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Boulevard of Broken Dreams: The Life, Times and Legend of James Dean Paperback – May 1, 1997
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
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From Publishers Weekly
This is a juicy biography that looks at the events that shaped Dean's (1931-1955) homosexuality. The death of his mother left Dean to be raised by relatives in Indiana, where he enjoyed an adolescence filled with basketball, 4-H Clubs and fast motorcycles. During this idyllic time he lost his virginity--to the local minister. After graduation from high school, Dean moved to L.A. to attend acting classes at UCLA. Unable to find film work, he slept with men (including, purportedly, Clifton Webb) who could help him to get acting jobs. Moving to Manhattan, he joined the Actors Studio to study under Lee Strasberg. After appearing on TV and Broadway, Dean returned to Hollywood to make East of Eden . Rebel Without a Cause and Giant followed, but Dean died in a car accident before their premieres. No movie critic, Alexander ( Rough Magic ) instead has written a graphic sexual biography that's likely to shock Dean fans. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The interesting thing about James Dean is the fact that, almost 40 years after his death, he remains an icon of American pop culture. In the last chapter of this tell-all biography, Alexander takes a stab at accounting for Dean's continuing popularity, but his real interest throughout the book is in the actor's sex life. Although he devotes some attention to Dean's work as an actor and to his heterosexual liaisons, Alexander's contribution to the Dean legend is to label him as homosexual. The early death of Dean's mother; abandonment by his father; a close teenage "friendship" with an older, more worldly man; trips to the Hollywood casting couch (male version); testimony from numerous of Dean's self-proclaimed male lovers (one of whom provides a diary, complete with pillow talk)--these are only a few of the brush strokes that make up Alexander's portrait of Dean as a gay man. Contradictory evidence,like Dean's romance with actress Pier Angelli--considered by many to be the love his life--gets perfunctory treatment: ". . . the affair developed so quickly it would be hard to imagine that the love was lasting or substantial." That clears the way neatly for Alexander's conclusion: "James Dean used this sense of angst, caused by his inability to live the life he wanted to lead, to spur him on as he relentlessly pushed the boundaries of his art." Well, maybe, but by Alexander's reckoning, Dean didn't suffer from all that much repression, despite living in a 1950s closet. The point about revealing the secret sexual histories of dead celebrities, after all, isn't to prove the case as much as to raise a ruckus. Alexander ought to do just fine. Ilene Cooper --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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There are two rather detailed (homo)sexual scenes, and that's all. Of course one wonders how Alexander recreated them (he doesn't list his sources in footnotes and just mentions how he tried to recreate dialogue and scenes through in-depth interviews) but they are in no way the common theme of the book.
Alexander's prose is elegantly clear, empathic and evocative. What seems to annoy some reviewers is that he tries to bring to light elements of Dean's life biographies back then (this book was originally published in 1995) - and maybe even today - tried to avoid or probably suppress. From this point of view this is still an informed and reasonably balanced piece of work and in no way the lurid scam it is depicted to be in some reviews here. Some "fans" probably hate their romantic myths about Dean shattered or are too uncomfortable with homosexuality to see it mentioned in a James Dean biography.
What is strange, though, is the fact that the recently published book by Willam Bast, which probably deals more with Dean's (homo)sexuality than Alexander's book, doesn't get as many negative reviews as this book here. Maybe times have changed.
Anyway, I think there is no such thing as "the" James Dean biography. If you want to seriously know more about him you should read several biographies to get to know different points of view. But Paul Alexander's work should not be missed.
I found the book mostly very interesting, extremely well written and well paced. I will, however, bring up two aspects that made me go 'meh', and lose a little trust in the author.
Firstly, the author occasionally chooses to include dialog within the narrative. One page of dialog, when Jimmy is talking to his friend on a bus, comes to mind. Whilst it says at the beginning of the book that none of the dialog is imagined, I couldn't help but question its authenticity. The writer even goes as far as to identify pauses and breaths in the speech, which got on my nerves from time to time.
The second thing that made me question the truthfulness of the biography was the author's extremely in-depth descriptions of Jimmy having sex. The only way the author could possibly back up the detail he has drawn out in the various sexual encounters of Jimmy's life is if he had actually been there at the end of the bed, taking notes. I urge you not to mistake my criticism for a simple reaction of disgust or offence, for I feel neither of these; that would just be silly and immature.
Here is a tiny extract as an example: "Jimmy's erection was huge, he wanted Jonathan so badly. Next, Jimmy had Jonathan lie down on his stomach on the bed. His pale skin looked even whiter in the room's darkness." - I mean, really. How could the writer possibly know the intricate series of events that amounted to Jimmy and Jonathan having sex. It just made me go 'meh' really. Just 'meh'. While I appreciate that he may have wanted to set a mood, I don't like the way the writer tells us that Jonathan's pale skin looked even whiter in the room's darkness... I mean, come on. He's no more qualified to state that fact than I am to tell you that the Queen of England looked rather off color as she brushed her teeth last night. And, by the way, I have researched Jonathan (one of Jimmy's boyfriends in the book) and have found no record of him talking to the writer or any other media source about how his body looked in the dark of the room or how Jimmy laid him down on his stomach. And why should I? I can't see that coming out in a candid, jovial chat on Letterman.
It's simply the writer's over confidence and clear desire to write a fiction book as soon as he's finished that tarnishes an otherwise fascinating, well written biography. I would still recommend you buy the book... just skip over the dialog and take the sex scenes with a pinch of salt.
Sylvia Miles said, "Any actor so self-absorbed had to end up being great."
Co-star Julie Harris added: "I knew he was brilliant. He was quite a charismatic human being and had a mixture of sexual attraction and great innocence."
Actor James Dean was the quintessential angry young man who didn't fit into society. Author Paul Alexander writes that "Dean appealed to an entire generation of young people who adopted him as their hero."
Alexander gives a good account of Dean's life in "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," as he strives to separate the Dean mythology, created by the movie companies, from what the real Dean and what really happened. Separating the two isn't easy.
Dean's sexuality is a major theme, perhaps too much so, throughout the book. Although Dean never publically dealt with his sexuality before he died, it's clear that men and women were sexually attracted to him. In the end, what does it matter if he was homosexual, bisexual or straight? Confusion about his sexuality, however, could have been part of the reason for the angst, frustration and tension that Dean felt, according to Alexander.
Only 24 when he died in 1955, Dean, who Time magazine wrote, "had a streak of genius," is definitely a legend, one that many people want to know more about.