DATELINE: Dug Out of the Film Mausoleum
Two hundred years ago Resurrection Men stole bodies out of graves and sold them to medical students.
Today Resurrection Men steal movie star images out of film archives to sell to fans. The body of work of James Dean is about to be dissected by film students.
A generation ago we wondered if old clips of TV and movies could be merged into a new script with old, dead actors as stars. It seemed fantastic to think James Dean could, at long last, costar with Marilyn Monroe.
Well, we have reached one plateau, or perhaps hole in the ground. It appears that James Dean, with permission of his greedy surviving relatives, will rise from the dead thespian hall of fame.
A script about some Vietnam-era characters will cannibalize a few of his past scenes, dubbed with a sound-alike actor, to create, without his knowledge or permission, a new movie: yes, his fourth leading role, sixty years after he won Oscar nominations for East of EdenandGiant, will likely result in no Oscar this time.
Some fans are incensed, and others are utterly perplexed at how such a task can be completed.
Can Dean be colorized, animated, and computer-generated into a character he never heard of, studied, or believed he could depict?
It won’t matter because the notion is out of his hands. It is a new-fangled out-of-body experience. It might have driven James Dean out of his mind or sent him speeding off in a Porsche to his doom.
Nearly all of his costars are gone, and a few who lived long enough to entertain the misuse of their images in a post-death world, have left wills and other documents that will forbid any such action. Dean, alas, died long before such a notion was possible.
Dean will costar with other actors he never screen-tested, and it is impossible for him to create chemistry. He will be like a wooden statue in a department store window. Oh, his costars may be able to respond to his behavior, but he will be denied any chance to upstage them.
The film will be called FindingJack, and it’s entering pre-production. It’s more like Finding Jack Spratt, as he is an invisible and hidden carbohydrate in a world of spaghetti film stock.