In high school, James was a star basketball player.
When James had to write a case study about himself as a High School assignment, he wrote that ‘Mom became ill and passed out of my life at the age of nine. I never knew the reason for Mom’s death, in fact it still preys on my mind’. Why his family never told him that his mother passed away of cancer, is unknown.
His favorite book was Antoine de Saint Exupéry’s The Little Prince and he frequently quoted from it.
Liz Sheridan, famous for playing ‘Jerry’s mom’ on Seinfeld, claims she and James were in love and even lived together when he was a struggling actor in New York.
His first on screen job was in a Pepsi Cola commercial.
James took dance lessons with Eartha Kitt and they were good friends.
Although his look in Rebel Without A Cause made the red leather jacket popular, the jacket was not made of leather. It was actually a windbreaker.
He was given a Siamese kitten by Elizabeth Taylor and named it Marcus after his nephew.
He idolized Marlon Brando. According to Marlon, Dean would often leave messages on his answering service. Marlon, who felt that Dean was copying his lifestyle (including riding a motorcycle and playing the bongo drums) and acting techniques, did not return his calls.
After his untimely death, Elvis Presley would come to idolize James. He confessed to his friends that James had the acting career he always wanted. Elvis even went out of his way to become friends with James’ old pals from Rebel Without A Cause like Natalie Wood and Nick Adams.
A couple of weeks before James died in a car crash, he filmed a Driving Safety TV-ad in which he said: ‘Take it easy driving, the life you save might be mine’.
Besides continuing to act, James planned on becoming a director.
He was the first to receive a posthumous Oscar nomination for Best Actor and the only actor in history to receive more than one Oscar nomination posthumously.
At the time of his death James did not have a will, so most of his possessions went to his father Winton Dean.
James often competed for the same roles as Paul Newman. At the time of his death, Dean was signed to appear in Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956) and The Left Handed Gun (1958). Both parts subsequently were played by Paul Newman and helped make him a star.