James Dean: Forever Young (2005)
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At the time of Dean's death the public were exposed to only one film that he stared in "East of Edan" with his next film "Rebel Without a Cause" slated to be released, in mid-October, just two weeks after he was killed. But as we see in this fascinating documentary Dean had already made a name for himself on both stage and TV with some three dozen roles that he cut his teeth and perfected his acting craft in. Holding his own against seasoned actors like John Carradine Rod Steiger Hume Cronyn and Robert Middleton Dean by the beginning of 1954 was ready to make the big time as well as big bucks in Hollywood. That's in famed Hollywood & Broadway director Elia Kazan casting him in the title role of the moody and ill tempered Cal Trusk in film version of John Steinbeck's best selling novel "East of Edan".
It was in "East of Eden" that the movie going public finally got to see what an electrifying and talented actor James Dean really was. What the public didn't know was that one of the reasons that Dean was able to convey such explosive tension and almost maniacal intensity in his roles was that he was extremely near-sighted, his vision was 20/400, and had to squint, in him not being able to see as close as ten inches in front of his nose, to see or make out the actors and actresses that were in the scenes with him.
After the success of "East of Edan" Dean was well on his way to movie immortality but his premature death at age 24 cut all that short; Or did it! In fact James Dean had become bigger in death then he ever was in life which is one of the many ironies and contradictions about him. And it's that his tragic death what makes Dean the legend that he is even more then any of the parts, on stage TV and in the movies, he played!
One of the many ironies in Dean's life was that fellow actor Paul Newman tested for the part, which we see in a never before shown film clip, of Dean's brother and rival for his father affection Aron in his beak-out film "East of Edan" and lost out to Richaed Davalos for the role. As fate would have it the very next role that Dean was to play before his untimely death the part of boxer Rocky Graziano in "Somebody up There Likes Me" eventually went to Paul Newman! That like in James Dean's part as Cal Trusk in "East of Edan" became Newman's beak-out movie role. That eventually made him the major film star,in Newman taking the part which by then Dean was not available for, which James Dean was very probably descant to become!
P.S Another ironic fact about James Dean is that on the day September 30, 1955 that he died he was exactly,in him being born on February 8, 1931, 9,000 days old!
As interesting as these early TV clips are, none of them are set up in a way that helps us follow what is going on. Seen out of context it's difficult to assess just how well Dean is doing in his various roles, but it does appear that he had already adopted all of the quirky mannerisms he displayed in his major films. His method acting is on full display in all of the '50s TV work he did, including episodes with Ronald Reagan and Geraldine Page. It would have been interesting to know why Louis Jourdan had little to do with him during their Broadway appearance in "The Immoralist." It's a fact that is quickly mentioned and then dropped by narrator Martin Sheen.
His test with Paul Newman for EAST OF EDEN to see whether they could play brothers in the John Steinbeck drama is one of the more interesting highlights. And ironically, his willingness to appear with Gig Young in a short about driver safety shortly before Dean's death in an auto accident leaves an indelible impression.
For fans of the actor, an interesting glimpse of his personality before and during the height of stardom, but not an incisive full-bodied portrait of the actor at work.
I know James Dean's story very well, but you wouldn't think I knew it at all from my reaction. When narrator Martin Sheen says, "In 1953..." and introduced another television show, I thought, "Gee, it's 1953. He died in 1955. When is he going to Hollywood?" The entire time, I kept thinking, he died before his 25th birthday? As if I didn't know that. Somehow, seeing this gifted, beautiful, vital man in action, it was harder to comprehend. Even harder to comprehend than that is that he was a contemporary of Martin Landau's. Think of Dean today, at 79. What might have been? I didn't really like Martin Sheen's narration. I found it intrusive and (this isn't his fault) it was like a resume. There wasn't footage on ALL of the TV shows, yet he talked about every one of them. Believe me, they could have skipped some. The narration also made the same stupid mistake that we hear over and over again: "He only made three films." Why does that drive me so crazy? He only STARRED in three films. He MADE more than three.
The Hollywood part was fascinating. And the photos. Boy did the camera worship this man. He was born for the movies. This is well worth seeing for the photo shoots and footage of Dean off the set. There are no interviews with friends and coworkers, which is okay too. He speaks for himself.
I read some complaints about the music. I had no problem with it. It wasn't '50s music but it fit the subject matter.
As this was coproduced by Dean's nephew Marcus Winslow, the documentary emphasizes his interest in women. Like all classic stars, there are lots of rumors about his sexuality. Also, he was supposedly obsessed with Marlon Brando and emulated him in every way possible - this also wasn't covered.
What is covered is that James Dean was an unusual person, possibly not as eccentric as he portrayed himself, but nevertheless a passionate and talented person, extremely magnetic and sexy. A true icon.
Dean's love for fast cars and racing - at that age, I'm sure he felt immortal. And guess what, in a way, he was.
Don't miss this one despite a few flaws.
One of the amazing things about Dean was the sheer amount of photographic evidence that he left behind in his death. There are countless images of our idol on offer here, and this can be attributed to Dean's love of photography and being photographed. There is a lot of images and early TV work used here rather than scenes from his three major films, but Dean fans surely can't complain as a lot of this footage is rare and hasn't been in public circulation for years.
We get a look at the personality of Dean and the ingredients that make him such a lauded figure today. His qualities were frustrating, yet endearing and wholly recognizable.
The legend lives on.
"Forever Young" is something of a "mixed-bag" celebrity-documentary, in that it is either gonna please you to pieces or else piss you right off - Depending, of course, on your overall opinion of late actor, James Dean.
This 90-minute presentation (of both colour and b&w images) completely glosses over Dean's decidedly quirky, emotionally-explosive character. In order to divert and compensate for this omission - It pays full attention to James' brief professional acting career in both the medium of television and in Hollywood feature films.
Through 100s of vintage stills and archival footage (some images rarely seen before) - "Forever Young" pays respectful tribute to James Dean who (at the age of 24) died in a brutal car crash
*** 1/2 (out of 4)
Extremely impressive documentary about the final five years in the life of James Dean. The documentary, narrated by Martin Sheen, is certainly unlike any other you're going to see. For starters, there are countless documentaries, magazine articles and countless other tributes to Dean. I mean, after all there is a reason he's still so highly recognized all these years after his death. If you want to learn about his childhood then there's plenty of information out there. If you want to hear about his public life then that too is out there. This documentary doesn't just focus on his life, career or death but instead it tries to show you a little bit of everything that he was doing. Using film clips, TV episodes, home made movies and countless other items, this documentary starts at the beginning of Dean's career and travels down to his final three movies. I really enjoyed how the documentary tried to cover every aspect of Dean's professional life. We get to see countless clips that would take you hours to track down via the web or other sources and to have all of it within an 88-minutes film is just terrific for fans. We see the work that he did on TV. We get behind the scenes stuff from the set of GIANT. We get to see the places that Dean hung out at before he became famous. We even get to see some rare photos of him hanging out with friends and other celebrities. Best of all are some outtakes from EAST OF EDEN and the early screen tests including one with Paul Newman. We even get the now legendary public service spot that Dean shot just days before his death. If you're a fan of Dean then this here is going to be a dream come true simply because of how much footage we get to see. The early television stuff was especially exciting to see as were some of the lesser known shows that he did early in his career.
Paul wanted this role as Dean's brother in "East of Eden," and it showed. The "test" was nothing more than Dean and Newman standing side by side taking direction from an off-screen voice. "Now, turn and look at one another," the director orders. Dean, whom we know was gay, was smitten with the ultra-handsome Paul. When their eyes met, Newman could certainly sense Dean's "interest" in him. Isn't it always IN THE EYES? Newman boldly flirted back (oh, those blue eyes!) But then, Dean was equally as handsome. I tell you - those eyes were COMMUNICATING!!!
At one point, while staring into one another's eyes, Dean says to Newman, "kiss me." Newman smiles and whispers, "can't here." They both laugh. Several homo-erotic moves and comments follow, something about "I can't let this guy (Newman) get behind me!".
When I showed this to a female friend, she was floored. "I can't BELIEVE they did that," she quipped. Now, I saw Paul Newman in person coming out of Sardi's in New York one evening. You just wouldn't believe how handsome he was and how mesmerizing his blue eyes were. And, going back to 1953, he was at his zenith in good looks. I suppose Jimmy had good taste. Wait 'till you see this screen test! Paul didn't get the part, but did show up the next year in "The Silver Chalice," his first film, co-starring with the gorgeous, Virginia Mayo, who was top-billed. Newman was "introduced."