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Last Updated: Friday, 30 September 2005, 07:24 GMT 08:24 UK
Dean remains a young rebel
By Chris Leggett
BBC News entertainment reporter

James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause
Dean played defiant teen Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause
The 50th anniversary of screen rebel James Dean's death is being marked by fans on Friday.

Dean was only 24 when he suffered fatal injuries in a smash between his Porsche and another car on a Californian highway on 30 September 1955.

The junction where he died was officially renamed in his honour on Tuesday.

A candlelight vigil in Dean's hometown in Indiana will be held at the time of his death on Friday.

When he died, Dean had released only one film, East of Eden. Rebel Without a Cause and Giant were his other big screen releases.

Yet the young man who played angry young outsiders on-screen and lived life fast by racing cars off-screen remains a hugely popular cultural icon.

Half a century after he died, Dean is still a global star.

Forbes business magazine put his estate's income for 2004 alone at $5 m (2.8m), the 15th highest for a dead celebrity.

James Dean in Giant
Dean died while driving to a car race after completing oil drama Giant

Intellectual property rights company CMG Worldwide represents the Dean estate in licensing deals.

Spokeswoman Nicole Gately says Dean is "our second most popular client from a revenue standpoint".

Only Marilyn Monroe generates more money for CMG.

Dean is sought-after by merchandising companies and advertisers, who have included car manufacturer Chrysler and camera makers Nikon.

"Besides his good looks and 'frozen in time' youthfulness, Dean was very individualistic in a time where conformity was the dominant societal norm," says Ms Gately.

"He emulated the wishes and desires of differentiation that lurked in many teens of his era.

"He took risks and went from being a small town boy to a huge Hollywood star."

Dean spent most of his formative years living on a farm in Fairmount, Indiana, with his aunt and uncle.

James Dean
Dean was born in Marion, Indiana, on 8 February 1931

He had a distant relationship with his father and his mother died when he was aged nine. Dean's love of theatre led him to land small parts in commercials and television in Los Angeles.

He moved to New York to study in the Actors Studio, which also produced fellow Method actors Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift.

A successful Broadway role resulted in him being cast in East of Eden, an adaptation of a John Steinbeck novel. He signed a 10-movie deal with Warner Brothers and at his death was lined up for roles as a boxer and a cowboy.

Biographer Lee Raskin says his early demise means he will forever be seen as a rising star.

Speed enthusiast

"Because he died so young, he didn't do anything wrong," he says.

Mr Raskin says Dean's unhappy early life shaped his performances in films like Rebel Without a Cause.

"His father didn't show him the love he was looking for and there was a lot of Jimmy in each of the roles."

James Dean
Matt Dillon and Leonardo di Caprio have cited Dean as an influence

Mr Raskin has written James Dean: At Speed, about the actor's enthusiasm for motor racing.

"He always loved the thrill of going fast and doing things that other people did not accept.

"He liked to scare people. He also didn't care for Hollywood and the rules which the studios set. Jimmy was independent and brash."

Dean fans have gathered in his hometown, where the star was buried, for a festival of his life, including film screenings, car races and lookalike contests.

David Loehr runs the town's James Dean Gallery, the world's largest collection of Dean memorabilia and personal items.

He says: "Jimmy came from nothing and people could relate to that.

Modern successors

"He also had a look which I believe was his own and which is still emulated by the fashion industry today.

"In the 1960s he went out of fashion with the hippies but a series of biographies in the 1970s led to a re-appreciation of his work."

Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp narrated a Radio 2 documentary on Dean
Mr Loehr says Dean's modern counterpart is Britain's Billy Eliot star Jamie Bell.

"He's fairly unknown in the US but he's fantastic and so realistic," says Mr Loehr.

"He's a serious fan of Dean and came to visit the gallery about three years ago. He's stayed in touch, too."

Bell is not the only celebrity visitor, says Mr Loehr.

"Bob Dylan, Lisa Marie Presley and Meatloaf have all visited Fairmount, too.

"In 1988, Dylan even visited the farm where Dean lived and walked round the fields at 2am, which must have been a cosmic moment."

Depp hosts Radio 2 Dean tribute
27 Sep 05 |  Entertainment
In pictures: James Dean exhibition
28 Apr 05 |  In Pictures
James Dean photographer dies
06 May 02 |  Entertainment
Rest in peace, James Dean
13 Aug 98 |  Entertainment


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