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The James Dean Story (1957)

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 ... See full summary »

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Himself ('East of Eden' screen test footage) (archive footage)
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Storyline

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 <dglagovsky@prodigy.net>

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30 December 1957 (Sweden)  »

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A James Dean legenda  »

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$35,000 (estimated)
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Trivia

Originally conceived as a biographical film. Elvis Presley lobbied to play James Dean, but the decision was made to make a documentary instead. See more »

Connections

References Suez (1938) See more »

Soundtracks

Let me be loved
Written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston
Performed by Tommy Sands
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User Reviews

 
Feeding the Myth Monster
31 July 2008 | by (Los Angeles) – See all my reviews

"The James Dean Story" is introduced as "A different kind of motion picture," explaining, "The presence of the leading character in this film has been made possible by the use of existing motion picture material, tape recordings of his voice and by means of a new technique

  • dynamic exploration of the still photograph." The only "tape
recordings of his voice" noteworthy is one short recording Mr. Dean make while visiting his family in Indiana; he wanted to record any family recollections of his great-grandfather Cal Dean, intrigued because he played a similarly named "Cal" in "East of Eden". Dean asks if Cal Dean was interested in art, and learns the relative was an auctioneer. James Dean was interested in art and had warm relationship with his family, obviously. That's the only 100% accurate revelation in this documentary. James Dean was interested in art and had warm relationship with his family.

An amazing "screen test"/"outtake" from "East of Eden" appears near the film's end. It's a black and white scene between Dean (as Cal Trask) and co-star Richard Davalos (as Aron Trask). Dean is at his mesmerizing best. If this scene appeared only here, and no "East of Eden" film was completed, this documentary would be an essential, high rated film. But the scene, a perfect "10" in isolation, should be considered an "East of Eden" extra. Dean's "Traffic Safety Film" is also worth seeing.

There are the expected interviews with family and friends. My favorites were the guy (Lew Bracker) going through a box of stuff Dean left with him, and Dean's family. There wasn't enough from Aunt Ortense and the letter from Dean to his little cousin was very nice. More reading of Dean's letters would have been welcome. Dean's unidentified writer friend seemed to have a better thesis for the film; filmmakers might have considered developing it as a main focus.

Robert Altman's direction of Martin Gabel's reading of Stewart Stern's script is dreadful. What were they thinking? Perhaps, filmmakers can be forgiven due to the closeness of Dean's passing. Don't expect "The James Dean Story" at all. This movie is more about Dean's effect on people (both the fans and filmmakers) than the man. It is very clearly an early piece of the James Dean myth-making "legend". Tommy Sands sings "Let Me Be Loved". The narrative refers to Dean as "He" with a god-like air. The shots of Dean's family seeming to "know" the moment he dies are truly wretched.

** The James Dean Story (8/13/57) Robert Altman ~ James Dean, Martin Gabel, Richard Davalos


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