James Dean Biography

James Dean was an American actor best known for his performance in ‘Rebel Without a Cause’. This biography of James Dean provides detailed information about his childhood, life, achievements, works & timeline.

Quick Facts

Birthday: February 8, 1931

Nationality: American

Famous: Quotes By James Dean Bisexual

Died At Age: 24

Sun Sign: Aquarius

Also Known As: James Byron Dean

Born in: Marion, Indiana, U.S

Famous as: Actor


father: Winton Dean

mother: Mildred Wilson

siblings: Ortense

Died on: September 30, 1955

place of death: Cholame, California, U.S

Cause of Death: Car Accident

U.S. State: Indiana

More Facts

education: Fairmount High School, Santa Monica College (SMC)

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The young and handsome protagonist of the drama film ‘Rebel Without a Cause’, James Dean was a highly talented actor who was snatched away too soon from the face of the earth. Aged just 24 at the time of his death, James had already achieved a lot more in his short life than many others achieve over a longer period of time. With his portrayal of a disillusioned teenager in ‘Rebel Without a Cause’, he became a cultural icon of sorts. The 1950s was a period of great confusion and chaos in the American society with young people trying hard to break free of the restrictions elders and the society placed on them. Released at such a time, youngsters could easily identity with the character he portrayed. Dean had himself experienced a difficult childhood and could thus portray on the screen his heart felt anguish and vulnerability. Having lost his mother to cancer when he was a little boy, he struggled hard to get over her death and move on. He chose to study drama in college which angered his father and added to the youngster’s list of woes. However he proved to be a natural at acting and was soon hailed as an emerging superstar. An automobile accident claimed his life bringing an abrupt ending to a promising young life.

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Childhood & Early Life
  • He was born to Winton Dean and Mildred Wilson in Indiana. His father, who once worked in farming, became a dental technician to improve his prospects.
  • The family moved to California and James attended Brentwood Public School for a while before joining the McKinley Elementary School. He was a mediocre student.
  • He was very close to his mother who he felt was the only person who understood him. Unfortunately his mother became sick with cancer and died when the boy was just nine years old.
  • He proved to be a popular student in high school and he played on the school’s baseball and basketball teams. He also studied drama and practiced public speaking. He graduated from Fairmount High School in 1949.
  • He enrolled at the Santa Monica College (SMC) where he majored in pre-law. However, he realized that he did not want to be a lawyer but an actor. Thus he transferred to UCLA where he changed his major to drama. This angered his father and the two became estranged.
  • The talented young man was chosen from a group of 350 actors to play Malcolm in ‘Macbeth’ while at UCLA. He did not complete his studies and instead dropped out in 1951 to pursue a career in acting.
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  • His entry into television was in a Pepsi Cola television commercial. He found a role in the comedy ‘Sailors Beware’ which also had Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. The initial years were very difficult for him and he often took up part-time jobs to make ends meet.
  • He moved to New York City and enrolled at the Actors Studio to study under Lee Strasberg. While in New York he worked as a stunt tester for the game show, ‘Beat the Clock’.
  • Over the early 1950s he played small roles in various television programs such as ‘Family Theater’ (1951), ‘The Bigelow Theatre’ (1951), ‘CBS Television Workshop’ (1952), and ‘Hallmark Hall of Fame’ (1952).
  • He starred in an Off-Broadway production of Franz Kafka’s ‘The Metamorphosis’ in 1952. It revolves around the tale of a man who finds himself being transformed into a large, monstrous insect-like creature.
  • In 1954, he appeared in the Broadway production of ‘The Immoralist’, which tells the story of a gay man who marries a woman hoping that the marriage would help him deal with his homosexual desires.
  • He played a role in the 1954 Off-Broadway play, ‘The Scarecrow’ which was about a woman who creates a scarecrow with human-like properties with the help of witchcraft and tries to use it to seek revenge on her former lover who deserted her during her pregnancy.
  • In 1955, he played the role of Cal, a young man who feels that his father always prefers his brother Aron over him. It was the first major role Dean played and received considerable appreciation for his acting skills.
  • In 1955, he starred in what would become his best remembered role when he was chosen to play an angst ridden teenager in the movie, ‘Rebel Without a Cause’. This movie became highly popular with teenagers who could easily identify with the character he played.
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Major Works
  • He played the lead role in ‘East of Eden’ which is about a young man who vies for the attention of his religious father who always seems to prefer his brother. This film was the only major film of his to be released during his lifetime.
  • His portrayal of Jim Stark in the iconic movie, ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ catapulted him to stardom. His moody character lent itself perfectly to the image of the disturbed teenager he was playing.
Awards & Achievements
  • He won the Golden Globe Special Achievement Award for Best Dramatic Actor for his portrayal of Cal Trask in ‘East of Eden’ (1955). This role also earned him a Jussi Award for Best Foreign Actor and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actor.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • His sexuality was often a matter of discussion in the film world. One of his best friends, William Bast revealed years after Dean’s death that the two had a sexual relationship.
  • He also dated many women including the actress Beverly Wills, Barbara Glenn, and Liz Sheridan. He had a much publicized affair with the beautiful Italian actress Pier Angeli.
  • He loved car racing from a young age. On 30 September, 1955 he along with his mechanic was driving to a weekend race in California when his car had a head-on collision with another. He was taken to a hospital where he was declared brought dead.
  • This actor was the first one to get a posthumous acting nomination in Academy Awards history.

1. Rebel Without a Cause (1955)


2. East of Eden (1955)


3. Giant (1956)

  (Western, Drama)

4. Deadline - U.S.A. (1952)

  (Crime, Film-Noir, Drama)

5. Has Anybody Seen My Gal (1952)


6. Fixed Bayonets! (1951)

  (Action, Drama, War)

7. Trouble Along the Way (1953)

  (Romance, Drama, Sport, Comedy)

8. The James Dean Story (1957)

  (Biography, Documentary)


Golden Globe Awards
1957 World Film Favorite - Male Winner

See the events in life of James Dean in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- James Dean Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- TheFamousPeople.com
Last Updated
- July 24, 2017
James Dean

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