Feb. 8, 1931-Sept. 30, 1955
James Dean. The defining image of 50's cool.
On the basis of only three starring roles James Dean became one of Hollywood's most enduring icons. The fact that he died so young added greatly to his legend. (Live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse.) His charismatic portrayals of angst ridden teenagers in Rebel Without a Cause and East of Eden made him an overnight star. He was the first actor in Academy Award history to receive a posthumous nomination for East of Eden in 1955 and was also nominated for Giant in 1956.
Dean, a racing enthusiast, was on his way to compete in a race in Salinas, California when his Porsche 550 Spyder was involved in a head on collision. James Dean was pronounced dead on arrival at Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital from massive blunt force trauma.
Ironically, all of the young stars of Rebel Without a Cause would die untimely deaths. James Dean, in a car wreck at 24. Sal Mineo was stabbed to death in 1976 at age 37. Natalie Wood died in an accidental drowning off Santa Catalina Island in 1981 at the age of 43.
Here is a video tribute to James Dean.