He was the King of Cool. If he were still with us, actor James Dean would have…

Written by on February 8, 2018

He was the King of Cool.

If he were still with us, actor James Dean would have turned 87 years old today. He is remembered as a cultural icon of teenage disillusionment and social estrangement, as expressed in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), in which he starred as troubled teenager Jim Stark. The other two roles that defined his stardom were loner Cal Trask in East of Eden (1955) and surly ranch hand Jett Rink in Giant (1956).
Dean’s premature death in a car crash cemented his legendary status.

He became the first actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, and remains the only actor to have had two posthumous acting nominations. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked him the 18th best male movie star of Golden Age Hollywood in AFI’s 100 Years…100 Stars list.

Dean had a love for racing. He was scheduled to compete at a racing event in Salinas, California on September 30, 1955. Accompanying the actor to the occasion was stunt coordinator Bill Hickman, Collier’sphotographer Sanford Roth, and Rolf Wütherich, the German mechanic from the Porsche factory who maintained Dean’s Porsche 550 Spyder “Little Bastard” car. Wütherich, who had encouraged Dean to drive the car from Los Angeles to Salinas to break it in, accompanied Dean in the Porsche. At 3:30 p.m. Dean was ticketed for speeding, as was Hickman who was following behind in another car.

As the group traveled to the event via U.S. Route 466, (currently SR 46) at approximately 5:15 p.m. a 1950 Ford Tudor was passing through an intersection while turning, ahead of the Porsche. Dean, unable to stop in time, slammed into the driver’s side of the Ford resulting in Dean’s car bouncing across the pavement onto the side of the highway. Dean’s passenger, Wütherich, was thrown from the Porsche, while Dean was trapped in the car and sustained numerous fatal injuries, including a broken neck. He was pronounced dead a short time later.

James was one of the first ‘rebels’ of the Rock and Roll era. His early death added to his legend. He was one of the original rebels.

Happy Birthday James. You left us way to soon.

“…. along came a spyder, picked up a rider and took him down the road to eternity…”

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