The Hollywood star who died chasing the dream of running in Indianapolis

Much has been said about the death of James Dean, but what few know is why he was a fan of motorsports.

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Perhaps due to the need to find a certain romanticism in a tragedy, as if from another movie by Hollywood it will be, the phrase "Live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse" is usually attributed to James Dean, although he never uttered it. Actually those words came from the mouth of John derek in the film Knock on any door 1949, a long time before Dean himself rose to fame. Although it is true that it could well have been a perfect epitaph for this young 24-year-old actor who passed away in 1955 ...

Death found Dean at the height of his acting career, which had been started a few years earlier. After several appearances in television shows and extra in some films, he found fame in 1954 through his starring role in East of paradise.

James DeanHis great work then allowed him to achieve two roles that placed him in the Olympus of the stars of the Hollywood universe: Rebel Without a Cause y Giant, which premiered some time after his death, which occurred on September 30, 1955 while testing a Porsche 550 A Spyder with whom he planned to participate in a race in Salinas, California.

Jimmy had inherited his uncle's passion for speed Marcus, who raised him on his farm in Fairmount, in Indiana. It was he who gave him a 125 cm3 motorcycle when he was 16 years old and who also took him to see the 500 Miles Indianapolis 1949. That experience he had during that visit to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was the one that woke up his want to be a pilot ...

Twenty-year-old Dean wasted no time when he cashed in for his first movie jobs. Bought a Porsche 356 Speedster and within two weeks of having it, he used it to participate in a race in Palm Springs.

"Veteran racers didn't believe neophyte Dean, but he surprised them all while his studio didn't know that his precious property was flying low at high speeds," wrote Gus Vignolle in your tabloid MotoRacing referring to the brilliant performance of the actor from the Warner Bros which ended in a resounding victory in the preliminary race. In the main competition he came third, but he agreed to segundo lugar after the declassification of the winner. It was March 26, 1955 and Dean had no idea that his life would end, precisely, for following his great passion ...

James DeanThat victorious debut at Palm Srping was followed by two more races. In Bakersfield he was third overall and first in his class; while Santa Barbara abandoned due to an engine failure. After that last engagement Warner Bros stood firm and banned the actor from competing while under contract. Dean was not very amused, although there was no choice but to accept it.

His exploits on the slopes and the imminent premiere of Rebelde sin Causa, which featured a street race among its scenes, was taken advantage of by the National Highway Committee to make a spot with the aim of educating young people about safe driving. Warner Bros thought it was a good idea since, in addition, it would have the possibility of promoting the film ...

In the spot Dean talks to his colleague Gig young, who asks him different questions about his nascent sports campaign. In the final scene Young asked him if he had any special advice to give to young drivers in America. Jimmy was to respond with the committee's slogan: "Drive carefully, because the life you save can be yours". However, he said the following ..."Remember, drive carefully, because the life you save may be mine." The phrase was truly foreboding.

James DeanAfter filming Gigante, Dean was ready to get back on the slopes and continue to accumulate experience to fulfill his true desire: run the indy 500, something that affirms Dorothy Schultz, an expert in the life of the actor.

To achieve the experience necessary to achieve his desire, Jimmy decided he wanted to compete with a Lotus in various races, but as it was going to take several months to arrive, on September 15 he bought a Porsche 550 Spyder which he christened as Little bastard. The sports car weighed 550 kg, had an engine that delivered 110 CV and its top speed was impressive.

Proud of his new acquisition he showed it to his colleague Alec Guinness, who years later would give life to Obi-Wan Kenobi en Star Wars. "How fast is it?"Guinness asked him. "It reaches 240 km / h"Dean replied. Guinness was stunned and said: "It is ten o'clock at night on Friday, September 23, 1955. If you get in that car you will be found dead in it at this time next week"...

James DeanOn the morning of September 30, Dean and his mechanic left for Salinas. He had given up pulling the Porsche on a trailer as he wanted to hold his hand and soften it up. When he sped it up and hit the road, he didn't even remember the Guinness words.

At 15.30:17.50 p.m., Dean received a new wake-up call. This time from a policeman who fined him for speeding. At 466:41 p.m., the actor arrived at the intersection of highways XNUMX and XNUMX. In front was a black and white Ford Tudor driven by someone as young as he. It was Donald Turnupseed, a 23-year-old student. The Ford suddenly turned left and Dean didn't have time to react….

The Porsche, driving at the regulated speed of 90 km / h, crashed into the right side of the Tudor. Turnupseed just cut his nose. The mechanic was fired from the sports car and suffered a broken skull and leg. Dean had worse luck: he broke his neck and died on the way to the hospital. Guinness had missed its forecast by just four hours and 10 minutes ...

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Automundo is the blog about news from the automotive industry, motorsport and the culture of the region. Director: Diego Durruty.

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