How was James Dean personally

On the death of James Dean: glowing happiness

The town of Cholame in California would still have a very short Wikipedia entry if it weren't for this event on September 30, 1955: A student named Donald Turnupseed is driving east on State Highway 46 in a Ford Tudor. Immediately after Cholame he wants to turn left onto the road in the direction of Chevron. He overlooks a Porsche 550 Spyder, which is difficult to look out in the evening sun, and causes a head-on collision. The driver of the Porsche is James Dean, nicknamed "Little Bastard". He's perhaps the biggest star in Hollywood at this point. And beyond acting, he has only one dream: he wants to drive a car. James Dean is the only person killed in this accident. His co-driver Rolf Wütherich survived seriously injured, and the person who caused it, Donald Turnupseed, got away with a few bruises.

Road crossings have always been places of fate, and not just since Oedipus unknowingly killed his father at a fork in the road in the Parnassus Mountains. In the case of James Dean, the accident on a lonely highway in the California desert was only the last chapter in a series of fateful encounters. The most important one was probably the one with Rolf Wütherich, who had only come to California a few weeks earlier. He worked for the Porsche company and was considered a leading expert on racing cars. At the time, Competition Motors in North Hollywood was specialized in revamping European sports cars for a potent clientele, and Wütherich proved to be particularly adept at doing this.

When five brand new Porsche 550 Spyders arrived in September 1955, it was obvious that James Dean swapped his Model T Porsche for the much faster new model. A race was scheduled in Salinas at the beginning of October, until then the time had to be used to drive in the "Little Bastard".

Rear painting

Because James Dean transferred the nickname that accompanied him to the new car and had it painted on the rear. The "torpedo on wheels", as Dean euphorically called the car, was thus personalized. Most of the information about the cinema idol's last afternoon comes from Wütherich. "Jimmy was glowing with happiness. We had so many plans. He was so warm to me that I could almost think he was in love with me. I became part of his fantasy: to become a globally successful racing driver."

Wütherich also alludes to Dean's bisexual image. He had just shot the Hollywood film Giants, a time when he was contractually prohibited from participating in car races. The red jacket off ... because they don't know what they are doing, the film, which may be the highlight of his short career, he always had with him in the days before his death. With Beyond Eden, the film that had made him a superstar out of nowhere was only a few months ago. James Dean was the hero of the first generation after the war, an attractive but also melancholy-looking young man who had affairs with Marilyn Monroe, Rock Hudson and allegedly even with Marlon Brando. The Italian actress Pier Angeli is considered his great love.

The importance of James Dean's love of automobiles can be seen, for example, from the fact that they have their own book publications. Lee Raskin in particular did a great job. It is no coincidence that he is also an expert on the Porsche brand. His photo book James Dean: At Speed ​​is now considered a collector's item and costs around $ 150. You can find out everything about James Dean's passion for racing, from his beginnings with motorcycles to the Lotus Mark IX, which he originally wanted to buy from Giants and to which he then preferred the Porsche. Under the title On the road to Salinas Raskin then reconstructed the story of the fateful day down to the last detail.

Poetry and truth

If you follow it, many of the details of the story are more likely made up. It is said, for example, that James Dean should have shouted: "He has to see us! He has to stop!" At least that's what Rolf Wütherich later told us, although he initially claimed in the hospital after the accident that he couldn't remember anything. It is undisputed that the last few hours of James Dean were marked by an enthusiasm for speed that was cultivated in erotically charged male friendships. At the Blackwell’s Corner gas station, Dean and Wütherich met Lance Reventlow, born Graf Haugwitz-Hardenberg, a racing driver friend who was on the road with TV director Bruce Kessler. They arranged to meet for dinner at a steak restaurant in Paso Robles and made plans for a vacation together in Idaho.

After the shocking accidental death, many people always wanted to have known: "He was obsessed with death," claimed actress Maila Nurmi about James Dean. And around the Porsche with the name Little Bastard, myths began to grow about a curse: The reusable parts allegedly caused further accidents.

A plaque commemorates him today at the place where James Dean drove into the sunset of his life. And with the usual speed limit in America, nothing should happen in the Cholame area, even with the latest 911 or Taycan Turbo S. (Bert Rebhandl, May 1, 2021)