How much was James Dean worth?
|Net Worth:||$150 Thousand|
|Date of Birth:||February 8, 1931 (aged 24)|
|Country:||United States of America|
|Height:||5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
About James Dean
James Byron Dean born February 8, 1931 was an American actor and cultural icon with an estimated net worth of $150 thousand, after adjusting for inflation in 2022. Dean was the quintessential 1950s teen, he was known to be full of angst and very rebellious. That said, James Dean was a promising young star. His death at the young age of 24 sent shockwaves through all of Hollywood.
Those close to him, including Marlon Brando were deeply upset, others scare straight. One thing is for sure however, not one person in Hollywood went untouched by his early death. Audiences the world over were likewise in a state of anarchy; his life and death are so iconic, that it would not surprise me if he was the centerpiece for a Tarantino film on which a separate narrative is loosely threaded.
Dean became the star of three features films in his short career. However owing perhaps to the way he lived and died, he was only alive long enough to see one of them released. It was perhaps, ironically, the violent and tragic end to his brief life, that transformed him from rising rising star in Hollywood, to a Hollywood legend who was greatly missed.
He mastered his craft young, training using the famed Method style. The same style of the likes of Marlon Brando and so many more who sought to emulate him.
Dean was born on February 8, 1931 in Marion, IN. His mother, Mildred, raised the family, while his father, Winton, worked as a dental technician. After James and his family moved to Los Angeles in 1935, he was sent to school at Fairmont High and while he was a star athlete, excelling in baseball and basketball, he was a below average student.
It was his mother that Dean was closest to. When she died of cancer when he was nine years old, he was upset and unwell for many months. Years later he was haunted by her dying memory, many say however that it was her death that perhaps helped him worry less about life and start living it to the full.
At or around this time, Dean developed an interest in acting, which he continued with when he returned to Southern California in 1949. Despite this, he enrolled at Santa Monica College and majored in pre-law. However Dean later transferred to the University of California, Los Angeles, and started on his journey into the arts. Studying drama this time, he soon found himself besides James Whitmore and soon after that, landed the role of Malcolm in a production of Macbeth.
After experiencing his first feeling of being front and center, Dean transitioned into television commercials, including for Pepsi Cola in 1950. He later enrolled at UCLA, however he made it for only a single semester before deciding to quit school altogether and pursue acting as a career.
With new drive and determination like never before, Dean did begin to make headway. Before long he was cast as John the Apostle in Hill Number One: A Story of Faith and Inspiration (1951). It was his television debut and began to pave his way to more appearances later on. Soon after he appeared in an episode of the anthology series Family Theatre (TV Series 1949–1958) that combined World War II with the crucifixion of Christ.
He was making great progress, however, some saw more in Dean. Many began to consider that with more training he could one day be the lead in a string of popular films. Of course that was not to be. Yet, after taking uncredited bit parts in films like Sailor Beware and the Korean War drama Fixed Bayonets!, he did decide to follow Whitmore and move to Manhattan. He began to study under the famed Method teacher, Lee Stasberg, at the Actors Studio.
After which he made his Broadway debut in See the Jaguar, in 1952. He also continued making television appearances in various roles, including in anthology series like Tales of Tomorrow (TV Series 1951–1953) and the Kraft Television Theatre (TV Series 1947–1958).
After making his final appearance on Broadway in The Immortalist in 1954, Dean signed a contract with Warner Bros. to make films. It seemed like his future was beginning to take shape and that he was to destined to be a big movie star, after all. Starring opposite Ronald Reagan in General Electric Theatre: The Dark, Dark Hours, Dead played the role of ‘Bud’ and Reagan played the role of ‘Joe’.
Then in 1955, Dean made his feature film debut in a starring role in Elia Kazan’s East of Eden. Dean had a way to bring emotion to the roles that he appeared in and that was not lost on audiences that saw East of Eden at movies theaters all over America. It was such a big hit in fact that it turned James Dean from a loose but overzealous aspiring actor, into an overnight Hollywood star.
Like many young boys, Dean loved driving fast and was deeply interested in vehicles and racing around in them. After earning a net worth estimated at over an inflation-adjusted $1 million dollars, he likely spent all of it and more on various sports cars. He owned four or five different sports cars, including an MG TD and Porsche 356 Speedster.
He was such an enthusiast of driving fast and racing his cars that when he was cast in the few roles leading to his death, he had been banned from racing them. However after shooting was coming to an end, on September 30, 1955, Dean sped his way to north Salinas, CA, with Rolf Wütherich in his Porsche 550 Spyder. He had planned to race in an auto rally. However, Dean would never make it there.
After Dean and his passenger, mechanic Rolf Wütherich, were stopped and ticketed by a highway patrolman for speeding. It didn’t slow him down. He stopped only for fuel about two hours later before speeding off and directly collided his Porsche with a Ford Coupe.
It has been estimated that Dean made impact at about 55mph. The driver of the Ford Coupe was Donald Turnupseed, a 23 year old Cal Poly student, who was making a left turn onto Route 41. Upon impact, Wütherich was thrown clear out of the Porsche and suffered only bruises and a broken jaw. While Turnupseed walked away from the crash virtually unharmed. Dean however, most likely suffered a major head injury when his head smashed directly into the Ford’s grill. He was rushed to Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital. He was pronounced dead at 5:59 p.m. that evening.
After the accident and his resulting Death, the public outpour was overwhelming and had not been seen in Hollywood since the young icon, Rudolph Valentino, had died at the height of his fame in the silent era.
Dean went from last week’s new Hollywood star to an American icon with the release of his second film, Rebel Without a Cause. It was released in theaters less than a month after his death. His performance resonated with America’s youth, a vexed and angsty teen rebelling against his parents. The film became a major box office success.
Despite being well paid for his last three films and possessessing a peak net worth perhaps as high as $1 million (inflation-adjusted). At the time of his death in 1955, after spending most of his money on cars and enjoyable past times. James Dean’s net worth may have been as low as an inflation-adjusted $150 thousand.
In 1956, Giant, which was the third of the three feature films Dean starred in, was another success but instilled a sense of loss and sadness at what could have been, and what happened instead.
Dean’s performance in the film was met with much critical acclaim and earned him a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. He had also been nominated in 1955 for his performance in East of Eden, making Dean the only actor in Hollywood history to be nominated twice after death.
In Life and In Death
Dean was reaching some fame while he was alive but it climaxed in the years following his death. Even today James Dean is a household name, some speculate whether that would still be the case had he lived, instead of died. With his appearances in Rebel Without a Cause he became a cult-like icon at the time and that has translated to today’s youth, as well.
The biographical drama film based on his life starred James Franco as James Dean and was released in 2001. It has received 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Dean’s life has earned audiences today as he did while he was alive, only time will tell, how long his legend and legacy will live on for.