A dramatization of the story of legendary movie actor James Dean. The film's writer, William Bast, had roomed with Dean in the early '50s, when both were trying to break into films as actors.




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Cast overview, first billed only:
William Bast
Julian Burton ...
Chris White
James Whitmore
Dizzy Sheridan
Claire Folger
Robert Kenton ...
Reva Randall
Jan (as Heather Menzies)
Jack Murdock ...
James O'Connell ...
Mr. Robbins


A dramatization of the story of legendary movie actor James Dean. The film's writer, William Bast, had roomed with Dean in the early '50s, when both were trying to break into films as actors.

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Biography | Drama


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Release Date:

19 February 1976 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

James Dean: Portrait of a Friend  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?


Christine White, who plays a secretary, was once James Dean's real life girlfriend and were both accepted into the Actors Studio. See more »


[opening narration]
Narrator: His name was James Byron Dean. He was an actor. He died in 1955 at the age of 24. He had starred in just three pictures, only one of which had been released prior to his death. Yet before he was in his grave he was already a myth. What you are about to see is one man's recollection - an image of the actor as seen through the eyes of a friend. Like all memories in is intensely personal, elusive and incomplete - yet it refuses to die.
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Reflections on a Friendship
18 August 2000 | by (Cleveland, Ohio USA) – See all my reviews

William Bast, friend and roommate of the late actor, James Dean, has scripted a series of memories about Dean in this tv movie of 1976. Told from Bast's point of view, Dean is depicted as an incredibly gifted talent, totally committed to his craft, and with an extraordinary degree of concentration in his work. Indeed, Dean's entire life objective here was to be the best possible actor.

That Dean was able to achieve so much in such a short span, while being completely uncompromising in his quest for artistic excellence, is remarkable. That he was able to do this while indulging in a totally nonconformist lifestyle, both in New York and Hollywood, is little short of amazing.

What Dean seemed to have going for him here was an endowment of genuine, natural talent, very good looks, and business-career acumen, which he could use to be both ingratiating and charming when required. It is said his presence and work in films had a great affect on the then leading exponent of the "method school of acting," Marlon Brando. Dean's early demise seemed to affect Brando's work significantly, as though it ended the Great Brando Period (1950-58) thereafter never to be restored.

While I appreciate the Dean legacy, I do feel that a life lived on-the-edge tends to be hard to sustain in the long run. It risks the possibility of soon "having the tail chase the dog": requiring one to forever live up to one's own public and private image. Existing in the fantasy world of acting is challenging enough without the added ingredient of rebellion to cope with. Dean's premature burnout and expiration seemed a direct consequence of his abnormally driving ambition and impregnably uncompromising stance. Thus, while we are the appreciative recipients of his rich legacy, he remains its ultimate sacrifice. The highly experienced Stephen McHattie shines as Dean, while the talented Michael Brandon portrays Dean's best friend, William Bast.

What a phenomenon Dean is. With only three major films to his credit, and his stage and tv work but a memory in the minds of a relative few, Dean is still able to enter into the ranks of screen immortals. Perhaps it was worth it after all.

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