Happy Birthday James Dean: Relive the Hollywood Legend’s Most Iconic Moments

by Madison Miller

If the number of songs that mention legendary actor James Dean is any indication, he was quite the influence.

From “James Dean” by the Eagles to “James Dean” by The Wrecks to “Rock On’ by David Essex to even “Style” by Taylor Swift. James Dean was an actor during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

He starred in movies and TV in the 50s until he died in a car crash in 1955.

He’s most known for his role in the film “Rebel Without a Cause.” From this role, as well as his personification as a whole, Dean would become a cultural icon and a symbol of teenage disillusionment.

Besides being a symbol for rebellion and fun, what else is there to know about James Dean? The actor would be turning 90 today.

Best Movie and TV Roles for Dean

Besides his role as an angsty teen in “Rebel Without a Cause,” Dean had a successful career in acting. In fact, he’s ranked as the 18th best male movie star during the Golden Age Hollywood era by the American Film Institute.

He starred in several TV series during his career as well. Dean was in “Tales of Tomorrow” in 1953. He was briefly in one episode where he played a character’s medical assistant.

Besides that he was also in “Harvest” in 1953. He played a younger man pining over an older woman during a trip home for Thanksgiving.

One of his best onscreen moments is when he got to share he spotlight with future U.S. President Ronald Reagan. The two were in the same episode of “General Electric Theater.”

In “East of Eden” Dean earned his very first Oscar nomination. He plays a more vulnerable character as Cal Trask, a man who just wants to please his father. The movie is based on a John Steinbeck novel.

His final feature film was in a movie called “Giant.” The film is about a family of Texas cattle farmers who are in a longstanding feud with their neighboring family. Dean won an Oscar nomination for his role as handyman Jett Rink.

Besides these roles, Dean was in “The Unlighted Road,” “Forgotten Children,” “The Capture of Jesse James,” amongst others.

Fun Facts About James Dean

Besides his talents as an actor, Dean also captured a lot of hearts with his good looks. His greased up hair, dimples, leather jackets, and all-around greaser attitude continues to paint him as a lovable bad boy.

James Dean spent most of his life living with his uncle and aunt. His mother died from cancer when he was just 9. His father wasn’t really in the picture.

In the future, he would attend the University of California, Los Angeles. Although, he dropped out to pursue his career in acting full-time.

James Dean had confidence in his skills as an actor. It was enough to make him commonly go off-script during his career, especially during live television. He had a careless attitude, easygoing personality. He would attend formal events barefoot and wear pants held up by safety pins.

Dean was in three movies during his career, however he passed away shortly after “Rebel Without a Cause” was released. He was awarded a posthumous Academy Award nomination for “East of Eden” and “Giant.” He is the only actor to have this honor.

The car that caused Dean’s death is rumored to be “cursed.” Strange events have happened to those who have come in contact with the car or parts of it down the line. A man once tried to steal the steering wheel and ended up with a broken arm. Other parts of the car ended up in different vehicles but were tied to car crashes. The car has now vanished, no one confessed to owning remains or parts of the car.

James Dean Sexuality

His good looks, attitude, talent, and rebellious spirit made him a male sex symbol of the time.

However, according to Biography.com, his sexuality was often a matter of debate. He was briefly engaged to fellow actress Pier Angeli. Many believe that their relationship was not a physical one at all. Rather some biographers say Dean may have been bisexual.

Others, however, claim that Dean was gay. Dean has reportedly claimed he would “experiment.”

Dean also dated Liz Sheridan. She later wrote a book called “Dizzy & Jimmy: My Life with James Dean: A Love Story.”

Dean Looked Up to Marlon Brando

When it comes to actors during that time, it doesn’t get much bigger than Brando.

From “A Streetcar Named Desire” to “On the Waterfront” to “The Godfather,” Brando is one of the most iconic male actors ever.

A lot of Dean’s rebellious and angsty attitude came from Brando himself. The two played similar brooding characters. At one point, Dean asked to form a relationship or some kind of communication with the actor but was turned down.

Besides similar acting approaches, the two shared similar greaser, Hollywood-esque styles. Outside of acting Dean also bought the same motorcycle as Brando. It was a Triumph.

According to Factinate, Brando didn’t seem the least bit interested in Dean as a person or actor. Brando once said of Dean, “Mr. Dean appears to be wearing my last year’s wardrobe and using my last year’s talent.”

H/T: CR Fashion Book, Screenrant