Thursday, March 15, 2012

The James Dean Story (1957).

An amazing fan documentary, The James Dean Story, released in 1957 shortly after Dean's death, was made with still images, family interviews, and narration to paint a portrait of the short life of teen idol James Dean.   The film assembles footage from existing material including East of Eden (1955) outtakes, shots from the opening night of Giant (1956), and his TV safe driving message to warn young teens about the perilous teen habit that ended James' own life (he died in a car crash while street racing). The opening title sequence is an amazing piece of art, created by Maurice Binder, who later went on to create the iconic opening credits for the Bond films. It was directed by Robert Altman and narrated by Martin Gabel (Altman's first choice for narrator was Marlon Brando-- which would have made this film legendary).  Another strange twist this film could have taken was when Elvis volunteered to portray Dean in a biopic style film on his life.  When they decided the picture was going to be a documentary, Elvis' role was scrapped.  This feature is in the public domain.  In fact, you can watch a cleaner copy of the film (less green, more b/w crispness) at IMDB or Hulu HERE if you prefer.

This documentary, which was undertaken soon after James Dean's death, looks at Dean's life through the use of still photographs with narration, and interviews with many of the people involved in his short life. Interviewees include the aunt and uncle who raised him after his mother's death (when James was 9), his fraternal grandparents, a cabdriver friend in New York City, and the owner of his favorite restaurant in Los Angeles. James's father, who was alive when the film was made, does not get a single mention.  Via IMDB


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