James Dean was truly a rebel without a cause. He rebelled against a time in the world when people were so smothered in Leave It to Beaver jargon, that they probably couldn’t even imagine anything other than the Beave’ being dropped off by a stork between the two separate beds of his beloved parents, Ward and June. Mind you, Leave it to Beaver (1957) was just a glimmer in the eye of its creators when Dean passed away on September 30, 1955 by the fate of his beloved Porsche 550 Spyder, but the goody-two-shoe influence of that era was ever growing.
Dean was rumored to have been told just seven days prior to his death by fellow actor, Alec Guinness (best known for his role as Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars), that he would die within one week if he drove that car. Some people believe to this day that Deans death surrounds a supernatural evil with his 550 Spyder. However, Dean himself was not superstitious and nor was he a recluse who spent his last days burning himself with cigarettes as some rumors had spread after his death. He was just a guy who wanted to live life the way he wanted. He hated talking to the press, and in fact during one run in with a journalist asking for an interview, Dean reported said,
Ah, f**k it–You’re going to write whatever you want to anyway, so go ahead and write it.”
Dean did not put up with anybody he felt was disrespecting his talent. One story told by his Texas accent coach of his last film Giant, describes a run-in with the director, George Stevens. George was showing Dean where he wanted him to walk by placing pieces of torn script out to a fence post. When he yelled, “Action,” Dean walked out towards each of those pieces of paper, picking them up into a neat stack, then walked them back to the directors chair. He dropped them in his lap and said,
Look, if I need marks, I’ll put down my own marks. All you need to do is to tell me what you want me to do, like a director is supposed to. Then I’ll do it. Otherwise, I’m going to get my a** on a plane and go back to California.”
A lover… fighter, and a rebel. That is the way we shall always remember the legend of James Dean.