(*homocinematically inclined)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Cinematic Crush: James Dean

What is it about James Dean that makes his mystique, his allure, live on so many years after his brief but brilliant career?

Perhaps it is that he did die so young, forever sealing his youthful, angst-ridden image on celluloid. He never had to endure growing old in the public eye like his contemporaries Brando and Clift. His is the image of the eternal teenager, preserved for each new generation to discover and idolize.

Yet it is much more then that; plenty of Hollywood stars and starlets have gone before their time, but you don't see their faces emblazoned on t-shirts and posters aimed at the buyers of today (Monroe notwithstanding). It was that raw, yearning talent, captured on film, that made him the legend he is, the legend of James Dean.

Dean's portrayals of Cal Trask (East of Eden), Jett Rink (Giant) and, especially, Jim Stark (Rebel Without a Cause) may all be facets of the same personality that may or may not be the real James Dean. His was the talent that took bits and pieces of himself, twisted them into a character, and presented it to you, like a puzzle to untangle. His screen presence is the enigma forever aching to be solved. That is why the myth lives on, even if the man himself did not.

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  1. I agree James Dean will continue to endure many years after I type this now. He was an amazing actor and for his age very wise. Always will his words, "Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today," linger in my soul. He was an amazing talent and will never be forgotten.

  2. Personally, I think James Dean defined a sort of cool that really will never be dated. Ironically, as the public found out about his gay past, it made him even cooler in many people's eyes. Make no mistake - James Dean was no Paul Lynde. So, maybe it's that irony -that you had an actor as manly as Robert Mitchum, for example, yet who was also a homosexual - hit some sort of nerve in the collective consciousness? Who knows?