Veteran Hollywood stuntman, dialogue coach, actor, producer and director Hinkle wryly recounts his adventures in Movieland, most notably a close friendship with James Dean.
After a spell toiling on the peripheries of the film industry, in 1955 the proud Texan and rodeo cowboy was approached by director George Stevens, who was interested in procuring Hinkle’s services for his upcoming adaptation of Edna Ferber’s Giant. Hinkle, an aspiring actor, reckoned he’d be perfect for the role of young West Texan hotshot Jett Rink, but Stevens had other ideas: He asked Hinkle to help star Rock Hudson talk like a genuine Texan cowboy. The author took the job and became fast friends with the actor cast to play Rink, a young up-and-comer who called himself Jimmy Dean. Hinkle’s anecdotes of life with Dean on the set are warm and amusing, offering an irresistibly prosaic glimpse of the elusive legend, with whom Hinkle hunted rabbits, raced cars and engaged in other hijinks. Hinkle enjoyed a sort of older-brother relationship with the star, teaching Dean to spin a rope and dress in authentic cowboy style, and welcomed the lonely actor into his family. His account of Dean’s tragic early death is freshly affecting, despite the story’s mythic familiarity. Hinkle is a garrulous storyteller—though he occasionally lays on the Texas Pride schtick a little thickly—and his memories of Elizabeth Taylor’s passionate personality and salty language, Hudson’s moody insecurity and Dean’s fierce competitiveness are good fun. After Giant, Hinkle’s career spun out in a number of improbable directions, including stunt flying, forming his own successful production company and managing motorcycle madman Evel Knievel. All of this is diverting, but the heart of the book is Hinkle’s friendship with Dean, who comes across as an uncommonly sensitive and kind young man. The anecdotes about the eventful making of Giant are Hollywood insider gold.
A lively look at a colorful career and an unlikely friendship.