The late, great James Dean's birthday on February 8th, 2016 meant that he would now have been 85 years old, if he were still with us. With only 3 films under his belt in two years (all though was uncredited in 4 before) it's amazing that a man could have such an impact on the world. His Hollywood image was cemented as he died at such an young age. He was killed in an automobile accident on September 30, 1955 at the age of only 24 years old.
Dean was a cultural icon of teenage angst thanks to his most remembered film, Rebel Without a Cause, where he played troubled teenager Jim Stark. His other two credits came as Cal Trask in East of Eden and Jett Rink in Giant. He was posthumously nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role in East of Eden. (This was the first posthumous award nominated in Academy Awards history!)
In 1954, he showed interest in auto racing as a hobby and thought he would be able to make a career of it someday. He showed an inept ability at the first race event he attended, just before filming Rebel Without a Cause, he achieved first place in the novice class, and second in the main event! Dean wished to one day race in the Indianapolis 500, but his busy schedule made it near impossible. Before filming Giant, Warner Brothers put a hold on his race career as to focus his time on the film. After filming wrapped, there was an event in Salinas, California. His mechanic Rolf Wütherich, who took care of his Porsche, encouraged Dean to drive it there to break it in and get the feel for it.
Wütherich accompanied Dean in the car on the way there. On the way to Salinas, Dean would strike a 1950 Ford Tudor, who was pulling through the intersection ahead.
He was unable to stop in time and his car would be sent flipping and rolling across the highway. Dean was ticketed for speeding just earlier in the day.
Dean's friend Rolf was thrown from the Porsche, while he was trapped inside with numerous fatal injuries. The driver of the Ford came away with minor injuries and jumped out to help along with many others who had witnessed the crash. A woman with nursing experience could not detect a pulse on Dean and he was later pronounced dead at the scene. Death had likely been instantaneous.
James Dean will always be an icon, and changed the Academy Awards forever. Now, there are over 50 posthumous Academy Awards that have been awarded. Sadly, they will continue to be awarded as great actors pass away before they are able to receive the honor. Dean remains the only actor to receive two posthumous acting nominations.