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James Dean Movies on DVD

James DeanJames Dean movies on DVD: Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden, Giant

James Dean's cult status was surely not hurt by his death at the age of 24 – shortly after reaching stardom – in a road accident in 1955. Except for a handful of bit parts in the early '50s, Dean's cinematic legacy consists of a mere three films, all of which have a special place in film history, all of which have both their fans and their detractors, and all of which are part of Warner Home Video's DVD set “The Complete James Dean Collection.” (Image: James Dean ca. 1955.)

As for Dean's earnest, oftentimes mannered performances in two of those films (Rebel Without a Cause and Giant), they're no better – and no worse, really – than the work of countless other teen and pseudo-teen actors before or since.

James Dean movies

Of James Dean's three movies – Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Elia Kazan's East of Eden (1955), and Academy Award-winner George Stevens' Giant (1956) – the last title is probably the best one. Based on Edna Ferber's novel, Giant is certainly the biggest in scope, covering both several decades and lots of (Texan) wide open spaces. Unfortunately, Dean's highly mannered performance is one of the film's weakest points, though Academy members surely thought otherwise: both James Dean and co-star Rock Hudson were nominated for Oscars. (Curiously, Elizabeth Taylor was bypassed in the Best Actress category; Dean and Hudson lost to Yul Brynner for The King and I.)

Granted, East of Eden, adapted from a novel by John Steinbeck, has its moments and boasts a first-rate cast that includes Julie Harris and Best Supporting Actress Oscar winner Jo Van Fleet, but the film isn't quite as emotionally explosive as its makers intended it to be.

As for Rebel Without a Cause, it consists of a series of “rebellious youth” clichés, and remains of interest chiefly because its three young stars met untimely deaths. Besides James Dean, Rebel Without a Cause features Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo, both of whom are young and pretty and madly in love with Dean's misunderstood youth.

In addition to Dean's three starring vehicles, Warner's James Dean DVD box set offers countless bonus features, including commentary by Giant screenwriter Ivan Moffat and filmmaker George Stevens Jr.

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