Crash kills young actor James Dean (1955)

Original publication: Charleston Daily Mail Date: October 1, 1955
Categories: 1950s, Cars & trucks, Entertainment, Featured, Newspapers, Notable people
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Speed-loving James Dean, Hollywood’s latest bobby sox idol, was killed last night in a head-on collision of his $7,000 German sports car and another automobile. Dean, 24, was driving from Hollywood to a road race in Northern California at the time of his death on a darkening highway 28 miles east of Paso Robles.

A car driven by Donald Turnupseed of Tulare, Calif, a 23-year-old Cal Poly student, turned left in front of Dean’s light aluminum Porche Spyder and the two automobiles crashed head on.

Dean died instantly. His body was battered and there were numerous broken bones and cuts. The low slung little Porche skidded more than 100 feet from the point of impact before it stopped.

Mechanic hurt

Dean’s passenger, Rolf Weutherich, 29, a mechanic from a sports car garage in Hollywood, suffered a broken leg and fractured jaw but was in good condition at Paso Robles Memorial Hospital. Turnupseed escaped with a bruised nose.

Dean’s father Winton S Dean, a dental technician at Sawtelle veterans hospital here, traveled today to Paso Robles, midway between here and San Francisco to return the body to Los Angeles for the funeral.

Young Dean’s hobby of driving Porsche sports cars in road races was well-known in the cinema industry and a cause for worry among his employers, Warner studio. But the tousle-haired actor always insisted “It’s not driving the races that is dangerous, but driving on highways and streets with those ordinary drivers.”

True to his fear, he met death not in the week-end race he entered in Salinas, but on the highway.

Dean had only last week finished work on “Giant” one of the top pictures of the year. His co-stars, Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson and director George Stevens heard the news as they watched the day’s “rushes” in a projection room at Warner studio.

“We all sat there, just stunned,” said Stevens. “It is a great tragedy. A boy cut off at the beginning. He had extraordinary talent.”

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Great future

Miss Taylor wept that, “I am so shocked I can’t say anything.”

Hudson called Dean a “faultless brilliant actor.” Miss Taylor’s husband Michael Wilding said, “Dean would have been the greatest actor of them all if he had lived.”

Dean was born February 8, 1931 in Marion, Indiana, son of Winton and the late Mildred Dean. He attended high school in Indiana and studied at a Santa Monica, Califorina junior college and UCLA drama school. Three years ago he tried an acting career in New York and won immediate success on such dramatic TV shows as Philco playhouse and Kraft TV theater. He became an established star on Broadway in “See the Jaguar” and “The Immoralist.”

Director Ella Kazan tapped Dean for “East of Eden” in Hollywood. Dean took over where Marlon Brando left off in becoming the town’s most colorful character. He whizzed about town in a motorcycle and wore blue jeans and T-shirts. He was often moody and shy. He dated such young beauties as Ursula Andrs, Lili Kardell and Jeanette Miller.


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Source publication: Charleston Daily Mail

Publication date: October 1, 1955


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