Role models of greatness.

Here you will discover the back stories of kings, titans of industry, stellar athletes, giants of the entertainment field, scientists, politicians, artists and heroes – all of them gay or bisexual men. If their lives can serve as role models to young men who have been bullied or taught to think less of themselves for their sexual orientation, all the better. The sexual orientation of those featured here did not stand in the way of their achievements.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

James Dean

Hollywood Bisexual and Tortured Soul

James Dean was born February 8, 1931, in Marion, Indiana. He had a very short Hollywood career, just two years, before his untimely death at the age of 25. However, he became a lasting icon of American film, one of disaffected non-conformity.

A basketball player in high school, Dean lost his front teeth in a sports related accident and had to wear false teeth for the rest of his life. He had terrible eyesight, as well. However, he excelled at acting, and his brooding handsomeness helped lead to a successful television, stage and film career.

When Dean was living in NYC, studying at the Actors Studio under Lee Strasberg, he was supported by an older homosexual gentleman, Rogers Brackett, who had become his lover and mentor. Brackett was the radio director for an advertising agency. While attending a class conducted by Marlon Brando in 1951, Dean stayed after the session to meet his idol, beginning an intense sexual affair with Marlon that lasted through the winter. Dean was completely smitten with Brando, often stalking him when Marlon was out on dates with others. Dean groomed himself to become a Brando clone, copying his walk, speech and acting style. Dean immersed himself in the techniques of method acting, and he landed a role on Broadway as a boy who seduces a male tourist in André Gide's The Immoralist (1954). He quit the show after just three weeks in order to fly to Hollywood in April, 1954, to film East of Eden (1955). On the set Dean had disagreements with director Elia Kazan, but he delivered an outstanding performance. Dean had several romances with actresses and with men, as well. Cited by biographers as having had affairs with Dean are actors Clifton Webb, Bill Bast, and Jack Simmons, as well as Brando and producer Rogers Brackett.

Dean's engagement to actress Pier Angeli quieted rumors of his bisexuality, but he was widely quoted as saying, when pressed about his sexual orientation, that he wouldn't go through life with one hand tied behind his back. Angeli's abrupt breaking off of the engagement and her subsequent marriage to singer Vic Damone left Dean the subject of further speculation. Bill Bast, one of Dean’s closest friends and his roommate at UCLA, stated that he and Dean had been lovers. It is known that Dean frequented gay bars, and people who knew him at the time said he was homosexual (not bisexual), including screenwriter Gavin Lambert and “Rebel without a Cause” director Nicholas Ray.

Dean busied himself with work on Rebel without a Cause (1955, photo above), the film that would establish him as an enduring Hollywood star, even though it was released after his death. A classic film about teenage alienation and angst, it features prominently a gay subtext embodied in the relationship between the characters portrayed by Dean and Sal Mineo. In its honesty and tenderness, the coded relationship between these characters has touched generations of gay youth. Dean portrayed a non-conformist masculinity that challenged the rigid gender-role expectations of 1950s America.

After completing Rebel without a Cause, Dean began working on the epic film Giant (1956, photo at left with Elizabeth Taylor), based on the Edna Feber novel. In this film, Dean's transformation from farmhand to oil baron is masterful, although on-set tempers flared between Dean and closeted co-star Rock Hudson. Soon after finishing all his scenes for Giant, Dean went for a drive with a mechanic friend in his Porsche on September 30, 1955, in which Dean was nearly decapitated in a car accident near Salinas, California. His untimely death, just as he was on the verge of a major acting career, catapulted him to fame and helped make both Rebel without a Cause and Giant huge box office hits.

4 comments:

  1. Such a pity he had to spend his short life in the closet and hiding. It is such a shame people had to hide who they were just to keep working in Hollywood or anywhere for that matter.

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  2. I do feel he was bisexual, yet bisexual people usually prefer a gender. He might've preferred men, but he did have sexual encounterso with women too.

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  3. I don't see it, but I have several portraits of myself done over my considerable lifetime, and people have often commented that they thought two of them (from ages 18, and 25)were of James Dean.

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