Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fantastic Film Documentary on James Dean's Last Hours

A little over a year ago, I ran a post as part of my Movies in Santa Clarita series, on James Dean and how his last meal may have been at Tip's Coffee Shop in Castaic, just north of Santa Clarita. The Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society has posted a video called "The Stuff of Legend: James Dean's Final Ride." It's a 23 minute documentary on the last few hours of Dean's life and is hosted by film historian E.J. Stephens.

This documentary has earned a lot of praise: it won a 2010 Star Award for Best Documentary and was one of the most watched shows nationwide in 2009. Any one who is a James Dean fan should watch it, as it's a very detailed account of Dean's accident with lengthy interviews with the Highway Patrolmen who responded to the scene. A lot of urban legends about the accident are discussed and dismissed.

Whatever you do, watch the first few minutes: the interview between Gig Young and Dean is horribly prophetic.

Ernie Tripke, one of the two Highway Patrolmen who responded to the crash, died just last December. His obituary in the Los Angeles Times can be found here.

E.J. Stephens has a fantastic blog over at Deadwrite's Dailies and is an well-known Santa Clarita Valley historian. He runs a film class that starts in March - you can find information about it on the SCV Historical Society web site.

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Walker Martin said...

Interesting documentary and I noticed the highway patrolman didn't know who James Dean was. Neither did I until the day of Dean's funeral and all the girls in class wore black. At that age, I was going to movies but only the SF and westerns. The girls however were always interested in the latest Hollywood heart throb.

I didn't even notice the articles in the newpapers because I was only interested in the baseball news, especially the Phillies and Brooklyn Dodgers. 1955 was the year the Dodgers finally beat the Yankees in the World Series.

Barry Traylor said...

I was only 14 when he died (a quite impressible age) and had just seen "Rebel Without A Cause" so I was very upset when he died. And the year before had seen "The Wild One" with Brando. The latter film as much as anything made me crazy for motorcycles. Amazing that he only made three feature films, "Giant" being released after his death.

David Cranmer said...

Dean had a life I still find interesting to read about.

Ron Scheer said...

I think Nicholas Ray created the James Dean persona we remember, in REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE. My western class is watching Ray's THE TRUE STORY OF JESSE JAMES, and Robert Wagner's Jesse is so similar to the character Dean played in the later film - a tormented young soul.