JAMES DEAN: The Mutant King by David Dalton

JAMES DEAN: The Mutant King

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Two bios (see also Herndon below), two too many of the Hollywood changeling who died in 1955 at the too-young age of 24, written by a couple of authors who don't see the nub for the nimbus and as a result fail to make the detour to the more interesting story of the collective nervous breakdown of teenagers which followed in symbiosis with that other crack-up -- there were suicides, pilgrimages to Dean's Indiana grave, books, a film, thousands of letters a week written to Warner Brothers where Dean made his three films (only one had been released before he died). Fans paid 25 cents to view the fatal Porsche Spyder and for another quarter got to sit in the death seat. Dean's career ended too soon for us to know what might have eventually emerged from his underdeveloped but disciplined native talent -- acting to the former farm boy was as serious a business as getting in the crops. He'd had his first stage success in New York, studied briefly at the Actors Studio, was taken to Hollywood by Kazan to play Cal in East of Eden, the film that was to set his image -- an irresistible combination of Brando and Montgomery Clift. Dean was the event of the bland '50's, and it's those now grown-up kids who will probably be the audience for this biography. And despite indifferent editing -- Dean reading On the Road which wasn't even published until 1957; Lance Reventlow confused with that other heir who also died in a racing accident, etc. -- Dalton's (Janis, 1971) is the more substantial book.

Pub Date: Sept. 20th, 1974
Publisher: Straight Arrow -- dist. by Simon & Schuster