The 71st Annual Oscars were held on March 21, 1999 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, L.A. County Music Center. Elia Kazan was given an honorary Academy Award "in recognition of his indelible contributions to the art of motion picture direction."
AS SEEN IN:
"James Dean: Race With Destiny"
AS PLAYED BY:
After the success of "On the Waterfront" [Elia Kazan] went on to direct the screen adaptation of John Steinbeck's novel, "East of Eden" in 1955. As director, Kazan again used another unknown actor, James Dean.
Kazan had seen Dean on stage in New York and after an audition gave him the starring role along with an exclusive contract with Warner Bros. Dean flew back to Los Angeles with Kazan in 1954, the first time he had ever flown in a plane, bringing his clothes in a brown paper bag.
The film's success introduced James Dean to the world and established him as a popular actor. He went on to star in "Rebel Without a Cause" (1955), directed by Kazan's friend, Nicholas Ray, and then "Giant", (dir. George Stevens, 1956)
Author Douglas Rathgeb describes the difficulties Kazan had in turning Dean into a new star, noting how Dean was a controversial figure at Warner Bros. from the time he arrived. There were rumors that he "kept a loaded gun in his studio trailer; that he drove his motorcycle dangerously down studio streets or sound stages; that he had bizarre and unsavory friends."
As a result, Kazan was forced to "baby-sit the young actor in side-by-side trailers," so he wouldn't run away during production. Costar Julie Harris worked overtime to quell Dean's panic attacks. In general, Dean was oblivious to Hollywood's methods, and Rathgeb notes that "his radical style did not mesh with Hollywood's corporate gears."
Dean himself was amazed at his own performance on screen when he later viewed a rough cut of the film. Kazan had invited director Nicholas Ray to a private showing, with Dean, as Ray was looking for someone to play the lead in "Rebel Without a Cause". Ray watched Dean's powerful acting on the screen, but it didn't seem possible that it was the same person in the room, who Ray felt was shy and totally withdrawn as he sat there hunched over. "Dean himself did not seem to believe it," notes Rathgeb. "He watched himself with an odd, almost adolescent fascination, as if he were admiring someone else."
The film also made good use of on-location and outdoor scenes, along with an effective use of early widescreen format, making the film one of Kazan's most accomplished works. James Dean died the following year, at the age of 24, while in an accident with his sports car outside of Los Angeles. He had only made three films, and the only completed film he ever saw was "East of Eden". BCnU!