James Dean was born on February 8, 1931 in Marion, Indiana. His father, who he was not close to, was a dental technician. His mother, with whom he was extremely close died when James was only 9 years old. It’s believed that this tragedy left a scar on the boy that never healed.
“I used to sneak out of my uncle’s house at night and go to her grave and I used to cry on her grave – ‘Mother, why did you leave me? Why did you leave me? I need you’.'” – James Dean
In high school, he was successful in sports as well as in drama. In 1949 he won a local “dramatic-speaking” contest with a monologue from “Pickwick Papers”. Nationally, he placed sixth, which he was less than thrilled with. He laid all the blame at the feet of his drama teacher.
In addition to sports and drama, young James Dean loved speed. He was given his first motorcycle at the age of 18.
“I’ve been riding (a motorcycle) since I was sixteen…I used to ride to school…I used to go out for the cows on the motorcycle. Scared the hell out of them. They’d get to running and their udders would start swinging and they’d lose a quart of milk.” -James Dean
After graduating High School, he left for California, to study at Santa Monica College. The following year he transferred to UCLA to study theater. He was known by those around him for his extreme mood swings as much as for his talent. Not only did he not make friends easily, he tended to PUSH people away.
“I try so hard to make people reject me. Why?” – James Dean
In early 1951, he dropped out of college and started attending an acting workshop which was home to “Method” acting. By March he had a small part in a TV play and a group of Los Angeles girls founded the first James Dean fan club.