Remembering James Dean

James Dean, film heartthrob of the 50’s, became known for his starring roles in films such as Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden and Giant. Born in 1931 in Marion, Indiana, James and family moved to Santa Monica, California when he was 6 years old. His mother died of Cancer when he was 9 and young James was sent back to live with his aunt and uncle back in Indiana. After graduation from high school, James moved back to California and spent some time at UCLA where he changed his major from pre-law to drama. This led to a rift between himself and his father and he later dropped out of UCLA and began actively seeking acting parts. He landed several small parts and made a few commercials for the next couple of years but his big break came when director, Elia Kazan cast him in a role in the movie version of John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.
Dean captured a starring role in the film, Rebel Without a Cause, which also made him a teenage heartthrob. His final film, Giant, was released posthumously in 1956. After Dean’s success in East of Eden, he celebrated by buying himself a red, MG Td sports car and began racing. He added a “woodie” to his collection and traded up to a Porsche Speedster. Dean traded up to a Porsche 550 Spyder while awaiting delivery of a new Lotus MK. He named the new Porsche “Little Bastard” and had the name along with the number 130 painted on it.
On the way to race in Salinas, CA, on September 30, 1955, Dean and his mechanic, Rolf Wutherich who was a passenger in the car, received a ticket in Mettler Station for driving 65 mph in a 55 mph zone. As he was heading west on U.S. Route 466 (now State Route 41), another car attempted to take the fork onto state Route 41 near Cholame, California and veered into Dean’s lane. This caused a head-on collision with Dean’s sports car. Dean was taken to Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital but was believed to have died en route in the ambulance. He was pronounced dead at 5:59 PM by the emergency room doctor. Dean’s mechanic was taken to the hospital with serious injuries but later made a full recovery. Although there was speculation that Dean was speeding at the time of the crash, accident investigation reports indicate that Dean was probably not speeding at the time of the accident.