either sexually abused by DeWeerd as a child or had a sexual relationship with him as a late teenager.
Dean's overall performance in school was exceptional and he was a popular student. He played on the baseball and varsity basketball teams, studied drama, and competed in public speaking through the Indiana High School Forensic Association. After graduating from Fairmount High School in May 1949, he moved back to California with his dog, Max, to live with his father and stepmother. He enrolled in Santa Monica College (SMC) and majored in pre-law. He transferred to UCLA for one semester and changed his major to drama, which resulted in estrangement from his father. He pledged the Sigma Nu fraternity but was never initiated. While at UCLA, Dean was picked from a group of 350 actors to portray Malcolm in Macbeth. At that time, he also began acting in James Whitmore's workshop. In January 1951, he dropped out of UCLA to pursue a full-time career as an actor.
Dean's first television appearance was in a Pepsi Cola commercial. He quit college to act full-time and was cast in his first speaking part, as John the Beloved Disciple in Hill Number One, an Easter television special dramatizing the Resurrection of Jesus. Dean worked at the widely filmed Iverson Movie Ranch in the Chatsworth area of Los Angeles during production of the program, for which a replica of the tomb of Jesus was built on location at the ranch. Dean subsequently obtained three walk-on roles in movies: as a soldier in Fixed Bayonets! (1951), a boxing cornerman in Sailor Beware (1952), and a youth in Has Anybody Seen My Gal? (1952).
While struggling to gain roles in Hollywood, Dean also worked as a parking lot attendant at CBS Studios, during which time he met Rogers Brackett, a radio director for an advertising agency, who offered him professional help and guidance in his chosen career, as well as a place to stay. Brackett opened doors for Dean and helped him land his first starring role on Broadway in See the Jaguar.
In July 1951, Dean appeared on Alias Jane Doe, which was produced by Brackett. In October 1951, following the encouragement of actor James Whitmore and the advice of his mentor Rogers Brackett, Dean moved to New York City. There, he worked as a stunt tester for the game show Beat the Clock, but was subsequently fired for allegedly performing the tasks too quickly. He also appeared in episodes of several CBS television series The Web, Studio One, and Lux Video Theatre, before gaining admission to the Actors Studio to study method acting under Lee Strasberg. In 1952 he had a nonspeaking bit part as a pressman in the movie Deadline – U.S.A., starring Humphrey Bogart.
Proud of these accomplishments, Dean referred to the Actors 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, Eli Wallach... Very few get into it ... It is the best thing that can happen to an actor. I am one of the youngest to belong." There, he was classmates and close friends with Carroll Baker, alongside whom he would eventually star in Giant (1956).
Dean's career picked up and he performed in further episodes of such early 1950s television shows as Kraft Television Theatre, Robert Montgomery Presents, The United States Steel Hour, Danger, and General Electric Theater. One early role, for the CBS series Omnibus in the episode "Glory in the Flower", saw Dean portraying the type of disaffected youth he would later portray in Rebel Without a Cause (1955). This summer 1953 program featured the song "Crazy Man, Crazy", one of the first dramatic TV programs to feature rock and roll. Positive reviews for Dean's 1954 theatrical role as Bachir, a pandering homosexual North African houseboy, in an adaptation of André Gide's book The Immoralist (1902), led to calls from Hollywood.
East of Eden
In 1953, director Elia Kazan was looking for a substantive actor to play the emotionally complex role of 'Cal Trask', for screenwriter Paul Osborn's adaptation of John Steinbeck's 1952 novel East of Eden. This book deals with the story of the Trask and Hamilton families over the course of three generations, focusing especially on the lives of the latter two generations in Salinas Valley, California, from the mid-19th century through the 1910s.
In contrast to the book, the film script focused on the last portion of the story, predominantly with the character of Cal. Though he initially seems more aloof and emotionally troubled than his twin brother Aron, Cal is soon seen to be more worldly, business savvy, and even sagacious than their pious and constantly disapproving father (played by Raymond Massey) who seeks to invent a vegetable refrigeration process. Cal is bothered by the mystery of their supposedly dead mother, and discovers she is still alive and a brothel-keeping 'madam'; the part was played by actress Jo Van Fleet.
Before casting Cal, Elia Kazan said that he wanted "a Brando" for the role and Osborn suggested Dean, a relatively unknown young actor. Dean met with Steinbeck, who did not like the moody, complex young man personally, but thought him to be perfect for the part. Dean was cast in the role and on April 8, 1954, left New York City and headed for Los Angeles to begin shooting.
Much of Dean's performance in the film was unscripted, including his dance in the bean field and his fetal-like posturing while riding on top of a train boxcar (after searching out his mother in nearby Monterey). The best known improvised sequence of the film occurs when Cal's father rejects his gift of $5,000, money Cal earned by speculating in beans before the US became involved in World War I. Instead of running away from his father as the script called for, Dean instinctively turned to Massey and in a gesture of extreme emotion, lunged forward and grabbed him in a full embrace, crying. Kazan kept this and Massey's shocked reaction in the film.
Dean's performance in the film foreshadowed his role as Jim Stark in Rebel Without A Cause. Both characters are angst-ridden protagonists and misunderstood outcasts, desperately craving approval from their fathers.
In recognition of his performance in East of Eden, Dean was nominated posthumously for the 1956 Academy Awards as Best Actor in a Leading Role of 1955, the first official posthumous acting nomination in Academy Awards history. (Jeanne Eagels was nominated for Best Actress in 1929, when the rules for selection of the winner were different.) East of Eden was the only film starring Dean that he would see released in his lifetime.
Rebel Without a Cause, Giant and planned roles
Dean quickly followed up his role in Eden with a starring role as Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause (1955), a film that would prove to be hugely popular among teenagers. The film has been cited as an accurate representation of teenage angst. Following East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause, Dean wanted to avoid being typecast as a rebellious teenager like Cal Trask or Jim Stark, and hence took on the role of Jett Rink, a Texan ranch hand who strikes oil and becomes wealthy, in Giant, a posthumously released 1956 film. The movie portrays a number of decades in the lives of Bick Benedict, a Texas rancher, played by Rock Hudson; his wife, Leslie, played by Elizabeth Taylor; and Rink. To portray an older version of his character in the film's later scenes, Dean dyed his hair gray and shaved some of it off to give himself a receding hairline.
Giant would prove to be Dean's last film. At the end of the film, Dean was supposed to make a drunken speech at a banquet; this is nicknamed the 'Last Supper' because it was the last scene before his sudden death. Due to his desire to make the scene more realistic by actually being inebriated for the take, Dean mumbled so much that director George Stevens decided the scene had to be overdubbed by Nick Adams, who had a small role in the film, because Dean had died before the film was edited.
Having finished Giant, Dean was set to star as Rocky Graziano in a drama film, Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956), and, according to Nicholas Ray himself, he was going to do a story called Heroic Love with the director. Dean's death terminated any involvement in the projects but Somebody Up There Likes Me still went on to earn both commercial and critical success, winning two Oscars and grossing $3,360,000, with Paul Newman playing the role of Graziano.
Screenwriter William Bast was one of Dean's closest friends, a fact acknowledged by Dean's family. According to Bast, he was Dean's roommate at UCLA and later in New York, and knew Dean throughout the last five years of his life. While at UCLA, Dean dated Beverly Wills, an actress with CBS, and Jeanette Lewis, a classmate. Bast and Dean often double-dated with them. Wills began dating Dean alone, later telling Bast, "Bill, there's something we have to tell you. It's Jimmy and me. I mean, we're in love.":71 They broke up after Dean "exploded" when another man asked her to dance while they were at a function. :74
Bast, who was also Dean's first biographer,  once said he and Dean "experimented" sexually, but without explaining further. In a later book, Surviving James Dean, Bast was more open about the true nature of his relationship with Dean, writing that they had been lovers one night while staying at a hotel in Borrego Springs. In his book, Bast also described the difficult circumstances of their involvement.
In 1996, actress Liz Sheridan detailed her relationship with Dean in New York in 1952, saying it was "just kind of magical. It was the first love for both of us." Sheridan published her memoir, Dizzy & Jimmy: My Life with James Dean; A Love Story, in 2000.
While living in New York, Dean was also introduced to actress Barbara Glenn by their mutual friend Martin Landau. They dated for two years, often breaking up and getting back together.  In 2011 their love letters were sold at auction for $36,000. 
In 2015 Angelica Page revealed that Dean had an affair with her mother, actress Geraldine Page, during the 1954 production of The Immoralist. She stated, "According to my mother, their affair went on for three-and-a-half months. In many ways my mother never really got over Jimmy. It was not unusual for me to go to her dressing room through the years, obviously many years after Dean was gone, and find pictures of him taped up on her mirror. My mother never forgot about Jimmy -- never. I believe they were artistic soul mates." Page remained friends with Dean until his death and kept several personal mementos from the play—including two drawings by him. 
Early in Dean's career, after Dean signed his contract with Warner Brothers, the studio's public relations department began generating stories about Dean's liaisons with a variety of young actresses who were mostly drawn from the clientele of Dean's Hollywood agent, Dick Clayton. Studio press releases also grouped Dean together with two other actors, Rock Hudson and Tab Hunter, identifying each of the men as an 'eligible bachelor' who had not yet found the time to commit to a single woman: "They say their film rehearsals are in conflict with their marriage rehearsals."
Dean's best-remembered relationship was with young Italian actress Pier Angeli. He met Angeli while she was shooting The Silver Chalice (1954) on an adjoining Warner lot, and with whom he exchanged items of jewelry as love tokens. Angeli, during an interview fourteen years after their relationship ended, described their times together:
We used to go together to the California coast and stay there secretly in a cottage on a beach far away from prying eyes. We'd spend much of our time on the beach, sitting there or fooling around, just like college kids. We would talk about ourselves and our problems, about the movies and acting, about life and life after death. We had a complete understanding of each other. We were like Romeo and Juliet, together and inseparable. Sometimes on the beach we loved each other so much we just wanted to walk together into the sea holding hands because we knew then that we would always be together.:196
Dean was quoted saying about Angeli, “Everything about Pier is beautiful, especially her soul. She doesn't have to be all gussied up. She doesn't have to do or say anything. She's just wonderful as she is. She has a rare insight into life."
Those who believed Dean and Angeli were deeply in love claimed that a number of forces led them apart. Angeli's mother disapproved of Dean's casual dress and what were, for her at least, unacceptable behavior traits: his T-shirt attire, late dates, fast cars, drinking, and the fact that he was not a Catholic. Her mother said that such behavior was not acceptable in Italy. In addition, Warner Bros., where he worked, tried to talk him out of marrying and he himself told Angeli that he did not want to get married.:197 Richard Davalos, Dean's East of Eden co-star, claimed that Dean in fact wanted to marry Angeli and was willing to allow their children to be brought up Catholic.
Some commentators, such as William Bast and Paul Alexander, believe the relationship was a mere publicity stunt. In his autobiography, Elia Kazan, the director of East of Eden, dismissed the notion that Dean could possibly have had any success with women, although he remembered hearing Dean and Angeli loudly making love in Dean's dressing room. Kazan was quoted by author Paul Donnelley as saying about Dean, "He always had uncertain relations with girlfriends." Pier Angeli talked only once about the relationship in her later life in an interview, giving vivid descriptions of romantic meetings at the beach. Dean biographer John Howlett said these read like wishful fantasies, as Bast claims them to be.
After finishing his role for East of Eden, Dean took a brief trip to New York in October 1954.:197 While he was away, Angeli unexpectedly announced her engagement to Italian-American singer Vic Damone. The press was shocked and Dean expressed his irritation. Angeli married Damone the following month. Gossip columnists reported that Dean watched the wedding from across the road on his motorcycle, even gunning the engine during the ceremony, although Dean later denied doing anything so "dumb". Joe Hyams, in his 1992 biography of Dean, James Dean: Little Boy Lost, claims that he visited Dean just as Angeli, then married to Damone, was leaving his home. Dean was crying and allegedly told Hyams she was pregnant, with Hyams concluding that Dean believed the child might be his. Angeli, who divorced Damone and then her second husband, the Italian film composer Armando Trovajoli, was said by friends in the last years of her life to claim that Dean was the love of her life. She died from an overdose of barbiturates in 1971, at the age of 39.
Dean also dated Swiss actress Ursula Andress. "She was seen riding around Hollywood on the back of James's motorcycle," writes biographer Darwin Porter. She was also seen with Dean in his sports cars, and was with him on the day he bought the car that he died in.
Auto racing hobby
In 1954, Dean became interested in developing a career in motorsport. He purchased various vehicles after filming for East of Eden had concluded, including a Triumph Tiger T110 and a Porsche 356. Just before filming began on Rebel Without a Cause, he competed in his first professional event at the Palm Springs Road Races, which was held in Palm Springs, California on March 26–27, 1955. Dean achieved first place in the novice class, and second place at the main event. His racing continued in Bakersfield a month later, where he finished first in his class and third overall. Dean hoped to compete in the Indianapolis 500, but his busy schedule made it impossible.
Dean's final race occurred in Santa Barbara on Memorial Day, May 30, 1955. He was unable to finish the competition due to a blown piston. His brief career was put on hold when Warner Brothers barred him from all racing during the production of Giant. Dean had finished shooting his scenes and the movie was in post-production when he decided to race again.
Accident and aftermath
Longing to return to the "liberating prospects" of motor racing, Dean traded in his Speedster for a new, more powerful and faster 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder and entered the upcoming Salinas Road Race event scheduled for October 1–2, 1955. Accompanying the actor on his way to the track on September 30 was stunt coordinator Bill Hickman, Collier's photographer Sanford Roth, and Rolf Wütherich, the German mechanic from the Porsche factory who maintained Dean's Spyder, "Little Bastard" car. Wütherich, who had encouraged Dean to drive the car from Los Angeles to Salinas to break it in, accompanied Dean in the Porsche. At 3:30 p.m., Dean was ticketed for speeding, as was Hickman who was following behind in another car.
As the group was driving westbound on U.S. Route 466 (currently SR 46) near Cholame, California, at approximately 5:45 p.m., a 1950 Ford Tudor, driven by 23-year-old Cal Poly student Donald Turnupseed, was travelling east. Turnupseed made a left turn onto Highway 41 headed north, toward Fresno ahead of the oncoming Porsche.
Dean, unable to stop in time, slammed into the passenger side of the Ford, resulting in Dean's car bouncing across the pavement onto the side of the highway. Dean's passenger, Wütherich, was thrown from the Porsche, while Dean was trapped in the car and sustained numerous fatal injuries, including a broken neck. Turnupseed exited his damaged vehicle with minor injuries.
The accident was witnessed by a number of passersby who stopped to help. A woman with nursing experience attended to Dean and detected a weak pulse, but "death appeared to have been instantaneous". Dean was pronounced dead on arrival shortly after he arrived by ambulance at the Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital at 6:20 p.m.
Though initially slow to reach newspapers in the Eastern United States, details of Dean's death rapidly spread via radio and television. By October 2, his death had received significant coverage from domestic and foreign media outlets. Dean's funeral was held on October 8, 1955, at the Fairmount Friends Church in Fairmount, Indiana. The coffin remained closed to conceal his severe injuries. An estimated 600 mourners were in attendance, while another 2,400 fans gathered outside of the building during the procession. He is buried at Park Cemetery in Fairmount, second road to the right from the main entrance, and up the hill on the right, facing the drive.
An inquest into Dean's death occurred three days later at the council chambers in San Luis Obispo, where the sheriff-coroner's jury delivered a verdict that he was entirely at fault due to speeding, and that Turnupseed was innocent of any criminal act. However, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times of October 1, 2005, a former California Highway Patrol officer who had been called to the scene, Ron Nelson, contradicted reports that Dean had been traveling at 90 mph, stating "the wreckage and the position of Dean's body indicated his speed at the time of the accident was more like 55 mph". A "James Dean Monument" has been placed at Shandon next to Highway 46, and stands to this day.
Legacy and iconic status
Cinema and television
American teenagers of the mid-1950s, when Dean's major films were first released, identified with Dean and the roles he played, especially that of Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause. The film depicts the dilemma of a typical teenager of the time, who feels that no one, not even his peers, can understand him. Humphrey Bogart commented after Dean's death about his public image and legacy: "Dean died at just the right time. He left behind a legend. If he had lived, he'd never have been able to live up to his publicity."
Joe Hyams says that Dean was "one of the rare stars, like Rock Hudson and Montgomery Clift, whom both men and women find sexy". According to Marjorie Garber, this quality is "the undefinable extra something that makes a star". Dean's iconic appeal has been attributed to the public's need for someone to stand up for the disenfranchised young of the era, and to the air of androgyny that he projected onscreen.
Dean has been a touchstone of many television shows, films, books and plays. The film September 30, 1955 (1977) depicts the ways various characters in a small Southern town in the US react to Dean's death. The play Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, written by Ed Graczyk, depicts a reunion of Dean fans on the 20th anniversary of his death. It was staged by the director Robert Altman in 1982, but was poorly received and closed after only 52 performances. While the play was still running on Broadway, Altman shot a film adaptation that was released by Cinecom Pictures in November 1982.
On April 20, 2010, a long "lost" live episode of the General Electric Theater called "The Dark, Dark Hours" featuring Dean in a performance with Ronald Reagan was uncovered by NBC writer Wayne Federman while working on a Ronald Reagan television retrospective. The episode, originally broadcast December 12, 1954, drew international attention and highlights were featured on numerous national media outlets including: CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, and Good Morning America. It was later revealed that some footage from the episode was first featured in the 2005 documentary, James Dean: Forever Young.
James Dean's estate still earns about $5,000,000 per year, according to Forbes magazine. On November 6, 2019, it was announced that Dean's likeness will be used, via CGI, for a Vietnam War film called Finding Jack, based on the Gareth Crocker novel. The movie will be directed by Anton Ernst and Tati Golykh and another actor will voice Dean's part. Although the directors obtained the rights to use Dean's image from his family, the announcement was met with derision by people in the industry.
Martin Sheen has been vocal throughout his career about being influenced by James Dean. Speaking of the impact Dean had on him, Sheen stated, "All of his movies had a profound effect on my life, in my work and all of my generation. He transcended cinema acting. It was no longer acting, it was human behavior." For Terrence Malick’s debut film Badlands, Sheen based his characterization of Kit Carruthers, a spree killer loosely inspired by Charles Starkweather, on Dean. 
Johnny Depp credited Dean as the catalyst that made him want to become an actor. Nicolas Cage also said he wanted to go into acting because of Dean. "I started acting because I wanted to be James Dean. I saw him in Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden. Nothing affected me – no rock song, no classical music – the way Dean affected me in Eden. It blew my mind. I was like, "That's what I want to do," Cage said. Robert De Niro cited Dean as one of his acting inspirations in an interview. Leonardo DiCaprio also cited Dean as one of his favorite and most influential actors. When asked about which performances stayed with him the most in an interview, DiCaprio responded, "I remember being incredibly moved by Jimmy Dean, in East of Eden. There was something so raw and powerful about that performance. His vulnerability…his confusion about his entire history, his identity, his desperation to be loved. That performance just broke my heart."
Youth culture and music
Numerous commentators have asserted that Dean had a singular influence on the development of rock and roll music. According to David R. Shumway, a researcher in American culture and cultural theory at Carnegie Mellon University, Dean was the first iconic figure of youthful rebellion and "a harbinger of youth-identity politics". The persona Dean projected in his movies, especially Rebel Without a Cause, influenced Elvis Presley and many other musicians who followed, including the American rockers Eddie Cochran and Gene Vincent.
In their book, Live Fast, Die Young: The Wild Ride of Making Rebel Without a Cause, Lawrence Frascella and Al Weisel wrote, "Ironically, though Rebel had no rock music on its soundtrack, the film's sensibility—and especially the defiant attitude and effortless cool of James Dean—would have a great impact on rock. The music media would often see Dean and rock as inextricably linked [...] The industry trade magazine Music Connection even went so far as to call Dean 'the first rock star'."
As rock and roll became a revolutionary force that affected the culture of countries around the world, Dean acquired a mythic status that cemented his place as a rock and roll icon. Dean himself listened to music ranging from African tribal music to the modern classical music of Stravinsky and Bartók, as well as to contemporary singers such as Frank Sinatra. While the magnetism and charisma manifested by Dean onscreen appealed to people of all ages and sexuality, his persona of youthful rebellion provided a template for succeeding generations of youth to model themselves on.
In his book, The Origins of Cool in Postwar America, Joel Dinerstein describes how Dean and Marlon Brando eroticized the rebel archetype in film, and how Elvis Presley, following their lead, did the same in music. Dinerstein details the dynamics of this eroticization and its effect on teenage girls with few sexual outlets. Presley said in a 1956 interview with Lloyd Shearer for Parade magazine, "I've made a study of Marlon Brando. And I've made a study of poor Jimmy Dean. I've made a study of myself, and I know why girls, at least the young 'uns, go for us. We're sullen, we're broodin', we're something of a menace. I don't understand it exactly, but that's what the girls like in men. I don't know anything about Hollywood, but I know you can't be sexy if you smile. You can't be a rebel if you grin."
Dean and Presley have often been represented in academic literature and journalism as embodying the frustration felt by young white Americans with the values of their parents, and depicted as avatars of the youthful unrest endemic to rock and roll style and attitude. The rock historian Greil Marcus characterized them as symbols of tribal teenage identity which provided an image that young people in the 1950s could relate to and imitate. In the book Lonely Places, Dangerous Ground: Nicholas Ray in American Cinema, Paul Anthony Johnson wrote that Dean's acting in Rebel Without a Cause provided a "performance model for Presley, Buddy Holly, and Bob Dylan, all of whom borrowed elements of Dean's performance in their own carefully constructed star personas". Frascella and Weisel wrote, "As rock music became the defining expression of youth in the 1960s, the influence of Rebel was conveyed to a new generation."
Rock musicians as diverse as Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan, and David Bowie regarded Dean as a formative influence. The playwright and actor Sam Shepard interviewed Dylan in 1986 and wrote a play based on their conversation, in which Dylan discusses the early influence of Dean on him personally. A young Bob Dylan, still in his folk music period, consciously evoked Dean visually on the cover of his album, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan (1963), and later on Highway 61 Revisited (1965), cultivating an image that his biographer Bob Spitz called "James Dean with a guitar". Dean has long been invoked in the lyrics of rock songs, famously in songs such as "A Young Man Is Gone" by the Beach Boys (1963), "James Dean" by the Eagles (1974), and "James Dean" by the Goo Goo Dolls (1989). Musician Taylor Swift referenced him in "Style" (2014).
Today, Dean is often considered an icon because of his perceived experimental take on life, which included his ambivalent sexuality. The Gay Times Readers' Awards cited him as the greatest male gay icon of all time. When questioned about his sexual orientation, Dean is reported to have said, "No, I am not a homosexual. But I'm also not going to go through life with one hand tied behind my back."
Journalist Joe Hyams suggests that any gay activity Dean might have been involved in appears to have been strictly "for trade", as a means of advancing his career. Some point to Dean’s involvement with Rogers Brackett as evidence of this. William Bast referred to Dean as Brackett’s “kept boy” and once found a grotesque depiction of a lizard with the head of Brackett in a sketchbook belonging to Dean. Brackett was quoted saying about their relationship, "I loved him and Jimmy loved me. If it was a father-son relationship, it was also somewhat incestuous." James Bellah, the son of James Warner Bellah who was a friend of Dean's at UCLA, stated, "Dean was a user. I don't think he was homosexual. But if he could get something by performing an act....Once...at an agent's office, Dean told me that he had spent the summer as a 'professional house guest' on Fire Island." Mark Rydell also stated, "I don't think he was essentially homosexual. I think that he had very big appetites, and I think he exercised them."
However, the "trade only" notion is contradicted by several Dean biographers. Aside from Bast's account of his own relationship with Dean, Dean's fellow motorcyclist and "Night Watch" member, John Gilmore, claimed that he and Dean "experimented" with gay sex on multiple occasions in New York, describing their sexual encounters as "Bad boys playing bad boys while opening up the bisexual sides of ourselves." Gilmore later stated that he believed Dean was more so gay than bisexual. 
On the subject of Dean’s sexuality, Rebel director Nicholas Ray is on record saying, “James Dean was not straight, he was not gay, he was bisexual. That seems to confuse people, or they just ignore the facts. Some—most—will say he was heterosexual, and there's some proof for that, apart from the usual dating of actresses his age. Others will say no, he was gay, and there's some proof for that too, keeping in mind that it's always tougher to get that kind of proof. But Jimmy himself said more than once that he swung both ways, so why all the mystery or confusion?"  Martin Landau, a good friend of Dean’s whom he met at the Actors Studio, stated, "A lot of people say Jimmy was hell-bent on killing himself. Not true. A lot of gay guys make him out to be gay. Not true. When Jimmy and I were together we'd talk about girls. Actors and girls. We were kids in our early 20s. That was what we aspired to." Elizabeth Taylor, with whom Dean had become friends with while working together on Giant, referred to Dean as gay during a speech at the GLAAD Media Awards in 2001. When questioned about Dean’s sexuality by Kevin Sessums for POZ Magazine, Taylor responded, “He hadn't made up his mind. He was only 24 when he died. But he was certainly fascinated by women. He flirted around. He and I … twinkled.” 
- The Metamorphosis (1952) – based on the short story by Franz Kafka
- The Scarecrow (1954)
- Women of Trachis (1954) – translation by Ezra Pound
This section needs additional citations for verification. (September 2018)
|1951||Fixed Bayonets!||Doggie||Samuel Fuller||Uncredited|
|1952||Sailor Beware||Boxing Trainer||Hal Walker||Uncredited|
|1952||Deadline – U.S.A.||Copyboy||Richard Brooks||Uncredited|
|1952||Has Anybody Seen My Gal?||Youth at Soda Fountain||Douglas Sirk||Uncredited|
|1953||Trouble Along the Way||Football Spectator||Michael Curtiz||Uncredited|
|1955||East of Eden||Cal Trask||Elia Kazan||Golden Globe Special Achievement Award for Best Dramatic Actor|
Jussi Award for Best Foreign Actor
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor
|1955||Rebel Without a Cause||Jim Stark||Nicholas Ray||Nominated – BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor|
|1956||Giant||Jett Rink||George Stevens||Nominated – Academy Award for Best Actor|
|1951||Family Theater||John the Apostle||Episode: "Hill Number One: A Story of Faith and Inspiration"|
|1951||The Bigelow Theatre||Hank||Episode: "T.K.O."|
|1951||The Stu Erwin Show||Randy||Episode: "Jackie Knows All"|
|1952||CBS Television Workshop||G.I.||Episode: "Into the Valley"|
|1952||Hallmark Hall of Fame||Bradford||Episode: "Forgotten Children"|
|1952||The Web||Himself||Episode: "Sleeping Dogs"|
|1952–1953||Kraft Television Theatre||Various Characters||Episodes: "Prologue to Glory", "Keep Our Honor Bright" and "A Long Time Till Dawn"|
|1952–1955||Lux Video Theatre||Various Characters||Episodes: "The Foggy, Foggy Dew" and "The Life of Emile Zola"|
|1953||The Kate Smith Hour||The Messenger||Episode: "The Hound of Heaven"|
|1953||You Are There||Robert Ford||Episode: "The Capture of Jesse James"|
|1953||Treasury Men in Action||Various Characters||Episodes: "The Case of the Watchful Dog" and "The Case of the Sawed-Off Shotgun"|
|1953||Tales of Tomorrow||Ralph||Episode: "The Evil Within"|
|1953||Westinghouse Studio One||Various Characters||Episodes: "Ten Thousand Horses Singing", "Abraham Lincoln" and "Sentence of Death"|
|1953||The Big Story||Rex Newman||Episode: "Rex Newman, Reporter for the Globe and News"|
|1953||Omnibus||Bronco Evans||Episode: "Glory in the Flower"|
|1953||Campbell Summer Soundstage||Various Characters||Episodes: "Something for an Empty Briefcase" and "Life Sentence"|
|1953||Armstrong Circle Theatre||Joey Frasier||Episode: "The Bells of Cockaigne"|
|1953||Robert Montgomery Presents||Paul Zalinka||Episode: "Harvest"|
|1953–1954||Danger||Various Characters||Episodes: "No Room", "Death Is My Neighbor", "The Little Woman" and "Padlocks"|
|1954||The Philco Television Playhouse||Rob||Episode: "Run Like a Thief"|
|1954||General Electric Theater||Various Characters||Episodes: "I'm a Fool" and "The Dark, Dark Hours"|
|1955||The United States Steel Hour||Fernand Lagarde||Episode: "The Thief"|
|1955||Schlitz Playhouse||Jeffrey Latham||Episode: "The Unlighted Road"|
- James Dean also known as James Dean: Portrait of a Friend (1976) with Stephen McHattie as James Dean
- James Dean: The First American Teenager (1976), a television biography that includes interviews with Sal Mineo, Natalie Wood and Nicholas Ray.
- Forever James Dean (1988), Warner Home Video (1995)
- James Dean: The Final Day features interviews with William Bast, Liz Sheridan and Maila Nurmi. Dean's bisexuality is openly discussed. Episode of Naked Hollywood television miniseries produced by The Oxford Film Company in association the BBC, aired in the US on the A&E Network, 1991.
- James Dean: Race with Destiny (1997) directed by Mardi Rustam, starring Casper Van Dien as James Dean.
- James Dean (fictionalized TV biographical film) (2001) with James Franco as James Dean
- James Dean – Outside the Lines (2002), episode of Biography, US television documentary includes interviews with Rod Steiger, William Bast, and Martin Landau (2002).
- Living Famously: James Dean, Australian television biography includes interviews with Martin Landau, Betsy Palmer, William Bast, and Bob Hinkle (2003, 2006).
- James Dean – Kleiner Prinz, Little Bastard aka James Dean – Little Prince, Little Bastard, German television biography, includes interviews with William Bast, Marcus Winslow Jr, Robert Heller (2005)
- Sense Memories (PBS American Masters television biography) (2005)
- James Dean – Mit Vollgas durchs Leben, Austrian television biography includes interviews with Rolf Weutherich and William Bast (2005).
- Two Friendly Ghosts (2012)
- Joshua Tree, 1951: A Portrait of James Dean (2012), with James Preston as James Dean.
- Life (2015). Directed by Anton Corbijn, starring Dane DeHaan as Dean.
- List of oldest and youngest Academy Award winners and nominees – Youngest nominees for Best Actor in a Leading Role
- List of LGBTQ Academy Award winners and nominees — Best Actor in a Leading Role nominees alleged to be LGBTQ
- List of actors with Academy Award nominations
- List of actors with two or more Academy Award nominations in acting categories
- Goodman, Ezra (September 24, 1956). "Delirium over dead star". Life. Vol. 41 No. 13. pp. 75–88.CS1 maint: location (link)
- David S. Kidder; Noah D. Oppenheim (October 14, 2008). The Intellectual Devotional Modern Culture: Revive Your Mind, Complete Your Education, and Converse Confidently with the Culturati. Rodale. p. 228. ISBN 978-1-60529-793-4. Retrieved July 21, 2013.
Dean was the first to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for acting and is the only actor to have received two such posthumous nominations.
- "AFI's 100 Years...100 Stars". American Film Institute.
- Chris Epting (June 1, 2009). The Birthplace Book: A Guide to Birth Sites of Famous People, Places, & Things. Stackpole Books. p. 163. ISBN 978-0-8117-4018-0.
- David Dalton (2001). James Dean: The Mutant King : a Biography. Chicago Review Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-1-55652-398-4.
- George C. Perry (2005). James Dean. DK Publishing, Incorporated. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-7566-0934-4.
- Michael DeAngelis (August 15, 2001). Gay Fandom and Crossover Stardom: James Dean, Mel Gibson, and Keanu Reeves. Duke University Press. p. 97. ISBN 0-8223-2738-4.
- Val Holley (September 1991). James Dean: Tribute to a Rebel. Publications International. p. 18. ISBN 978-1-56173-148-0.
- Robert Tanitch (1997). The Unknown James Dean. Batsford. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-7134-8034-4.
- Marie Clayton (January 1, 2004). James Dean: A Life in Pictures. Barnes and Noble Books. ISBN 978-0-7607-5614-0.
- Billy J. Harbin; Kim Marra; Robert A. Schanke (2005). The Gay & Lesbian Theatrical Legacy: A Biographical Dictionary of Major Figures in American Stage History in the Pre-Stonewall Era. University of Michigan Press. pp. 133–134. ISBN 0-472-06858-X.
- See also Joe and Jay Hyams, James Dean: Little Boy Lost (1992), p. 20, who present an account alleging Dean's molestation as a teenager by his early mentor DeWeerd and describe it as Dean's first homosexual encounter (although DeWeerd himself largely portrayed his relationship with Dean as a completely conventional one).
- Paul Alexander, Boulevard of Broken Dreams: The Life, Times, and Legend of James Dean, Viking, 1994, p. 44.
- Sessums, Kevin (March 23, 2011). "Elizabeth Taylor Interview About Her AIDS Advocacy, Plus Stars Remember". The Daily Beast. Retrieved March 24, 2011.
- Michael Ferguson (2003). Idol Worship: A Shameless Celebration of Male Beauty in the Movies. STARbooks Press. p. 106. ISBN 978-1-891855-48-1.
- "Notable Actors | UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television". Tft.ucla.edu. February 11, 2010. Archived from the original on July 13, 2010. Retrieved October 16, 2010.
- Karen Clemens Warrick (2006). James Dean: Dream as If You'll Live Forever. Enslow Publishers, Inc. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-7660-2537-0.
- Richard Alleman (2005). Hollywood: The Movie Lover's Guide : The Ultimate Insider Tour To Movie Los Angeles. Broadway Books. p. 330. ISBN 978-0-7679-1635-6.
- Joyce Chandler (September 27, 2007). James Dean: A Rebel with a Cause: A Fans Tribute. AuthorHouse. p. 73. ISBN 978-1-4670-9575-4.
- "The unseen James Dean". The Times. London. March 6, 2005. Retrieved January 6, 2010.
- "Notable Alumni Actors". UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. Archived from the original on October 6, 2014. Retrieved September 29, 2014.
- Claudia Springer (March 1, 2007). James Dean Transfigured: The Many Faces of Rebel Iconography. University of Texas Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-292-71444-1.
- Keith Elliot Greenberg (August 1, 2015). Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die - James Dean's Final Hours: James Dean's Final Hours. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. p. 69. ISBN 978-1-4950-5041-1.
- The Editors of LIFE (October 1, 2016). LIFE James Dean: A Rebel's Life in Pictures. Time Incorporated Books. p. 25. ISBN 978-1-68330-550-7.
- Tony Curtis (October 6, 2009). American Prince: A Memoir. Crown Publishing Group. p. 124. ISBN 978-0-307-40856-3.
- R. Barton Palmer (2010). Larger Than Life: Movie Stars of the 1950s. Rutgers University Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-0-8135-4766-4.
- David Wallace (April 1, 2003). Hollywoodland. Thorndike Press. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-7862-5203-9.
- Bast 2006
- On Dean's relationship with Brackett, see also Hyams, James Dean: Little Boy Lost, p. 79.
- "What James Dean could teach Matt Damon about keeping your sexuality "one of those mysteries"". salon.com. September 30, 2015.
- Warrick, Karen Clemens (2006). James Dean: Dream as If You'll Live Forever. Enslow Publishers, Inc. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-7660-2537-0. Retrieved October 5, 2016.
- David Dalton (2001). James Dean: The Mutant King : a Biography. Chicago Review Press. p. 79. ISBN 978-1-55652-398-4.
- Claudia Springer (May 17, 2013). James Dean Transfigured: The Many Faces of Rebel Iconography. University of Texas Press. pp. 14–15. ISBN 978-0-292-75288-7.
- Lou Lumenick (April 8, 2010). "Revival Circuit: Stopping the presses at Film Forum". New York Post. Archived from the original on August 12, 2020. Retrieved August 12, 2020.
- Leonard Maltin (September 29, 2015). Turner Classic Movies Presents Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide: From the Silent Era Through 1965: Third Edition. Penguin Publishing Group. p. 135. ISBN 978-0-698-19729-9.
- Reise, R. The Unabridged James Dean, 1991
- Michael J. Meyer; Henry Veggian (2013). East of Eden.: New and Recent Essays. Rodopi. p. 168. ISBN 978-94-012-0968-7.
- Holley, pp. x–196.
- Perry, pp. 109–226.
- Rathgeb, Douglas L. (2004). The Making of Rebel Without a Cause. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland. p. 20. ISBN 0-7864-1976-8.
- Bruce Levene (1994). James Dean in Mendocino: The Filming of East of Eden. Pacific Transcriptions. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-933391-13-0.
- Karen Clemens Warrick (2006). James Dean: Dream as If You'll Live Forever. Enslow Publishers, Inc. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-7660-2537-0.
- Perry 2005, p. 203
- Robert A. Osborne (1979). Academy Awards Oscar Annual. ESE California. p. 60.
- Murray Pomerance (2010). "James Stewart and James Dean". In R. Barton Palmer (ed.). Larger Than Life: Movie Stars of the 1950s. Rutgers University Press. p. 80. ISBN 978-0-8135-4766-4.
- Films and Filming. Hansom Books. 1986. p. 9.
- Claudia Springer (May 17, 2013). James Dean Transfigured: The Many Faces of Rebel Iconography. University of Texas Press. p. 2. ISBN 978-0-292-75288-7.
- Kenneth Krauss (May 1, 2014). Male Beauty: Postwar Masculinity in Theater, Film, and Physique Magazines. SUNY Press. p. 171. ISBN 978-1-4384-5001-8.
- Davidson Sorkin, Amy (March 24, 2011). "How Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean Grew Old". The New Yorker. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
- Ray, Nicholas (February 10, 2016). "James Dean, the Actor as a Young Man: 'Rebel Without a Cause' Director Nicholas Ray Remembers the 'Impossible' Artist". The Daily Beast. Retrieved October 14, 2018.
- Perry, George, James Dean, London, New York: DK Publishing, 2005, p. 68 ("Authorized by the James Dean Estate")
- Bast 2006, pp. 133, 183–232
- Dalton, David. James Dean: The Mutant King: A Biography, Chicago Review Press (1974) p. 151
- William Bast, James Dean: a Biography, New York: Ballantine Books, 1956
- William Bast, James Dean: a Biography, New York: Ballantine Books, 1956.
- Riese, Randall, The Unabridged James Dean: His Life from A to Z, Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1991, pp. 41, 238
- Alexander, Paul, Boulevard of Broken Dreams: The Life, Times, and Legend of James Dean, New York: Viking, 1994, p. 87
- Bast 2006, pp. 133, 150, 183
- Liz Sheridan, Dizzy & Jimmy (ReganBooks HarperCollins, 2000), pp. 144–151.
- Lipton, Michael A. "An Affair to Remember; Seinfeld's Mom, Liz Sheridan, Calls Her 1952 Romance with James Dean". People. Retrieved December 20, 2014.
- David Dalton (2001). James Dean: The Mutant King: A Biography. p. 140. ISBN 9781556523984.
- "James Dean – James Dean Letters Sell For $36,000", Contactmusic.com, November 25, 2011
- "The Woman Who Made James Dean a Star". huffpost.com.
- "The Woman Who Made James Dean a Star". huffpost.com.
- Ivy Press (2006). Heritage Music and Entertainment Dallas Signature Auction Catalog #634. Heritage Capital Corporation. p. 380. ISBN 978-1-599-67081-2.
- Michael DeAngelis, Gay Fandom and Crossover Stardom: James Dean, Mel Gibson and Keanu Reeves, p. 98.
- "AFI Catalog of Feature Films: The Silver Chalice". Afi.com. American Film Institute. 2016. Archived from the original on March 5, 2016. Retrieved June 18, 2016.
- In his 1992 biography, James Dean: Little Boy Lost, Hollywood gossip columnist Joe Hyams, who claims to have known Dean personally, devotes an entire chapter to Dean's relationship with Angeli.
- Van Holley. James Dean: The Biography. p. 204.
- Allen, Jane (2002). Pier Angeli: A Fragile Life. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. p. 93. ISBN 978-0-7864-1392-8.
- Alexander, Paul, Boulevard of Broken Dreams: The Life, Times, and Legend of James Dean, New York: Viking, 1994
- Bast 2006, p. 197
- Jane Allen (September 16, 2015). Pier Angeli: A Fragile Life. McFarland. pp. 88–89. ISBN 978-1-4766-0357-5.
- Paul Donnelley (2000). Fade to Black: A Book of Movie Obituaries. Omnibus. p. 24. ISBN 978-0-7119-7984-0.
- John Howlett, James Dean: A Biography, Plexus 1997
- Bast 2006, p. 196
- Greer, Germaine. "Mad about the boy". GuardianUK. The Guardian. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
- Photo of James Dean and Ursula Andress dining out
- Porter, Darwin. Brando Unzipped, Blood Moon Productions, Ltd, (2006) p. 484
- Wasef and Leno (2007) pp. 13–19.
- Perry, p. 151.
- Raskin (2005) pp. 47–48; 68–71; 73–74; 78–81; 83–86
- Perry (2012) p. 162.
- "Racing Record". jamesdean.com. Archived from the original on January 1, 2015. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
- Raskin (2005) pp. 101–02.
- Raskin (2007) pp. 111–15.
- Perry (2012) pp. 11–12.
- Thomas Ammann; Stefan Aust (September 21, 2012). Die Porsche-Saga: Geschichte einer PS-Dynastie. Bastei Entertainment. p. 233. ISBN 978-3-8387-1202-4.
- Middlecamp, David (September 30, 2005). "Photos From the Vault". SanLuisObispo.com. San Luis Obispo Tribune. Archived from the original on October 6, 2013. Retrieved October 6, 2013.
- "James Dean dies in car accident". A&E Television Networks. November 13, 2009.
- Keith Elliot Greenberg (August 1, 2015). Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die: James Dean's Final Hours. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. p. 144. ISBN 978-1-4950-5041-1.
- Moda, Scuderia. "Information about James Dean from historicracing.com". www.historicracing.com.
- "Remembering James Dean's death on Highway 46". September 30, 2019.
- Perry (2012) pp. 14–15.
- Raskin (2005) p. 129.
- Perry (2012) pp. 194–95
- Obituary Variety, October 5, 1955.
- Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Locations 11495-11496). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.
- Warren N. Beath (December 1, 2007). The Death of James Dean. Grove/Atlantic, Incorporated. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-8021-9611-8.
- Beath (2005) p. 164. "All conjecture was improper. The facts were that Jimmy had been in his proper lane, there was no evidence that his speed was a factor in the crash, and the other driver had crossed over into Jimmy's right of way. "The jury's verdict flew in the face of the accepted logic of highway accidents, which holds that when a left turn is executed in the face of oncoming traffic it is the turning driver who is responsible should a collision occur."
- Perry (2012) pp. 197. "The jury's verdict flew in the face of the accepted logic of highway accidents, which holds that when a left turn is executed in the face of oncoming traffic it is the turning driver who is responsible should a collision occur."
- Paul G. Roberts (October 2, 2014). Style Icons Vol 1 Golden Boys. Fashion Industry Broadcast. p. 60. ISBN 978-1-62776-032-4.
- Steve Chawkins (October 1, 2005). "Remembering a 'Giant' Fifty years after James Dean's death, fans gather at the site of his fatal crash". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 25, 2013. Retrieved December 21, 2014.
- "The James Dean Story: Introduction". www.americanlegends.com.
- Joe Hyams (January 1, 1994). James Dean: Little Boy Lost. Grand Central Pub. p. 209. ISBN 978-0-446-36529-1.
- Marjorie B. Garber, Bisexuality and the Eroticism of Everyday Life (2000), p. 140. See also "Bisexuality and Celebrity." In Rhiel and Suchoff, The Seductions of Biography, p. 18.
- Perry, G., James Dean, p. 204, New York, DK Publishing, Inc., 2005
- David Burner (January 11, 1998). Making Peace with the 60s. Princeton University Press. p. 244. ISBN 0-691-05953-5.
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- Robert Paul Metzger (January 1, 1989). Reagan: American Icon. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 106. ISBN 0-916279-05-7.
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- "Throwback: Martin Sheen remembers James Dean and his 'overwhelming impact'". wrtv.com.
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One of them, Elvis Presley, brilliantly blended black blues and gospel with the white actor James Dean's movie persona.
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- Beath (2005) p. 21
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The sense of alienation from society and distrust of authority that was inherent in the leather jacket of James Dean or the blue jeans of Elvis Presley was incorporated into the modern sensibility of youth
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