No one has become a more prominent star from the Classical Era with less material than James Dean. After his tragic death, Dean became the first actor to receive a posthumous Oscar nomination for his “East of Eden” performance. He did it again the following year for his role in “Giant.”
However, Dean’s most iconic role was released in-between his two Oscar worthy performances. When Dean stared as Jim Stark in “Rebel Without a Cause,” he cemented himself as a cultural icon.
The photo above features Dean receiving direction from Nicholas Ray alongside co-star Natalie Wood. Dean’s performance as Jim Stark was a groundbreaking portrayal of 1950s suburban youth.
Jim’s legendary leather jacket took inspiration from Marlon Brando‘s own jacket from “The Wild One,” released two years before. It’s clear that Brando’s influence leaked into Stark’s character.
However, Dean’s Jim Stark mixes huge amounts of vulnerability with emotion resulting in a sense of androgyny never before seen on the silver screen. An entire generation felt accurately represented through Dean’s teenage angst in the film.
Dean’s role in “Rebel Without a Cause” crowned him as the Master of Cool. Yet, I can’t help but wonder what the trio were talking about on set all those years ago.