Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - LM -

And so James Dean re­mains unique. His life, al­leged bi­sex­u­al­ity, predilec­tion for masochism, quirks (such as play­ing the bon­gos with ir­ri­tat­ing glee) and fas­ci­na­tion with fast cars has long been pored over.

Yet it’s for his act­ing that he should be fo­cused upon.

Dean was a prod­uct of the 50s but, even in Gi­ant aged just 24, he was ex­hibit­ing signs of a range and ma­tu­rity that eluded sev­eral of his con­tem­po­raries.

Put plain, Dean was a me­teor. He re­quired the firm hand of a trusted di­rec­tor to guide and rein him in. He found that con­trol in Ni­cholas Ray, Elia Kazan and Ge­orge Stevens, the men who made his fi­nal three films.

He would have needed sim­i­lar treat­ment from the men who came af­ter them.

We shall never know how he would have fared had he lived into the 1960s and 70s.

Would he have fol­lowed Brando’s path through the 60s, plod­ding through one flop af­ter an­other?

Would he have burned out like poor, an­guished Clift who limped on for 10 years fol­low­ing a car crash from which he never fully re­cov­ered?

Or would he have em­braced the coun­ter­cul­ture, emerg­ing as a new star like Den­nis Hop­per, Jack Ni­chol­son or Peter Fonda?

James Dean was the epit­ome of the angst-rid­den, mis­un­der­stood youth – the an­gry kid with fierce tears sting­ing his eyes and fire in his belly.

In the 1950s he stood for some­thing and his trio of clas­sic films fly a stan­dard for the mo­tif of the post-war Amer­i­can teen.

Whether he is still rel­e­vant re­mains to be seen.

Rebel with­out a Cause, East of Eden and Gi­ant (all PG) are be­ing rolled out in cin­e­mas over the next month.

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