Thursday, September 27, 2018

Remembering James Dean

James Dean, 63 Years After His Death


James Dean Photo courtesy of Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

written by Bio Staff and the LA Times, edited by James Karthauser


On September 30, 1955 James Dean died in a high-speed car crash at the age of 24. Even today, 63 years after his death, he continues to be immortalized around the world.

"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," James Dean once said. It appears the world thinks Dean was a great man.

James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause."
James Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause." Photo courtesy of AP Photo

After the actor's death in 1955, Dean was immortalized as a Hollywood icon — a symbol of brooding, restless rebellious youth in post-war America. He had been filming Giant at the time his Porsche 550 Spyder (nicknamed Little Bastard) fatally collided with another car off a California highway. The driver of that car, as well as Dean's mechanic, who was accompanying him to an auto race in Salinas, both survived the crash. Dean had only completed two other films, East of Eden and Rebel Without a Cause, both released the same year he died.

The following obituary ran in the LA Times the next morning:

Film Star James Dean Killed in Auto Crash

OCT 01, 1955 | 2:00 PM
James Dean, 24, one of Hollywood's brightest new motion-picture stars, was killed early last night in a head-on collision at the rural town of Cholame, about 19 miles east of Paso Robles, the California Highway Patrol reported.
The young actor met death in his German-built Porsche sports car while en route to road races at Salinas. Patrolmen said Dean was dead on arrival at the Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital following the crash at the intersection of State Highway 41 and U.S. 466.

Mechanic Injured

His mechanic, identified by the CHP as Rolph Wuetherich, about 27, of Hollywood, suffered a fractured jaw, fractured hip and body lacerations. He was described as in "moderately serious condition."
The CHP office at San Luis Obispo said a car driven by Donald Turnupseed of Tulare made a left turn on Highway 41 while traveling east, colliding almost head on with Dean's tiny sports car. Investigators said Turnupseed suffered minor injuries.
An attending physician was quoted as saying Dean died instantly at about 5:30 p.m. from a broken neck, numerous broken bones and severe lacerations over the entire body.

Completed Role

The Indiana-born star left Hollywood with Wuetherich several hours before the fatal crash for a week end of racing at Salinas. He had just this week completed a role in "Giant," the film version of Edna Ferber's book about Texas.
He became a sports car racing enthusiast only last spring, shortly after he rocketed to stardom in "East of Eden," made from the John Steinbeck story of early days in the Salinas Valley.
Under contract to Warner Bros. studios, the intense young star frequently had been compared to Marlon Brando and both were products of Director Elia Kazan’s school for amateur actors. Dean’s activity in television earned him his first motion-picture role, plus parts in two New York plays: “See the Jaguar” and “The Immoralist.”

Attended UCLA

Another film still unreleased in which Dean has the starring role is "Rebel Without a Cause," made at Warner's last summer.
Born at Marion, Ind., in February, 1931, Dean attended Santa Monica Junior College, later transferring to UCLA, where he majored in dramatics.
He left UCLA to seek an acting job in New York and won the David Blum Award for promising newcomers several years ago, the accolade helping him to starring roles in such television dramatic programs as Studio One, You Are There and Television Playhouse.
George Stevens, who produced and directed Dean's last picture, termed the young star's death a "great tragedy . . . he had extraordinary talent.”
One of Jimmy's co-stars in "Giant," Elizabeth Taylor, broke down when the news reached her: "I can't believe it; I'm just stunned," was all she could say.
Stevens and Warner Bros. said Dean had been forbidden to enter any sports car races while the picture was in production.

Just Got Car

A studio photographer, Sanford Roth, a few miles behind the Dean speedster, told the CHP Dean had just received delivery on the new car and was anxious to race it following the enforced studio layoff.
Ironically, Dean decided at the last minute to drive the sports car to Salinas. Stevens said the actor originally planned to travel north in his station wagon but changed his mind in favor of driving the small car just before departure time.
Dean was unmarried. He leaves his father, Winton A. Dean, a dental technician at Veterans Hospital, Sawtelle.


James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor on the set of "Giant."
James Dean and Elizabeth Taylor on the set of "Giant."
Photo courtesy of Screen Icons, Inc./Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc


Dean's funeral was held at a church in Fairmount, Indiana on October 8, 1955 with 600 hundred mourners in attendance. Another 2,400 fans gathered near the procession to pay their respects.

Fans gather at the crash site where James Dean died at Intersection 41 and 46 H.
Fans gather at the crash site where James Dean died at Intersection 41 and 46 H.
Photo courtesy of Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Even today, passersby leave beer bottles, sunglasses, cigarettes, and other paraphernalia at the spot where he died as homage to the actor. The area has been renamed James Dean Memorial Junction, but local authorities say they have issues with the signage repeatedly being stolen.


We here at l'art et l'automobile have always been avid fans of James Dean, a true Hollywood Hero.  We lost an Icon that day in 1955, and every time I go to the Monterey Peninsula for Carweek, I always pass by that particular spot, which reminds me every time about this champion of the silver screen and great Porsche Enthusiast.

In 1954, Dean became interested in developing an auto racing career, as well as developing a deep fondness for Porsche Automobiles. 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 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.

His brief career was put on hold when Warner Brothers banned 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. But his racing aspirations were cut short by his tragic death in his brand new Porsche 550 Spyder.

To share our memories of this Legendary figure, we have gathered a special collection of all our James Dean and Porsche Artwork and Memorabilia and present them to you.  Please take this opportunity to tour the Gallery and perhaps find something there that will embody your memories of the true american rebel, James Dean.  

For more great automotive artwork and memorabilia, don't forget to browse the many other categories on our WEBSITE. Remember we also have many more items in our gallery, do not hesitate to contact us if you are looking for something in particular.

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