Resurrecting James Dean

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.

James Dean Died 60 Years Ago Today

DATELINE: A Small Tribute

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Would the ultimate Rebel Without A Cause actually be 84 today if he had lived? It is unlikely he would have survived the 1960s or the 1980s with his lifestyle.

Yet, we still think of his eternal adolescence, painful youth, and promise lost.

This week as a tribute to Dean we decided to give away copies of our caustic biography of the star, THE NEXT JAMES DEAN. The book featured some insider knowledge of Dean never published before—or since. One fan accused us of snapping a photo of his dead body for the cover image.

Then we took on all the imitators, clones, and clowns, who tried to emulate James Dean. Some were guiltless victims of studio publicity, but many went slightly bonkers trying to emulate him.

Dean made ten times the number of TV shows as his movies. And, most fans probably have not seen hours and hours of his live TV performances. Some are stunning, years ahead of their time.

Few fans know that ghoulish Alfred Hitchcock decided to film one of his seminal suspense scenes at the site of Dean’s deadly car crash. Yes, that desolate stretch of highway is where Cary Grant is chased by a crop duster in North by Northwest. Well, it’s actually a model, a drone by today’s standards.

Fans may not know that the same stretch of road is thought to be haunted by the ghost of Dean and his mysterious and missing death car. Each year on September 30th, around 6pm in the sunset, you can hear a sports car racing down the highway, but end up in a crashing sound. It is the ghost car of Dean.

Fox News is now reporting the car has been found, hidden away behind a false wall to prevent it from killing new victims.

We thought Dean was deader than a door-nail by now. One of his few surviving contemporaries thinks he won’t last. Yet, when we put our e-book up for free taking in honor of James Dean, about 300 fans downloaded our testimonial book. We were delighted.

There were no strings, catches, or tricks. We just gave the book away to dedicated fans. We think Jim Dean of Indiana would have approved.

See James Dean Before He is Lost in the Mists of Time



After viewing the Joshua Tree 1951 movie, we were alerted that on YouTube is a tribute to James Dean on his 82nd birthday in February.

We are loath to take in amateur video compilations, but here we came to realize is something far more professional and brilliant, and it’s available to everyone on the Internet.

ZmaXcharmvill3 is the poster and creator. And the five-minute video has all the earmarks of careful choreography and judicious use of the hundreds of Dean photos and film clips that permeate the blogsphere.

With music by Ryan Star, the tune “Losing Your Memory Now,” at first seems odd—but becomes crystal clear that we are losing James Dean in our collective memory. With books and videos like this one, perhaps he will linger with us a few more years.

Selecting nearly all the quintessential images of Dean, they pop up all around us, showing both Dean’s stunning beauty and sensitivity in a kaleidoscope of familiar and rare images.

By the four-minute mark, we begin to see the acting chops that knocked others off the screen and began a new generation of stylistic performances that linger today among new young actors who may not know how much they owe to James Dean.

ZmaXcharmvill3 uses a color screen test of Dean in full hypnotic mode, looking directly at us—and at each corner of the screen as his life flashes away in swirls of blue smoke.

The director has caught Dean’s essence and provided us with another capstone performance as he plays himself one more time.

With the anniversary of his death by car crash on the horizon at the end of September, we may want to take a few moments to ponder the incredible force that Dean displayed in a few short years and too few movies.

This video is worth every second.

If you want a sense of James Dean’s full impact, you may want to read THE NEXT JAMES DEAN, a look at the original star and all his imitators over the next 25 years. It’s available on in both softcover and e-book versions.

Go East of Eden to the Land of Nod


 DATELINE: Homage to the Movies


With James Dean fresh in our minds in the person of James Preston in the kinky homage called Joshua Tree 1951, we thought how long it has been since we actually looked at James Dean the Original in one of his three major movies.

A few years back we had written a book on the subject of James Dean, one of several hundred tomes of varying weight and importance on the actor. Ours had the distinction of protected interviews with those who knew Dean and would not speak openly. It damned the book for its wink and nod. We sliced and diced the dozens of imitators.

So, we feel we have an interest in the rebel icon that transcends most fans and took a look at a new DVD version of East of Eden, the first major Dean role and the one that catapulted him into the stratosphere.

James Dean did not start quite at the top, but he was not a bottom feeder either. When Elia Kazan handed him the reins on a key role in an important movie, there is no doubt or worry that the young Hoosier actor was in charge.

For decades we have seen an army of young actors all in humble imitation of the original. And now, as we look at an actor who’d be over 80 today, we tried to see him freshly.

Dean, at once, seemed too old and yet too young in the part. He again struck us as diminutive, almost elfin in size, not so threatening, but smaller, like visiting a childhood house that once seemed immense.

Today every actor from two or three generations plays his role in the Dean mode. But, here, he is the only performer throwing away lines, bobbing and weaving away from the camera and fame, thereby stealing every scene.


His contemporaries did not know what to make of him as a psychological study and certainly did not think much of his work as a professional. They seem exasperated in this movie and work hard to keep the verisimilitude, which gives the film something of an unusual patina.

In scenes with Jo Van Fleet as his mother who abandoned him as an infant for a career as the madam of a brothel, Dean and Van Fleet seem almost to mimic each other’s genetics to create a sense of mother and son separated since birth.

There are moments in the film that make it timeless and memorable, even so many years later, after so many viewings.


We again give a nod to James Dean.

 You may read THE NEXT JAMES DEAN about the original and his clones. It’s in softcover and e-book on






Joshua Tree 1951 Chops James Dean Down to Bite Size




DATELINE: Joshua Tree 1951 & James Dean


We cannot tell a lie: this movie falls atop the James Dean legend with the splat of Godzilla meeting Bambi. The trailer gives a full sensation.


After years of teasing, the black and white art film that depicts an impressionistic version of James Dean hits the streaming market like Dean taking a public leak on the set of one of his movies.


Finally there is an arty biographical movie that does to James Dean what he did to art. From the opening and disquieting images of “The Human Ashtray” to Arthur Rimbaud’s bedroom, director Michael Mishory ties Dean into some heavy-duty angst and some lightweight Hollywood orgies of the early 1950s.


We first saw a trailer several years ago and have been teased endlessly about the film’s ever-postponed premiere. Now it has arrived on DVD with little fanfare outside of a Mexico theatrical showing.


As director James Franco learned with his towering small budget biography of Hart Crane, period movies are difficult, but this flows with ease in its pre-rock world of Joshua Tree where the old rocks don’t change for centuries, or at least since Dean stayed there.


Evocation of film noir and beat symbolist poetry seems to knot Dean’s roots as the film jumps back and forth in an impressionistic frenzy.


James Preston’s James Dean comes across as preformed, waiting to hatch out of a chrysalis. As Dean biographical features go, this one tries to be the be-all and end-all.


With so many of those who knew Dean gone and a few ancient leftovers not spilling their beans, the film will have no challengers. Nearly 60 years after James Dean’s car crash into mythomania, this film gives us the 21st century Dean.  No doubt that Dean would find the latest followers still lagging far behind his path.


This film requires acceptance on levels that are not standard for typical movies. It’s far beyond Eden, planetarium explosions, and belligerent oil tycoons that defined Dean’s movie legacy. He’s now ready for his close-up on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.


We know that Jimmy Dean would have approved.

William Russo is author of THE NEXT JAMES DEAN, featuring insights from a few who were there and demanded anonymity for their stories. The book is available on in softcover and e-book formats.