8 Surprising Facts About James Dean

Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Despite starring in just three major feature films before his untimely death after a car accident at age 24 in 1955, James Dean has endured. The actor, who was born on February 8, 1931, was known for his performances that utilized the immersive “Method” acting technique. And though it's been nearly 65 years since his passing, Dean continues to be the barometer for both effortless cool and committed performing. Let's take a look at some of the more interesting facts behind his life and career.

1. James Dean’s first professional acting job was for a Pepsi commercial.

Dean was born on February 8, 1931 in Marion, Indiana to Winston Dean, a dentist, and Mildred Wilson. When Dean was just nine years old, Mildred passed away from cancer, so Winston sent Dean to live with his aunt and uncle near rural Fairmount, Indiana, where he grew up on a Quaker farm and was a standout high school athlete. Upon graduating from high school in 1949, Dean hopped a bus to California in order to pursue acting while attending Santa Monica City College. But his first role was likely not up to the level of his talents: Dean was cast as part of an ensemble for a Pepsi commercial and seen dancing and singing around a jukebox. He was paid $30.

2. James Dean was a parking lot attendant.

Dean moved from Santa Monica City College to the University of California, Los Angeles, where he majored in theater, but soon dropped out. He then scored a series of minor roles in features, including 1952’s Sailor Beware, a Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comedy. Despite these breaks, Dean was still short on cash and worked as a parking lot attendant for CBS Studios until he moved to New York City in 1951 to study performing under famed acting coach Lee Strasberg.

3. James Dean was a “stunt tester” for a game show.

After moving to New York, Dean was still in need of a steady paycheck. He became a “stunt tester” for the game show Beat the Clock, in which contestants were given tasks to complete in a given period of time. Producers needed to be sure the tasks were practical, so Dean was among those who tested them prior to airtime. Unfortunately for Dean, he completed them rapidly, which gave the show little idea of how a more average guest might fare. He was fired.

4. James Dean earned his first fan club with a television movie.

James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955).Warner Home Video

In 1951, Dean appeared as John the Apostle in Family Theater, an anthology television series that was presenting Hill Number One: A Story of Faith and Inspiration. Despite being years away from major stardom, his presence so captivated the teen Catholic school girls at Immaculate Heart in Los Angeles that they formed the Immaculate Heart James Dean Appreciation Society, one of dozens of fan clubs that would spring up in Dean’s name in the years to come. He would also go on to make 20 different television appearances before being cast in 1955’s East of Eden.

5. James Dean didn’t always bother to learn his lines.

With East of Eden, the adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel, Dean came into his own as a screen performer. But according to co-star Raymond Massey, Dean’s Method approach could often complicate things for his fellow actors. Dean never knew his lines before coming on set and would often ignore things like moving on cue or finding his marks. Dean was also prone to preparing by himself, then blowing a whistle when he was ready to let the other actors know it was time to shoot.

6. James Dean may have had a relationship with Jerry Seinfeld’s onscreen mother.

In 2000, actress Liz Sheridan wrote Dizzy and Jimmy: My Life with James Dean, a memoir about her yearlong relationship with the actor while the two were living in New York in the 1950s. Sheridan later portrayed Helen Seinfeld, Jerry’s mother, on Seinfeld.

7. James Dean was nominated for two Academy Awards, both posthumously.

James Dean in 1955.Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons

While Dean only starred in three major feature films prior to his death in 1955, the general public had only seen one—East of Eden—before a car accident took his life. (Dean's Porsche collided with a Ford Tudor sedan on September 30, 1955, at an intersection in Cholame, California. Donald Turnupseed, the driver of the Ford, and Dean's passenger, mechanic Rolf Wütherich, both survived. ) His next film, 1955’s Rebel Without a Cause, was released less than a month after the collision. His third film, 1956’s Giant, followed. As a result, Dean actually received two posthumous Best Actor nominations at the Academy Awards: one for East of Eden in 1956, which was the Academy Awards's first-ever posthumous acting nomination, and another for Giant in 1957.

8. James Dean’s headstone kept getting stolen.

Such is the appeal of Dean even in death that his resting place in Park Cemetery in his hometown of Fairmount, Indiana has repeatedly been subject to theft. In 1983, someone took off with Dean’s tombstone. It was recovered and then stolen a second time that same year. It remained missing until it was discovered behind a fire station in 1987. The replacement marker was safe until 1998, when it disappeared. An off-duty sheriff’s deputy found it after inadvertently running into it on a county road.

12 Perfectly Spooky Halloween Decorations Under $25


Halloween is right around the corner—which means it’s officially time to bring out the jack-o'-lanterns, watch scary movies, buy your costume(s), and hang up your festive decorations. Although there are thousands of decorations to choose from, you don’t have to blow your budget while decking out your house or apartment in honor of the spooky season this year. With a little guidance, you'll find plenty of ways to create the perfect ambiance at home without going for broke. (And best of all, you can put the money you saved toward extra Halloween candy to stash away.)

From giant spiders to hanging ghosts and lawn decorations, here are a few of our favorite props under $25.

1. Halloween Pillow Covers (4-Pack); $17


These adorable Halloween-themed pillowcases make the perfect accessory for any couch, sofa, or mattress. Made with thick linen fabric, these are durable, sturdy, and designed to last for seasons to come. (Tip: To prevent the zipper from breaking, fold the pillow in half before inserting.)

Buy it: Amazon

2. Black Lace Spiderweb Fireplace Mantle; $12


This versatile spiderweb prop is made with 100-percent polyester, and its knit lace spiderweb pattern adds a spooky touch to any home. Display it on your doorway, across your fireplace mantel, or atop your table. (It also makes a great backdrop for Halloween photo ops.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Statement Halloween Signs; $16


These festive, statement-making banners come pre-assembled, making them incredibly easy to install. They’re also weather-resistant and washable for both outdoor and indoor use. Use tape, push-pins, or weights to prevent the signs from blowing away.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Jack Skellington and Sally Plush Dolls; $23 (Each)


Celebrate your favorite holiday with a pair of adorable Jack Skellington and Sally plush dolls from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Jack stands at 28 inches tall, while Sally is a bit shorter at 21 inches. Set them up on your sofa or against the window sill for all to see.

Buy them: Disney Shop (Jack and Sally)

5. Halloween Zombie Groundbreaker; $22


This spooktacular zombie lawn decoration is sure to scare all of your friends, family, and neighbors alike. Made with a combination of latex, plastic, and fabric, this durable Halloween prop is sure to last for years to come.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Hanging Ghost Decoration; $14

Moon Boat/Amazon

Drape this handmade, 14-foot-long hanging ghost decoration over your porch, doorway, or window. You can also hang it outdoors over a tree or a (very tall) bush. And, since it comes pre-assembled, you won’t have to waste time constructing it yourself.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Two-Piece Hanging Ghost Set; $17


This pair of ghosts adds a whimsical touch to any home. While they’re not “scary,” per se, they certainly are adorable. Display them in your front yard, on your porch, on a lamppost, or a tree. To hang, simply tie the ribbons and bend the wires, arms, and tails.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Pumpkin String Lights; $19

Eurus Home/Amazon

Not only are these solar-powered, 33-foot-long LED string lights good for the environment, they’re also incredibly easy to install (no long, tangly power cable chords necessary). Since they’re waterproof, you can use them both indoors and outdoors. Choose from eight different light settings, including twinkling, flashing, fading, and more.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Inflatable Ghost; $22


This adorable inflatable ghost (which dons a cute-as-can-be wizard hat!) features built-in LED lights and sandbags to help it stay sturdy. It also comes complete with a plug, extended cords, ground stakes, and fastened ropes. Simply plug it in and watch it magically inflate within just a few minutes.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Graveyard Tombstones; $17


Turn your front lawn into a graveyard with this six-piece set. Each tombstone is made with foam and designed to add a touch of spookiness to your space. To install, insert one holder into the bottom of the tombstone, and one into the soil. You can use these indoors, as well.

Buy it: Amazon

11. 10-Piece Skeleton Set; $24

Fun Little Toys/Amazon

This skeleton set includes a skull, hands and arms, and legs and feet—plus five stakes to hold everything in place. Each “bone” and “joint” is flexible, allowing you to prop the skeleton into different frighteningly fun poses. Simply place the stakes into the bone socket and turn clockwise.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Outdoor Spider Web; $18


This giant, ultra-stretchy spider web spans a whopping 23 feet. It also includes a 30-inch black spider, 20 pieces of fake spiders, one hook, and one nail. Its thick polyester rope—combined with the sturdy stakes—allows the spider web to stay in place all season long. Place the hook on a wall or tree, and expand the web using the stakes.

Buy it: Amazon

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The Office Children's Book Is Coming to Introduce Your Kids to Dunder Mifflin

The Office: A Day at Dunder Mifflin Elementary is coming from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in October.
The Office: A Day at Dunder Mifflin Elementary is coming from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers in October.
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers/Amazon

Thanks to constant TV reruns and easy access via Netflix, The Office hasn't lost any of its popularity since airing its series finale in 2013. Now the beloved sitcom is about to be introduced to a whole new audience that (fortunately) isn't old enough to understand what Michael Scott means when he says "That's what she said." As Entertainment Weekly reports, a new book for kids, The Office: A Day at Dunder Mifflin Elementary, is out now.

While it might be hard to imagine how a children's book all about Dunder Mifflin would work, now that we're getting a glimpse at it, it seems like the best idea ever. A Day at Dunder Mifflin Elementary will introduce your little ones to all your favorite paper company employees—though they won't be the same Jim and Pam we all know so well. In this book, the illustrated characters are all school-aged.

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The 40-page book is written by Robb Pearlman, author of Bob Ross and Peapod the Squirrel, Pink is for Boys, and Star Trek: Fun with Kirk and Spock, and illustrated by Melanie Demmer, who works on the My Furry Foster Family series. Though the book is intended for kids ages 4 to 8, you can be sure that we'll be reading it, too.

You can order your copy of The Office: A Day at Dunder Mifflin Elementary for $16 on Amazon right now. And if you're looking for more Office collectibles that are available right now, head here.

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