Among Dean’s closest friends there was now a growing feeling that somehow Jimmy had changed. One humid night, sitting in his kitchen with Lew Bracker, Dean turned and said quietly, “You know, Lew, I think we ought to get married.”
”To each other?” Bracker joked.
”No. Seriously,” Dean replied. “I mean it would be so right to come home to somebody who understands me, who cares.”
James Dean and Perry Lopez on the set of Rebel Without a Cause.
Gary Cooper was considered for the role of James Dean’s father in East of Eden. The role eventually went to Raymond Massey. Nonetheless, Cooper was reportedly one of the few Hollywood establishment stars to welcome young James Dean to the scene. The affinity was certainly reciprocated. Among the few actors Jimmy idolized much has been made over his link to Brando and Clift. But little has been said about Gary Cooper, and in some ways James Dean identified more with Cooper than with any other actor in Hollywood.
"Dean’s death caused a loss in the movie world that our industry could ill afford. Had he lived long enough, I feel he would have made some incredible films. He had sensitivity and a capacity to express emotion." - Gary Cooper
"I am very lonely for you. I am alone. Thoughts are sweet, then wicked, then perverse, then penitent, then sweet. The moon is not blue. It hangs there in the sky no more”.
-James Dean (excerpt from a letter to his girlfriend Barbara Glenn)
There was a side of Jim I saw only once. He went out to California to film East of Eden, and when he returned he called, asking for a class. As soon as he arrived I knew something had changed. He seemed subdued and preoccupied. He wasn’t really interested in a class, so we talked of other things instead. Throughout the conversation the name Pier popped out in comments such as, “Oh, I enjoyed the trip, but Pier said…” the rest of the sentence trailing off. I couldn’t tell whether Pier was a man or woman, but it seemed like a romantic preoccupation. As we talked, he sighed, looked at the clock several times, then at his hands, then at me.
"Can I make a call to Hollywood - it’ll be collect. She’s expecting it."
"Sure," I said, reaching for the phone near the desk.
"No, I’d like to make it in the darkroom."
He moved quickly there and closed the door. Soon from behind it his voice rose in spurts like a tiny machine gun. ”Hey, Roy! Come here!” It was like a little boy’s cry in the wilderness. I went in. He was standing straight, facing me and offering the phone. He was blushing. I had never seen that look. His eyes seemed larger and sadder than they’d ever been and just about to spill over.
"Here," he said. "Tell her. Tell her where I am." Then he closed his eyes and opened them. "Oh, yes, Roy, this is Pier Angeli."
"Hello, Roy. I hope you don’t… Roy, please tell Jimmy not to get so excited."
"I’l do that," I said and handed the phone back to him. "She said not to get excited." I left him and closed the door.
When he came out he said little, but asked for a glass of water. Then he left.
"I drove by Jimmy’s house the Wednesday before the races to wish him well. As I pulled into the driveway, none other than Pier Angeli passed me, coming out of Jimmy’s driveway in her car. I waved and honked but she only nodded to me and her face looked tear-stained. Jimmy, too, looked distraught when I went in. I felt it was best to leave him alone. Before going out, I asked if there was anything I could do. He clenched his fists tightly, over and over again. “It’s already done,” he said in a choked voice. “Pier’s going to have a baby,” he blurted out. I was stunned by the news. I knew he had seen her from time to time since her wedding. I thought I knew what was on Jimmy’s mind, that perhaps it was his baby – and there she was, married to another man. I stood there feeling at a loss, not knowing what to say. Then Jimmy started to cry, and for the first and only time in my life I took a man in my arms and I held him to my chest and rocked him”
- Joe Hyams
Jimmy would also entertain others on the set with excellent imitations, doing Charlie Chaplin, Elia Kazan, or Montgomery Clift with equal ease. One takeoff he did on Mr. Magoo, the radio character made famous by Jim Backus, was so good Nicholas Ray had it written into the script. “He became other people with obvious passion,” Ray said. “This was a great part of his magic as an actor.”
James Dean photographed by Dennis Stock in Times Square, 1955.
Redford, Dean, Brando, Delon, Newman, Peck, Beatty, Pacino, McQueen
Elizabeth Taylor and James Dean on set of “Giant” (1956)