American Masters (1985– )
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James Dean: Sense Memories 

Documentary exploring the life and career of James Dean.


Gail Levin


Gail Levin
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Episode cast overview, first billed only:
Mark Rydell ... Self
Martin Landau ... Self
Eli Wallach ... Self
William Bast William Bast ... Self
Eartha Kitt ... Self
Lois Smith ... Self
Frank Mazzola ... Self
Dennis Stock Dennis Stock ... Self
Stewart Stern ... Self
Budd Schulberg ... Self
Corey Allen ... Self
George Stevens Jr. ... Self
Bob Shurley Bob Shurley ... Self (as Bill Shurley)
Marcos Peña Marcos Peña ... Self - Marfa resident
Robert Hinkle Robert Hinkle ... Self (as Bob Hinkle)


Documentary exploring the life and career of James Dean.

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Did You Know?


In the very beginning of the film, the highway James Dean died on is labeled as "California Route 466." At the time of Dean's death, however, this road was actually US Highway 466, and a branch of US Highway 66 (AKA Route 66). The California portion of this highway was decommissioned in 1964, and was reassigned as California Highway 46, a designation it retains to this day. See more »


Features East of Eden (1955) See more »


The Wearing of the Green
Traditional 18th Century Irish Air
[Heard in bar scene]
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User Reviews

from American Masters
4 June 2013 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

Unfortunately "James Dean: Sense Memories" set my teeth on edge at practically the second sentence, which stated that James Dean only made three films. I mean, we all have our bugaboos. This is one of mine. James Dean only STARRED in three films, he did not MAKE only three films. Drives me crazy.

The documentary itself was interesting in that various people discussed Dean's acting style and his relationship with the three directors he worked with closely: Elia Kazan, Nicholas Ray, and George Stevens.

Those interviewed included his classmates, Martin Landau and William Basat, friend Eartha Kitt, costars Corey Allen and Lois Smith, screenwriter Bud Schulberg, George Stevens Jr., and others. I would have loved to have seen an interview with Julie Harris, but it was an interesting cross-section.

Most interesting to me was the section about "East of Eden," which discussed how much Raymond Massey couldn't stand him. I saw a documentary about Raymond Massey and boy, was that ever true. Dean comes across as somewhat self-indulgent as an actor, also improvisational at times, and in touch with his feelings, which helped him as an actor, though he didn't really open up to people. I had the feeling that he was eccentric and enjoyed it.

I also loved the description by Dean's friend and photographer Dennis Stock of the photo session in New York City, during which the wonderful portrait of Dean walking in the rain in Times Square was done. The photos throughout the documentary were wonderful.

Definitely of interest for fans of Dean's acting, not so much for those curious about his personal life. After seeing this, it's hard not to speculate about what might have been -- we know he was supposed to do "Somebody Up There Likes Me" and certainly would have been considered for roles that Brando and Newman eventually played. Twas not to be.

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Official Sites:

PBS [United States]





Release Date:

11 May 2005 (USA) See more »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


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Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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