Last year I subscribed to HBO Max and was excited to see that Turner Classic Movies has a presence there.  I scrolled through, adding classic movies I have seen and ones I haven’t, and came across Rebel Without a Cause starring James Dean.  I knew of James Dean, he’s a Hollywood legend and cautionary tale rolled into one.  His tragic death at the age of 24 sent shockwaves through Hollywood, and caused young female fans collectively fall into a state of shock and grief.

I watched all three of Dean’s films and it is unfortunate that his talent was only around for so briefly.  Being someone who loves to learn more about interesting people, I found a book chronicling James Dean’s life and death through the eyes of those who knew him.  

Below is my review of The Real James Dean: Intimate Memories from Those Who Knew Him Best by Peter L. Winkler:

Enigmatic, reserved, rebellious, and a real Renaissance man, James Dean was taken away from his friends, family, and fans far too young. While he only starred in three films – East of Eden (1955), Rebel Without a Cause (1955), and Giant (1956) – along with several smaller film appearances, TV appearances, commercials, and plays, Dean’s swagger and look became legendary in the annals of Hollywood history.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Real James Dean. The stories presented come from friends, family, colleagues and deliver a dimensional portrait of the actor from his Midwest upbringing to his final moments. 

The commentary from the editor helps bridge gaps and continuity issues that appear between stories. There was a genuine effort to ensure the facts about Dean are 100% correct, leaving the mythologizing to those who knew and loved him most.

The Real James Dean paints a real portrait of a real man, flaws and all. It’s interesting to read similar situations from multiple perspectives. Many felt he was a skilled genius, while others thought he was a rude, self-centered young man with no respect for authority.

If you are a fan of Hollywood history, actor biographies, or want to learn about a man who was taken from the world far too early, I highly recommend this book.

What era of Hollywood most interests you?  Leave a comment and let me know!

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