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James Dean Remembered (1974)
*** (out of 4)
Peter Lawford hosts this documentary taking a look at the life and films of James Dean. What separates this from countless other documentaries is that Lawford sits down with those who worked with or knew Dean and these interviews are the main reason to check this film out. Sammy Davis, Jr. starts off talking about why their friendship never really got much press and from here he shares some private stories about Dean including a bizarre party where Dean wanted to meet Marlon Brando. Natalie Wood talks about why she wanted to do REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE and her thoughts on the type of person Dean was. Sal Mineo talks about being terrified of the actor and how at the same time he looked at him like an idol. Leonard Rosenman, who scored both EAST OF EDEN and REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE, talks about his friendship with Dean falling apart because the actor wanted him to be a father to him. Rosenman also talks about the rumors of Dean being a homosexual. Finally, Steve Allen talks about the legacy of Dean and if it's a good thing that people started to look up to a "rebel" instead of someone like Lincoln. Overall this is a pretty good look at Dean's career as we get all sorts of TV and film clips but those who aren't familiar or haven't seen the three big films should certainly avoid this until you do because the endings to EAST, REBEL and GIANT are all told and discussed here.
This is one of the special features on the bonus DVD for "Rebel Without
a Cause". It's a very unusual sort of documentary in that it's not just
a discussion of his films but also allows those who acted with him to
give their recollections of what he was like as a person as we as like
an actor. Because of this, it gives greater than usual insight into the
sort of person he was--something pretty rare for a documentary.
This retrospective features Peter Lawford as a narrator and host. In addition to introducing clips, he interviews stars such as Sammy Davis, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo and Rock Hudson. It's ironic to think that while these people are all dead today, most also died very prematurely--though none as prematurely as Dean. The style of the film might bore some (it is a bit slow here and there) but for fans, it's a great insight into the man behind his cult veneer. One of the only drawbacks is that much of the footage was quite grainy--but this is a small price to pay to watch a truly unusual sort of documentary. Another, though very minor, is that I would have liked more interviews with more actors and actresses.
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