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 ...
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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. Written by
David Glagovsky <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Kind of hokey, but has material not seen elsewhere
I know nothing of this film's release history -- how it was received, whether it played as a feature or what -- but either it reflects the mythology that was growing in 1957 around the actor who died only two years before this fillm was released, or it actually help create the mythology. Camera work is wonderful and there is outstanding use of archive stills, and some of the reinactments are actually effective. There is a certain heavy handedness, however. The narration is both ham-fisted and flowery, and Martin Gabel's delivery sounds somehow threatening, especially when he doubles as an interviewer of the friends and acquaintances who share their recollections on screen. The Dean family participated, and I can't help but think director Robert Altman had to have tricked them to get them to do things like giving startled reactions for him to cut in at the moment when James Dean's death is reported in the film. Still, there are wonderful things I've never seen or heard in a lifetime of absorbing Dean biographies of every stripe, such as a tape recording Dean himself made of a conversation with his uncle about what makes a good auctioneer.
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