James Byron Dean is a cultural icon, best thought of as being like the
title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause (1955), in which
he starred as a troubled teenager, Jim Stark. The other two roles that
made him a star were as Cal Trask in East of Eden (1955), and the farmer,
Jett Rink, in Giant (1956). Dean’s continued popularity rests on his work
in only these three films, all leading roles. His premature death in car
crash in 1955 helped establish his legendary status. He was only 24.
James Dean was the first actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award for
Best Actor and remains the only actor to have had two posthumous acting
nominations. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Dean the 18th best
male movie star on their AFI 100 Years…100 Stars list.