February 8, 2016

20,000 Vinyl LPs 50: The James Dean Story ~ Die young, live forever

artwork by David Stone Martin
score by Leith Stevens 
photo by Styrous®

James Byron Dean was born eighty-five years ago today, on February 8, 1931. He died in a car crash on September 30, 1955. He was only 24 years old.   

James Dean 
Publicity photo
circa 1953
photographer unknown

photo by Styrous®

On September 30, 1955, Dean was scheduled to compete at a racing event in Salinas, California. Accompanying the actor to the occasion was stunt coordinator Bill Hickman, Collier's photographer Sanford Roth, and Rolf Wütherich, the German mechanic from the Porsche factory who maintained Dean's Porsche 550 Spyder "Little Bastard" car. Wütherich, who had encouraged Dean to drive the car from Los Angeles to Salinas to break it in, accompanied Dean in the Porsche. At 3:30 p.m. Dean was ticketed for speeding, as was Hickman who was following behind in another car.     

As the group traveled to the event via U.S. Route 466, at approximately 5:15 p.m. a 1950 Ford Tudor was passing through an intersection while turning, ahead of the Porsche. Dean, unable to stop in time, slammed into the driver's side of the Ford resulting in Dean's car bouncing across the pavement onto the side of the highway. Dean's passenger, Wütherich, was thrown from the Porsche, while Dean was trapped in the car and sustained numerous fatal injuries, including a broken neck. The driver of the Ford, Donald Turnupseed, exited his damaged vehicle with minor injuries. The accident was witnessed by a number of passersby who stopped to help. A woman with nursing experience attended to Dean and detected a weak pulse, but "death appeared to have been instantaneous". Dean was pronounced dead on arrival shortly after he arrived by ambulance at the Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital at 6:20 p.m.       

 James Dean and Porsche Speedster 23F 
Palm Springs Races March, 1955 
photographer unknown 

On February 15, 2009, all three of the California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers who dealt with James Dean on the day of his death—Officer Otie Hunter, who ticketed Dean for speeding, and Officers Ernie Tripke and Ronald Nelson, who investigated the fatal crash—participated and shared their memories of that fateful day in an SCVTV documentary titled The Stuff of Legend: James Dean's Final Ride, co-produced by the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society (see link below).   

James Dean Gravestone
Park Cemetery, Fairmount, Indiana
photographer unknown 

Ironically, just days before he died, in September, 1955, Dean was interviewed by actor Gig Young for a "safe driving for teenagers" public service short film which is on YouTube (link below).      

James Dean made only three films, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), in which he starred as troubled teenager Jim Stark, as Cal Trask in East of Eden (1955) and surly ranch hand Jett Rink in Giant (1956). Dean's enduring fame and popularity rest on his performances in only these three films.

photo by Styrous®

movie poster 

Released two years after Dean's death, this Warner Bros. Pictures release chronicles his short life and career via black-and-white still photographs, interviews with the aunt and uncle who raised him, his paternal grandparents and outtakes from East of Eden, footage of the opening night of Giant, and Dean's PSA for safe driving from Warner Bros. Presents.  

vinyl LP record side 1
photo by Styrous®

The  narration by Martin Gabel was written by Stewart Stern, who scripted Dean's Rebel Without a Cause, and a directing credit was shared by Robert Altman and George W. George.  

vinyl LP record label
photo by Styrous®

The score for The James Dean Story was written by Leith Stevens. Stevens also wrote The Wild One (1953), When Worlds Collide (1951), Destination Moon (1950), The War of the Worlds (1953) and many other films (see links below).     

 movie poster
Eagle-Lion Classics Inc.,

vinyl LP record side 2
photo by Styrous®

Tommy Sands sang the song, Let Me Be Loved, featured in the film (YouTube link below).  He was born Thomas Adrian "Tommy" Sands on August 27, 1937. He is an American pop music singer and actor. He started as early as 1949 and became an overnight sensation and instant teen idol when he appeared on Kraft Television Theater in January 1957 as "The Singin' Idol." The song from the show, Teen Age Crush, reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 1 on Cashbox.      

 Publicity photo
circa 1957
photographer unknown

Side 2: Let Me Be Loved by Tommy Sands
vinyl LP record label
photo by Styrous®

The James Dean Story soundtrack   


Side 1:       

A1     Prelude    
A2     Boyhood    
A3     Who Am I?    
A4     Thinking Of Home    
A5     Rebel At Work    
A6     Finding His Power     
Side 2:       

B1     Hollywood    
B2     The Movie Star    
B3     Lost Love    
B4     Success And Then What?    
B5     Testing The Limits Of Life    
B6     Return Home    
B7     End Title (Theme) "Let Me Be Loved" -
Vocal – Tommy Sands written by Jay Livingston, Ray Evans

Label: Capitol Records ‎– W-881
Format: Vinyl LP, Album, Mono
Country: US
Released: 1957
Style: Soundtrack

James Dean Interview on YouTube            
SCVTV.com The Stuff of Legend: James Dean's Final Ride        
Let Me Be Loved on YouTube                  
Tommy Sands discography                 

The Wild One ~ 1953           
The War of the Worlds ~ Worlds on Film               

Dean has become a legend larger than life.

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I started the Vinyl LP series because I have a collection of over 20,000 vinyl record albums I am selling; each blog entry is about an album from my collection. Inquire for information here.   

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  1. Well said and done. Thank you so much for writing this post, Max.

  2. Thank you & you're welcome, Amy. :-)


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