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James Dean: The Mutant King: A Biography Paperback – September 1, 2001

4.2 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Pure, poetic gold. . . . A spellbinding portrait.” —Houston Post


“Vividly intimate, engrossing.” —Publishers Weekly

About the Author

Peggy Lipton has most recently appeared onstage in "The Guys" and "The Vagina Monologues" and on television in "Alias" and the WB's "Popular," She lives in New York and Los Angeles. This is her first book.
David Dalton has written a number of books, including "Piece of My Heart: A Portrait of Janis Joplin" and "Faithfull: An Autobiography," Coco Pekelis Dalton is the author of "Everything I Know I Learned on Acid." The Daltons live in upstate New York.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press (September 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155652398X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556523984
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #480,207 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Dalton's biography of James Dean is a very good book about the cinemic legend. He seems to have interviewed many people who were close to Dean, and he focuses as much on the real man as on the icon. Dalton also writes quite well.
The only problem I have with this book is I wonder how carefully it was fact-checked. There was at least one blatant gaffe in the book, which alleged that James Dean was a big fan of Elvis Presley. Now every Elvis fan knows Presley was a huge fan of James Dean, even to the point where he is said to have memorized all of Dean's lines in the classic "Rebel Without a Cause." The question I have is, was Dean really a fan of Elvis?
On page 195 of the paperback 1983 edition, a friend of Dean's is quoted as saying how much James Dean loved the Elvis hit "Hound Dog," and how Dean loved to wake people up in the middle of the night by calling them on the phone and playing the record when they said "Hello." It's a compelling tale.
Unfortunately, this story cannot be true. By the end of 1955, Elvis had signed on to RCA and had obtained Col. Tom Parker as manager. Elvis was still a regional performer in 1955, and his Sun recordings (today big collectors' items) sold only modestly in the South. Elvis did make appearances on "The Louisiana Hayride," and he made some other appearances on local and regional television programs, but it wasn't until January 1956, when he made his first national television appearance on the Dorsey Brothers program "Stage Show," that he became a sensation. Furthermore, Elvis did NOT record "Hound Dog" until July of 1956, almost a year after Dean's death.
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Format: Paperback
59 years after his premature and tragic death at age 24 on September 30,1955, James Dean is still compelling and timeless in his appeal. Today is September 30, 2014, and he still stirs our hearts and imaginations.

David Dalton's Dean biography is one of the best books on James Dean available, because some Dean fans still search for answers and deeper understanding. Why does James Dean still have such a massive number of fans and acolytes worldwide, of all ages, so long after his death? This book helps us with that question.

Our brains are wired for certain heroic archetypes. For many people, Dean is a perfect fit. Dalton tells why James Dean remains an icon and how and why his appeal rose after his death. Dean's story carries strong, mythic resonance. In folklore he would be regarded as a shapeshifter or a trickster. In mythology, as a god. The force of his personality, his beautiful and powerful screen presence, his brief and brilliant career on celluloid--and sadly, his premature and violent end which felt so outrageous, impossible, implausible, so wrong. Dean's death at 24 still angers people--as though he was stolen from us. Anger is a stage of grief. He is so alive on film and in cultural imagery, how can we accept his death?

All that lost potential. Had he not died in his Porsche that hazy late afternoon in California, he would have made more films and most likely would have directed. He might still be alive--an elderly man in his eighties now, and not frozen in time as the eternal, potent youth. To see him grow old and die would have been a different kind of loss, because it would have been incremental, natural, and expected. Dean acquired his elements as mythic, heroic, part trickster, part deity, through early death.
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Format: Paperback
Maybe his friend remembered the artist wrong. "Hound Dog" was originally recorded in 1952 by Big Mamma Thornton (released in 1953 on Peacock Records.) Elvis covered it in 1956.

Several country versions exist as well, recorded 1953-1956.

My point being, eyewitness testimony or memories are unreliable. Most times due to our human brains being so psychologically prone to confabulation. However, it is all we have in the case of remembering people and events. It is hard to have someone so famous like Dean and not have people "invent" who they think he should've been - instead of who he was. I think we never truly know another human being anyways. We are all of us "touching from a distance" and only scratching the hazy surface of who we ourselves are. Most can only hope to achieve some measure of immortality in their lifetimes. How wonderful on film, how brightly did Dean shine. He shines for the ages.
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Format: Paperback
In the slew of Dean Biographies I've read, this came to me third. And I was in general, very privelaged to read it. It is concise, thorough, factual, and eloquent. Favorite parts in all Dean bios are his chilhood years, his 3 years before success, and experiences while making his 3 films- and this book does wonderful justice to those times. You'll learn about his sex, loves, and hot&cold personality. There were a few(only a few) moments where some details lagged and dragged slightly. Those thoughts, however, disapeared instantly with the next sentence I would come upon in the book. It's in my top three Dean bios list-probably #3. Please let yourself discover Jimmy. Buy this and several other of his bios and take them on a vacation(or some time and place where you can commit yourself to them)and devoure them."James Dean-Boulevard of Broken Dreams", and "Live Fast Die Young", are two other necessaries. This is a must read. Happy Readings!
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