Is it possible? It can’t be. I’m not that old, am I?
It’s been 50 years since James Dean died in a car crash on September 30, 1955.
I saw Rebel Without a Cause as a teenager later that year and knew I wanted to see more movies by that guy. He was great. So hip. So cool. So rebellious. And he could act too.
He wore clothes that made him look like we all wanted to look. He drove the car that we all dreamed of owning. His girlfriend in the movie(Natalie Wood)was our dream girl. He was my new hero. My first hero had been Hopalong Cassidy.
When I got home later that afternoon, I announced to my parents that I’d seen a great new actor – James Dean. I told them that I was going to see all his future movies as soon as they were released.
Then my father told me the news. “Son,” he said, “James Dean died in an automobile accident a few months ago. I don’t think he’ll be in many more new movies.”
I was crushed. How could this be? My new hero was now my new dead hero? What a kick in the nuts.
But he was in one more new movie. Giant. And what an epic performance. Still cool. Still hip. Still a rebel. I don’t remember how many times I went to the local theater on Saturday afternoons and watched it twice.
I do know that even though Rock and Roll was becoming THE music of my generation, the song that stayed in my head for months was, “This land is Texas – Lone Star State of Texas – Land I love.”
James Dean epitomized the phrase, “Live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse.”