BACKSTORY: From the official James Dean website: James Dean was born February 8, 1931, in Marion, Indiana, to Winton and Mildred Dean. His father, a dental technician, moved the family to Los Angeles when Jimmy was five. He returned to the Midwest after his mother passed away and was raised by his aunt and uncle on their Indiana farm. After graduating from high school, he returned to California where he attended Santa Monica Junior College and UCLA. James Dean began acting with James Whitmore's acting workshop, appeared in occasional television commercials, and played several roles in films and on stage. In the winter of 1951, he took Whitmore's advice and moved to New York to pursue a serious acting career. He appeared in seven television shows, in addition to earning his living as a busboy in the theater district, before he won a small part in a Broadway play entitled See the Jaguar.
He worked with Arthur Kennedy in "See the Jaguar"; he would later star with Julie Harris in "East of Eden" and Mildred Dunnock in "Padlocks," a 1954 episode of the CBS television program "Danger."] Dean continued his study at the Actors Studio, played short stints in television dramas, and returned to Broadway in "The Immoralist" (1954). This last appearance resulted in a screen test at Warner Brothers for the part of Cal Trask in the screen adaptation John Steinbeck's novel "East of Eden." He then returned to New York where he appeared in four more television dramas. After winning the role of Jim Stark in 1955's "Rebel Without A Cause," he moved to Hollywood.
In February, he visited his family in Fairmount with photographer Dennis Stock before returning to Los Angeles. In March, Jimmy celebrated his Eden success by purchasing his first Porsche and entered the Palm Springs Road Races. He began shooting "Rebel Without A Cause" that same month and Eden opened nationwide in April. In May, he entered the Bakersfield Race and finished shooting Rebel. He entered one more race, in Santa Barbara, before he joined the cast and crew of "Giant" in Marfa, Texas.
En route to compete in a race in Salinas, James Dean was killed in a highway accident on September 30, 1955. James Dean was nominated for two Academy Awards, for his performances in "East of Eden" and "Giant."