James Dean

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Life After Death

James Byron Dean was born in Marion, Indiana on February 8, 1931 and was raised in a small farm town better known as Fairmount, Indiana. At the age of five, Dean moved to California with his parents, Winton and Mildred Dean. Only four years later, James Dean’s mother died of breast cancer when he was only nine years old. Mrs. Dean’s death sparked the decision to move the young James Dean back to his roots in Fairmount, Indiana. He grew up in Fairmount, Indiana for the rest of his teenage years with his aunt and uncle on the Winslow Farm (Vertical Files).

Growing Up

Enrolling into Fairmount High School did not prove to be much of a transition for Dean back in 1945. His attitude and personality helped him excel in sports, but even more so in his acting. He was an excellent basketball player and was nearly the highest scoring player on his team until he was suspended for several games. Dean’s ability to act got him the Indiana State Drama scholarship in his last year of high school. Shortly after high school he reunited with his father in California, where he attended Santa Monica City College, the scene of his latter movie “Rebel Without a Cause” (Bast).

High School Acting

Dean’s passion for acting was sparked during high school in his advanced speech class. Adeline Hall, Dean’s theater instructor and advanced speech teacher, recognized his aptitude for the stage during his early years of high school. Hall’s persistence led him to his professional career on the big screen. Adeline Hall did so by encouraging the young James Dean to compete in the National Forensic League tournament. Dean decided on a piece of work called “The Madman’s Story” for the competition (Vertical File). He asked his advanced speech teacher to order a copy of the monologue for him to practice for the scholarship competition. Dean’s success came from his natural ability to fall into character of whomever he was representing on the stage. Adeline Hall, although she wouldn’t admit it, tweaked her classroom teaching style towards Dean’s current roles and would do what she could to assist him in his high school acting career. She continued these teaching methods despite the few complaints she had received from other students that felt they were being treated unjustly (Bast).

An Unexpected Death

Dean’s life was cut short on September 30, 1955 just outside of Cholame, California at the intersection of routes 41 and 466 a few hours after stopping at a rest stop for his final drink, a Coca-Cola. Dean was killed instantly due to the impact of his Porsche Spyder with another car owned by Donald Turnupseed. James Dean’s excessive speed was what ended his life that day. In a way, that is how he had always lived his life. It is said that the last thing James Dean said was “That guy’s got to see us. He’s got to stop (Vertical File).” Unfortunately, Donald Turnupseed did not see Dean’s Porsche soon enough. Before the two men knew it they were both in a tangle of mangled metal and debris. Many say that Dean lived in a “perpetual hurry” and that his hurry was what got him killed (Vertical File).


Dean’s legacy lives on because was the first on screen actor to relate with a typical teenager. The teenage generation before Dean had not been given an identity but were just seen as stuck in an awkward time between childhood and adulthood. Teenagers now revered Dean as a symbol of immortality and could relate to the young actor. Although he had died at such a young age, James Dean lived on because of his success as a role model for generations to come (JamesDean.com).

The Curse of the Car

The unfortunate reputation of killing James Dean has supposedly cursed his Porsche Spyder. The car, nicknamed “Little Bastard” has proceeded to injure many others even after its days of use. The car was used as an exhibit in a museum and fell on a man nearby and broke the bystander’s leg. Later a metal shard lacerated a man’s arm that attempted to steal the steering wheel from the car (JamesDean.com).

The Following

Dean lives on as the young rebellious teenager from “Rebel Without A Cause” years after his death. He has been a teenage role model for all generations because of his three major characters. These three main roles he played are famous for their timeless representations of teenage life. His death sparked many major events in Marion, Gas City, and Fairmount (Vertical File). Fans gather in September with their hot rods and muscle cars to remember their fallen hero. In Gas City many fans of all ages gather in the park at Ducktail Run to remember the days of James Dean. You can find many James Dean look-a-likes wandering through the park in remembrance of Dean. Deanfest is a fairly new event that has sprouted in Marion in the few years. The actor who died many years ago still has a strong influence on the community. His presence is still noticed in the local Wendy’s Restaurant where they honor the actor with a handful of his portraits on their walls. The timeless roles of James Dean’s life have granted him a sort of eternal life (Vertical File). Dean is buried near his Fairmount home, the Winslow house. His grave is a tourist attraction in itself. His gravestone has actually been stolen before but later recovered in Fort Wayne, Indiana after it had already been replaced. His final resting place attracts many candles and flowers late in September from his followers and family. The James Dean phenomenon is seen as a cult, but in reality it is just a nation of teenagers who have bonded together to gather around their role model, the king of cool, James Dean (Vertical File).