The American actor is one of the greatest movie stars of all time. As a cool, unapproachable and sensitive “rebel” he became the role model for the young savages of prudish America in the 1950s. In a narcissistic, melancholic and rebellious manner towards social rules, James Dean developed his polarizing power of integration, which identifies him humanly and artistically as the actor of the century. In his acting, he managed to be vulnerable, irritable and sensitive at the same time. Dean’s believable blend of defiance and thin-skinnedness allows anyone young and unsettled to find themselves to this day…

James Byron Dean was born on February 8, 1931 in Marior, Indiana.

James Dean grew up in modest circumstances. At the age of two he came to the country side of Fairmond, Indiana, where he was raised by his mother, aunt and grandmother. Dean’s father, Winton, earned his living as a dental technician. At the time of the Depression of the 1930s, the family left for California. In addition to school, he took violin and tap lessons at a music school here. His mother Mildred was the central person in his life. When he was nine, his mother was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer. She died a few weeks later. Alone, the boy brought his mother’s coffin back to Indiana.

Now he grew up here with his aunt and uncle. He attended high school, played basketball extensively, and performed regularly in school plays. He quickly found his calling here. Mostly in leading roles, he earned his first self-confidence. After a selection process, he was able to represent Indiana in Colorado in a recitation competition in 1949. At the age of 18 he traveled back to California. Contact with his father, who had remarried, was marked by numerous conflicts. At his father’s insistence, he enrolled at the University of Santa Monica to study law. Nevertheless, he attended parallel theater courses to become an actor.

After he neglected his law studies, his father withdrew his support. From then on he earned his living as a usher and cleaner in the cinema, painted sets in the theater and accepted every role that was offered to him. The result was roles in rental theaters and appearances in second-rate commercials. Dean traveled to New York, played again on small stages and was accepted at the Actors Studio by Lee Strasberg, and thus trained at the most prestigious acting school in the USA. This is followed by the first engagement in the play “The Immoralist” by André Gide, which he gave on Broadway in Manhattan. In 1953 he received the “Daniel Blum Prize” as the best young actor in the USA for this title role.

Director Elia Kazan discovered his talent and commissioned him to test shoot. Paul Newman, who was six years his senior, was up for selection, and James Dean clearly outperformed him. Dean received his first Hollywood contract in 1955 with “Out of Eden”. The biblical cinematic epic is about Cain and Abel from the perspective of rural California: Dean embodied “Cal Trask”, who tries to fight for the love of his father and finds his mother, who she believed dead, as the owner of a brothel. “Out of Eden” became his international breakthrough as a character actor. With his first large fees, he could now indulge his second passion, racing. He regularly participated successfully in car races.

Having already become a star, the drama “Because they don’t know what they are doing” and finally “Giganten” were created in the same year alongside Rock Hudson and Liz Taylor, based on the novel by Edna Ferber. The film is about the dramatic changes in Texas society at the time of the American oil rush. In the contract for this film, the producers expressly insisted that Dean should not participate in any races during this time. In his work, James Dean embodied the prototype of the vulnerable outsider. He became the epitome of untamed, rebellious youth who felt misunderstood by the adult world and fought against existing social rules and values.

On September 21, 1955, Dean bought his silver Porsche 550 Spyder. For a scheduled race, he had the number 130 painted on the lid and “Little Bastard” on the bonnet, before heading to Salinas with a retinue of photographers, friends and mechanics. With Dean in the car was German mechanic Rolf Wütherich.

On September 30, 1955, Dean collided with a turning vehicle on Highway 46 at an intersection in the California desert. His mechanic was thrown from the car and survived with serious injuries. James Dean died instantly.

The sympathy for his early death was overwhelming and justified the myth and legends about his person. His demeanor, his clothes, and his lifestyle became the fashion and zeitgeist that endured after his death. His third and last film “Giant” was released posthumously in cinemas in 1956.


1951: Family Theater (TV Series)
1951: The Bigelow Theater (TV Series)
1951: The Last Assault (Fixed Bayonets!)
1951 The Stu Erwin Show/Trouble with Father (TV Series)
1952: CBS Television Workshop (TV series)
1952: Sailor beware! (Sailor Beware)
1952: The Web (TV Series)
1952: Hallmark Hall of Fame (TV Series)
1952: Has Anyone Seen My Bride?
1953: The Kate Smith Hour (TV Series)
1953 You Are There (TV Series)
1953 Trouble Along the Way
1953: Treasury Men in Action (TV Series)
1953: Tales of Tomorrow (TV Series)
1952/53: Studio One (TV series)
1953: The Big Story (TV Series)
1953: Omnibus (TV Series)
1953: Campbell Playhouse (TV Series)
1952/53: Kraft Television Theater (TV series)
1953: Armstrong Circle Theater (TV Series)
1953: Robert Montgomery Presents (TV Series)
1953: Harvest (TV Short)
1954: The Philco Television Playhouse (TV Series)
1953/54: Danger (TV series)
1954: General Electric Theater (TV Series)
1955: The United States Steel Hour (TV Series)
1955 East of Eden
1952/55: Lux Video Theater (TV series)
1955: Schlitz Playhouse of Stars (TV Series)
1955 Rebel Without a Cause
1955: Crossroads (TV Series)
1956: Giants


Golden Globe Best Actor – Drama

Jussi Best Foreign Actor for Out of Eden

Étoile de Cristal Best Foreign Actor for … because they don’t know what they’re doing

BAFTA Award nomination for Best Foreign Actor for Out of Eden

Oscar nomination for Best Actor for Out of Eden

Oscar nomination for Best Actor for Giants

BAFTA Award nomination for Best Foreign Actor for … Because They Don’t Know What They’re Doing

World Film Favorite – Male

How old was james dean when he died?

At 5:45 PM on September 30, 1955, 24-year-old actor James Dean is killed in Cholame, California, when the Porsche he is driving hits a Ford Tudor sedan at an intersection.

How did James Dean get so famous?

It was his leading role in “Rebel Without A Cause” (1955) that gave Dean his breakthrough as an actor (here seen with co-star Natalie Wood). His penchant for improvisation drove the director and his fellow actors crazy but it drove his female audience wild.

How did James Dean impact the world?

James Dean was one of the formative influences of the teenage culture of the mid-1950s and misunderstood teenagers all over the world identified with his “rebel without a cause”. Several music researchers also noted Dean’s singular influence on rock and roll, including the works of Elvis Presley.

Who was with James Dean when he died?

The driver of the other car, 23-year-old California Polytechnic State University student Donald Turnupseed, was dazed but mostly uninjured; Dean’s passenger, German Porsche mechanic Rolf Wütherich was badly injured but survived.

What film was James Dean filming when he died?

The Indiana-born star left Hollywood with Wuetherich several hours before the fatal crash for a week end of racing at Salinas. He had just this week completed a role in “Giant,” the film version of Edna Ferber’s book about Texas.

What was James Dean worth when he died?

James Dean was an American actor who had a net worth equal to $2 million at the time of his death, after adjusting for inflation.