James Dean was raised as an Indiana farm boy, but it didn’t take long for him to realize his true passion of acting. Leaving his school days behind him and the Indiana fields, he headed for the lights of New York City and was cast in his first film roles in 1951 and 1952. Most of his film roles were bit parts, but that didn’t last long. He wasn’t bound to stay in small parts.
Although James Dean’s film credits are short, he made quite an impression when he played the part of Caleb in Elia Kazan’s production of “East of Eden.” From that point, he started to become known as the angry young man.
Perhaps James Dean’s most famous film credit is the brooding role of Jim Stark in “Rebel Without A Cause.” This film is what popularized Dean’s trademark leather jacket and bad-boy persona. It seems he lived life just as large off screen as on, performing test stunts for the show “Beat The Clock.” Warner Brothers also generated plenty of rumors about his love life off the set.
His third major film role was strike-it-rich cowhand Jett Rink in the mammoth film production of “Giant.” This film released in 1956 after Dean’s highly publicized death in 1955. While driving his Porsche, Dean was involved in a high-speed collision and died from a broken neck. Just as with other larger than life personalities, James Dean’s life ended too soon and therefore catapulted his short career into the status of legend.