He would’ve 74 years old. Hard to believe. For us, he remains forever young – riding the rails to the mother who abandoned him in “East of Eden,” thumbing his nose at all the “sons of Benedict” in “Giant,” taking his tormentors up on a desperate drag race, the eternal “Rebel Without a Cause.”
If we see him clearly still, it’s not only because of the three films and numerous TV dramas he appeared in but because of the iconic work of photojournalists like Dennis Stock, who met Dean at the bungalow of “Rebel” director Nicholas Ray on the grounds of Hollywood’s legendary Chateau Marmont on a Sunday afternoon in the winter of 1954-55. Dean invited Stock to a preview of “East of Eden” the following Wednesday in Santa Monica and a friendship/ collaboration was born. Stock profiled Dean at home in Fairmont, Ind. and Manhattan for Life magazine – the subject of the new movie “Life” (Dec. 4), with Robert Pattinson as Stock and Dane DaHaan as Dean.
The new “Dennis Stock: James Dean” (Thames & Hudson, $40, 144 pages, 97 black-and-white photographs, with an introduction by Dean biographer Joe Hyams) is as much a must for film history and photography buffs as it is for us Dean fanatics. All the classics are there – Dean walking up from Times Square, his coat collar turned up against the winter rain and a cold world; communing on a pavement with a toy monkey in “Rebel,” looking out at Stock’s compassionate, shrewd lens with curious insecurity, a figure in black.
What emerges most strongly here, though, is a quality you don’t automatically associate with Dean – kindness. There he is playing the bongos for the cows on the family farm, signing autographs for the kids at his high school, stopping to listen to a little girl with a dog on a street in New York.
Oh, Jimmy, we hardly knew ye, and now you’re 60 years gone. Hard to believe. But look, there you are, crossing the street from Jimmy Ryan’s bar in Manhattan in your black corduroy suit and turtleneck, your black overcoat open, your hands thrust in your pants’ pockets, a butt protruding from your lips.
Looking drop-dead gorgeous. Still.
For WAG’s take on James Dean cool, check out this article in our September “Passion for Fashion” issue http://www.wagmag.com/the-deathless-style-of-james-dean/ . – Georgette Gouveia