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Searching for Jimmy

Because I watch more movies than I read books, I felt it would only be right to honor one of my favorite actors today, on this, the 80th anniversary of his birth.

Note: You’ll probably think I’m stone crazy after finishing this. But you should expect no less after reading the name of this blog, right?

I fell in love with the image of James Dean first. I remember buying a calendar of James Dean pictures to splice all over my walls at college based on the fact he just oozed cool, and I loved the timeless photography of Roy Schatt and Dennis Stock. With his chiseled good looks and easy manner of carrying himself, Jimmy could’ve been a model; but he was a born creative person, from making art to his method acting, and he was an avid reader. It’s a well-known fact that James Dean was head over heels for the writing of Ernest Hemingway, and especially the book, Death in the Afternoon; Jimmy became fascinated with matadors and bullfighting. He was a deep-thinker and a thrill-seeker. His middle name came from his mother’s love for the English poet Lord Byron, and the poem, “Childe Harold’s Pilgramage,” in which Byron wrote: “I woke one morning and found myself famous.” He was destined for glory, and his journey was cut short just at the apex of his success. This is the story of how I came to know Jimmy 47 years after his death.

My first year of college, I rediscovered my love for movies, because that’s what artistic kids do with Higher Education. I started dabbling into classic films I’d never seen before. The first time I picked up Rebel Without a Cause, it was as a part of a 5-movie rental deal at my local video store; I’m fairly certain it was around Christmastime, but I can’t be 100% positive on that. I don’t remember any of the other movies I watched from that batch except for Rebel. I do remember watching it in my parents’ basement, alone, and after the film ended, feeling cheated I had gone so long without ever having seen it before. Though I was out of high school, I was still able to connect with the theme of the film, the damnable misunderstanding of teens in our culture, and the pressures and unfair expectations of young people in society. But as it should be, none of the characters resonated with me like Jim Stark. The charisma of James Dean was still magnetic nearly 50 years after his death, and something spoke to me in his performance to do some research on this guy.  Continue reading

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