|Index||3 reviews in total|
This documentary on James Dean has the advantage of archival footage, as
opposed to re-enactments, to convey the life and career of this unique
Dean's life is charted from birth, including the untimely loss of his mother at an early age, the estrangement from his father, his junior and senior high school activities, and on to his acting studies and early career experiences in New York and Hollywood.
Short commentaries by Dean's teachers, close friends and associates paint revealing pictures of both the actor and person. Film clips are used to help flesh out the degree to which Dean brought his own life's experience into his roles, taking great risks in improvisation with the printed script.
It was indeed fortunate that Dean had such remarkably sensitive directors to work with. Elia Kazan waited to get Dean's signal to begin a shoot, rather than the other way around. Nicholas Ray allowed Dean to structure and direct the scenario the way he saw it, rather than the way Ray may have chosen. And George Stevens accommodated Dean every step of the way, providing for maximum comfort level for Dean to prepare and execute a scene.
In a way, Dean's bonanza of directors was not unlike that of Audrey Hepburn, who also inherited a string of great directors. The only way to accurately sum up Dean's brief and mecurial career is "phenomenal." This documentary provides interesting footage for the film researcher and the Dean devotee.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The documentary, FOREVER JAMES DEAN, deserves a rating of "8" for its straight-faced effort to present Dean's sexuality in such a way that would be perceived as "PG13," if not appealing, to what the filmmakers obviously perceived as America's dominant gender orientation at the time this mini-bio was made (1988). Dean's college roommate\later-self-proclaimed-lover, William Bast, is the dominant "talking head," and he steadfastly maintains the apparent myth that his famous counterpart may have used women as more than publicity props. But Bast's description of Dean's behavior toward Bast's own mother during the "month" (which is later truncated to "two weeks") she stayed with the pair on a visit is quite telling, to anyone with the least ability to "read between the lines." Toward the end of the film, narrator Bob Gunter dismisses as a "wild rumor" the fact that local veterans stole sculptor Kenneth Kendall's bust of Dean, installed near his grave in Park Cemetery, Fairmount, IN, as retaliation for Dean evading the draft by checking off the wrong sexual-preference box in his paperwork. Well, if straight people stole the bust, they no doubt did it in the belief that Dean's rumored physical conquests of notable female entertainers was true. Their best way to hide their idol's clay feet of sexual hypocrisy would be to RESTORE THE BUST TO ITS RIGHTFUL PLACE NOW!
This appears to be a very ordinary documentary, written, produced and
directed by Ara Chekmayan, for the video market. However, it promises
to be, "A stunning NEW look at a legendary star." What's new will
depend upon what you already know. I found this account of James Dean's
life interesting, and learned some things which would probably not
surprise many others. Most interesting to learn of Mr. Dean's train
ride with his mother's coffin, a girlfriend suddenly marrying another
man (Vic Damone), and the fact that there was another passenger (Rolf
the mechanic) in the car crash which killed Dean.
Julie Harris, William Bast, and some other "friends, co-stars, and teachers" (it says here, on the box) share their "insightful" interviews. Ms. Harris speaks sweetly about working with Dean on "East of Eden". Mr. Bast shares a very sweet story about when his mother came to visit himself and Dean in their apartment. Kenneth Kendall talks about creating a beautiful head sculpture of Dean, which was stolen from his grave, unfortunately. There are generous clips from Dean's three feature films, but only a couple of clips which could, arguably, be called "never before seen." Charges Dean was "homosexual" are vociferously denied. Chris Busone does a very '80s sounding tribute song called "American Rebel".
"Forever James Dean" is far more insightful about marketing than it is about Dean.
*** Forever James Dean (1988) Ara Chekmayan ~ James Dean, Julie Harris, William Bast
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