James Dean (James Byron Dean), 1931–55, American film actor, b. Marion, Ind. After a few stage and television roles, Dean was chosen to play the moody, rebellious son in the film East of Eden (1953). He was further identified with restless, inarticulate youth in his second film Rebel without a Cause (1954). Dean was killed when his racing car crashed the day after he finished work on Giant (1955). His death set off a worldwide wave of popular mourning unequaled since the death of Rudolph Valentino, and he has remained a cult hero.
See V. Herndon, James Dean: A Short Life (1974); D. Dalton and R. Cayen, James Dean: American Icon (1984); P. Alexander, Boulevard of Broken Dreams: The Life, Times and Legend of James Dean (1994).