Tragic Death of James Dean


On this day in 1955, 24-year-old actor James Dean was killed in Cholame, California, when his Porsche hit a Ford Tudor sedan at an intersection. The driver of the other car, 23-year-old California Polytechnic State University student Donald Turnupseed, was dazed but mostly uninjured. Dean’s passenger, German Porsche mechanic Rolf Wutherick, was badly injured, but survived.

Only one of Dean’s movies, East of Eden, had been released at the time of his death, though Rebel Without a Cause and Giant opened shortly thereafter. But Dean was already on his way to superstardom, and the crash made him a legend. Rumor has it that Dean’s car, which he’d nicknamed the Little Bastard, was cursed. The remains of the car vanished from the scene of that accident and have not been seen since.

It could be argued that James Dean is a bigger figure because he died. Why would that be? I suggest it is because the world knew him just well enough to see his full potential. So in his loss, the world felt a vacuum.

What about you? If you exited the world today, would people say you will be missed because of what you have done? Or would they say you had so much left to do? James Dean is famous, in part, because what he had, people wanted more of.

My prayer is that when I leave this world, people will look at me and say, “He lived a life too short.”


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