If there’s one classic Hollywood actor that everybody in the world knows, it’s the one and only James Dean.
With just the right mix of good looks, acting chops and teenage angst, James was one of the 1950′s hottest stars, revered by critics and fans alike.
Everyone knows the tragedy that was his death in 1955 at the age of 24, but how did James get there? How did he become one of Hollywood’s legends? Well, let’s discuss, shall we?
It all started when James came to California after graduating high school in Indiana. The actor enrolled in UCLA for a semester, majoring in drama. Clearly it was doing him well, so in 1951 James left college to pursue acting full time.
From 1951 to 1954, he played a slew of small parts, mostly on TV. During that time, he moved to New York, where he studied with Lee Strasberg. After positive reviews for his role in the 1954 Broadway play, The Immoralist, James headed back to Hollywood.
He was cast as Cal Trask in 1955′s East of Eden, the role that changed his life. His only other two films, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant, were released in 1955 and 1956, respectively, although sadly James wasn’t around for them.
On September 30, 1955, he was on his way to a car race in Salinas, California. He was reportedly driving 85 mph and when he tried to “side-step” another car, the two crashed head on, which sent James and his Porsche Speedster flying. The actor was taken to a nearby hospital, but pronounced dead on arrival.
We’ll never really know what kind of career James might have had, but because of his short time, he will always be remembered as one of the greats. He received the first posthumous Oscar nomination in history for East of Eden in 1956, and a second one for Giant in 1957. So go rent those two and Rebel Without a Cause, and revel in the joys of James Dean’s acting. Oh, and here he is with a monkey.