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142                                     Jack Fritscher, Ph.D.
               James Byron Dean. The James was plain for Indiana; but the Byron
            was for Mildred. In Fairmont, there was no time for himself, troubled
            among the constant ghosts of his mother, plotting ways to repay her for
            dying. Existentially he did not know who he was or what he was, crippled,
            force-molded by the hope and wild dreams of his farm-girl mother.
               The years in Indiana, portending no future, James Dean went to
            California, in 1950, to see his father; but the myths are tangled with the
            truth. Few knew him well; none knew him long. The devotees of such
            things can relate what stations there are.
               In audition, the discerning Elia Kazan saw in the turbulent young
            student from U.C.L.A. the deep feeling and raw communication that
            translates a particular actor into a portrayal. Dean won the role of Stein-
            beck’s tortured Cal Trask in East of Eden. The critics acclaimed his per-
            formance precisely because over the crags of tragedy his portrayal came
            to grips with truly human problems, something Jimmy Dean could not
            manage in real life.
               Now he was on the way — with the gnawing emptiness still there.
            He received excellent reviews in the Broadway play, See the Jaguar, but
            the show itself closed within a week. Yet a niche seemed to be opening for
            his life. “Acting,” he said, “is the greatest. Every town has its successful
            lawyers, but how many successful actors has it got? The first time I found
            out acting was as big a challenge as law, I flipped.”
               But the twenty-two-year-old actor could not reverse the equation. He
            gave life to characters in scripts, but the celluloid solutions gave him no
            peace in return. The title of his second picture, Rebel Without a Cause, fit-
            ted him well. Tormented genius? Angry man? Sullen, ill-tempered, snap-
            ping back at the acclaim given his artistry, he was despite the euphemisms
            of the magazines, an emotionally stunted misfit.
               About his life there was nothing pretty. He did not drink, but he
            smoked too much, slept too little, drove too fast. He was running at a pace
            that would not let him see where he had been or where he was going. It
            was tragic when his $7,000 Porsche Spyder plowed into a Ford driven by
            a Salinas farmer. Mildred Dean had always wanted to protect him from
               Any psychologist can explain idolization. Cult is a question of iden-
            tity and in the case of James Dean adolescence found its Self, its personi-
               Always emotionally immature, he was the heroic example of rebellion
            to adolescents experiencing normal emotional disturbances at the proper
            age. He rebelled against conformity and he not only got away with it, he
            got rich at it.

          ©Jack Fritscher, Ph.D., All Rights Reserved—posted 05-05-2017
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