Page 161 - Gay San Francisco_Eyewitness Drummer
P. 161

Gay San Francisco: Eyewitness Drummer                 141
                From city to city vulgar stage shows promised the ectoplasmic return
             of James Dean in person, on stage. A sculptured head sold out nationally
             at thirty dollars a likeness. Magazines entirely devoted to Dean vended
             hundreds of thousands of copies. His two released motion pictures were
             requested and rebooked across the country. Columbia Records pressed
             an extended play album of tortured painful music from the soundtracks
             of his pictures. A Forest record entitled His Name Was Dean sold 25,000
             copies the first week of release.
                What had begun spontaneously was perverted by calculation. The
             money changers were marching through hysteria.
                Warner Bros., rolling with the punches, decided to hold the last Dean
             movie in reserve with release postponed “out of respect for a fine actor’s
             memory.” It was a gamble, shelving momentarily Edna Ferber’s Giant,
             holding  back the  completed  performances of  big-box-office Elizabeth
             Taylor and Rock Hudson; but it was also an ace in the hole. Everyone
             knew Jimmy Dean had completed his last scene as Jett Rink only three
             days before his death.
                Fourteen months after the accident, with excitement at a fever pitch,
             Warners released director George Stevens’ Giant which in the ensuing
             weeks won seven major Academy Award nominations, not the least mean-
             ingful of which was the posthumous nomination given James Dean for
             the best performance by an actor. With full integrity, but wounding loyal-
             ists’ hearts, Yul Brynner went on to win that coveted 1956 Oscar for his
             performance in The King and I. It had been Dean’s last chance.
                Against the glutted background of such neon ballyhoo, it is easy to
             miss the personality of the twenty-four-year-old youth who, unknowing,
             toyed psychologically with the emotions of a generation. James Dean was
             a magnificent failure.
                Tragedy stalked Dean’s life and the shadows were always with him,
             driving him, tormenting him. “My mother died on me when I was nine
             years old,” he cried melodramatically in a studio tantrum. “What does
             she expect me to do? Do it all by myself?”
                From childhood he blamed himself for Mildred Dean’s death by can-
             cer and in blaming himself alternately loved and hated her the more for
             the pain he remembered in her face, for her enervating abandonment of
                There was nothing in his life with his Uncle Marcus and Aunt
             Ortense to explain the moodiness, the brooding among the coffins in
             the Fairmont, Indiana, general store. His environment had been normal
             enough, adjustable; but Mildred had dreamed great unfulfilled dreams
             for herself and when they had not worked for her, perhaps they would
             work for Jimmy. They had to; they must.

           ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 05-05-2017
   156   157   158   159   160   161   162   163   164   165   166