The James Dean Story
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on April 14, 2001
Looks like I'm the first review here ... well ... let's get started.
The James Dean Story is an interesting look into the life of James Dean, told by the people who knew him best, his family and friends. The story is told in a 50's documentary style that is a little boring and the narration is very dry and not at all what it should be, but the information on this dvd is pretty good.
You get a real sense of what it was like to be friends with James Dean or just to know James Dean. This dvd consists of interviews with his Family, relatives, teachers, friends, ex-girlfriends, college school mates, friends from his acting class and even the bartenders who served him drinks regularly. And the interviews were done not long after his death, so all their stories are still fresh in their minds.
There is also a lot of "sightseeing" of Fairmount, Indiana where Jimmy grew up. You get to see where he went to school, where he played, where he grew up, the stores he used to go into, and just the places he frequented and the people he hung out with.
The story is told using some still photography as well and included quite a few photos of James that I had never seen. Photos that only his relatives had. There's some great stuff in here. There's also a few snippets of rare home videos of James at one of his car races, some footage from the premiere of GIANT after James' death, behind the scenes snippets from Rebel Without a Cause and even a "traffic safety" PSA that James shot while on the set of Giant. The interviewer asked James if he had anything to say to the young people out there that are driving and James responds "take it easy driving ... the life you might save might be mine". Very ironic considering James' tragic death in an auto accident. There are a couple other great little gems that I will let you discover for yourself.
Now a short review of the BELLS OF COCKAIGNE. This is actually a touching little story about Joe (James Dean) who is trying to get enough money for his child who is sick. He tries to gamble for it which doesn't work and then he "finds" a lucky dollar bill with a certain serial number on it, which the newpaper in town will pay $500 for. You get to see the early work of James Dean here and you really start to see the spark of light that eventually made him a star. The show was shot LIVE in the 50's so that in itself was interesting to see. I could even see some of his character CAL from East of Eden in this character.
I found this dvd very enjoyable, just a little slow at times. I recommend this to any James Dean enthusiast or even the casual fan. A chance to see a piece of history with James Dean's earlier work ...
ENJOY!
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2003
Everything the other reviewers have written is true: this documentary of Dean's life is slow-paced, dry, old-fashioned and dated. If you're one of those people who prefer the colorized versions of classic Black and White films, then this film will probably not be to your liking. But I look at it another way: where else can you view interviews with people who actually knew Jim and knew him well? Most of these were filmed shortly in the aftermath of Dean's death, and therefore, their recolections were contemporary. Time hadn't faded their recollections of this amazing young man. You also get to see a many scenes of Dean's childhood in Indiana: his home, High School, roads he traveled, places he visited. If you're a fan of James Dean, you eat this sort of stuff up; I know I do!
A weakness is that the entire production is in black and white, so the clips they show of his color movies are not in color. It's a little disconcerting to see various scenes of "East of Eden" shown in black and white, but you'll grow accustomed to it. As for the second half of the movie, the short TV drama Jimmy made in 1954, "The Bells of Cockaigne," it is excellent and showcases yet again his amazing talent and his beautiful ability to rivet an audience. The quality of this movie is poor, and it does detract from the viewing experience. The quality of the documentary portion is excellent.
If you love James Dean, this is a must have DVD for your collection. Despite its flaws, it's still riveting because of the interviews with intimates who really knew him.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2003
the information from this documentary is invaluable and the insight from his family and the people who saw him on a regular basis gives a glimpse of Jimmy that not many people saw. it is one more facet of a brilliant diamond that shone for too brief a time.one word of caution to anyone with asthma,high blood pressure,heart disese,or tramatic stress disorder,the reenactment of his fatal car crash combined with pictures from the actual crash site are a little too graphic for some.watch at your own risk.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on July 2, 2003
This documentary was made right after the rebels death and success. Which is interesting because you get to hear what people who are not alive now had to say about him and see the way the world was at the time of Jimmys death and stardome. It catures the feel of the legacy he left behind. Not only that, it also includes interviews with his family and friends who are dead now along with a recording of James Dean talking with his family and a deleted scene from "East of Eden." Though the documentary was creepy and haunting, as its first image was, it was also heart felt.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 19, 2004
This film is a must-see for anyone wanting to know more about James Dean. It was released in 1957, over a year after Dean died, and we get to see and listen to family members who are no longer living. We hear from other citizens of Fairmount, Indiana, who knew "Jimmy." We also see and hear show business friends and acquaintances. It also includes alot of great still photographs.
Please remember this film was made in the late 50s, and its dated. It sort of depressed me watching it because it really brought home the fact that "Jimmy" has been dead almost 50 years. But I would think this film would be a necessary part of anyone's collection of James Dean films.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2009
Perhaps the most astounding portion of "The James Dean Story" is the audio and still footage of the hidden recording of the Dean family talent at auctioneering. I watch this dvd every year on Sept. 30, close to the hour of Dean's death. So much of the film captures Jimmy Dean as a very sensitive young man whose bold heart knew very few limits. Although he was very myopic, he was a basketball and track "star" (he averaged 15 points a game in a three game semi-final in an era when 15 points in a game was a lot, and set a pole vault record for that region which was only broken years later). I found it interesting that Marcus Winslow Sr. commented that Jimmy "must have broken 15 pairs of glasses" playing sports. Although he was short in stature he had the heart of a lion. I was also pleased with the summation, or the conclusion, where the narrator, Martin Gable reminds us of the positive images of youth Jimmy left us. So many other documentaries, including the ones with Bill Bast, or Peter Lawford, are so much hearsay, and are speculative at best.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 23, 2000
This is a great Robert Altman documentry on James Dean. It contains many interviews with family and friends from Fairmont, In where Jimmy grew up. I was surprised by the quality of this film. A procedure is used to bring the still photograhs of Jimmy almost to life and for this reason alone I have to recommed this to all Jimmy fans!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 29, 2004
The depictions here are the only accurate substantial accounts of Jimmy Dean's life. There are no bios that can even scratch the surface about him. All of them (authors) put their ideologies above the truth of who Jimmy was. It's too bad that the only truth about this man can never be fully told even by "some" who "claim" they knew him. Christy White is the only one and maybe Bill Bast who appear to be faithfull to his past. The other closest is "maybe" the movie made by TNT in 2003.
Peace..
rj
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2010
Interesting look at James Dean,Although it is basically still pictures with a narrator, along with interviews of those who knew him. I am not a huge Fan of Dean, I liked the movie Rebel without A Cause. I don't like the word "rebel" for obvious political reasons though. Sadly,An troubled man who met a horrible end.one who had so much Potential.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 25, 2010
"The James Dean Story" is a fascinating documentary,an early,low-key masterpiece by Robert Altman. It's completely in B&W,made not long after Dean's untimely death in a car accident. Altman uses stills,interviews with Dean's friends/family,and clips from his movies powerfully. Dean died in the '50s,preceding the other well-known American icons, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. He made only 3 films,yet he retains immortality as an all-American rebel.

James Dean grew up in rural Indiana. He loved farming,caring for animals,painting,playing basketball (he looked geeky,yet hot in glasses) He was a serious actor. He cared about giving his characters depth--something rarely seen among young actors these days. With his self-destructive streak,he sabotaged himself with the Actors' Studio,a Broadway play. He was a young man in search of himself. He was intensely lonely and artistic. He was a sensitive,sympathetic man. Beneath all his blustery rebelliousness was a boy who lost his mother,longing for a family.

In East of Eden (Two-Disc Special Edition),he starred as the unloved older brother in a retelling of the Cain and Abel story. In Rebel Without a Cause (Two-Disc Special Edition),he was a teenaged boy who helps a young girl (Natalie Wood,who also died prematurely) and a fatherless boy (Sal Mineo). In Giant (Two-Disc Special Edition),opposite Rock Hudson and Liz Taylor,he starred as a Texas oil tycoon. Dean showed much promise.

"The James Dean Story" is a classic documentary,and it's also heartbreaking. Dean was buried in his hometown of Fairmount,Indiana,instead of some place like Forest Lawn or Graceland. He returned to his roots. Dean was a meteor in the sky of celebrity. He shone brightly,and all too brief.
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