Too fast, too young: The James Dean Quiz

Bambi Turner

Image: Wiki Commons

About This Quiz

James Dean starred in just a handful of films in his too-short career, but his talent and iconic style have kept him in the headlines more than half a century after his death. Take our quiz to see how much you know about this '50s film star.

What state can call James Dean a hometown hero?

Dean was born February 8, 1931, in Marion, Indiana, but his family moved to Los Angeles when he was very young. At the age of nine, his mother died and his father sent him back to Indiana to be raised by his aunt and uncle.

What was Dean's college major?

Dean always wanted to make it in show business. He majored in theater at UCLA, starring in the school's production of "Macbeth." He dropped out after just a year to pursue an acting career.

What product gave Dean his first professional acting gig?

Dean landed his first professional acting job as an extra in a Pepsi commercial. He did two shots, one of which featured him dancing around a jukebox.

In what year did Dean land his first part in a Hollywood film?

Dean landed an uncredited role in "Fixed Bayonets!" in 1951. Four more uncredited roles followed, until he landed his first major film role in 1955.

What was Dean's first major film?

James Dean may be a Hollywood legend, but he starred in only three movies, starting with "East of Eden" in 1955. His other two films, "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant," came out later in 1955 and 1956, respectively.

Who wrote the novel that inspired the "East of Eden" film?

"East of Eden," Dean's first film, was based on a novel by John Steinbeck. The author himself approved of Dean's appearance in the film.

True or false: Dean only received top billing in one film in his entire career.

It's hard to believe these days, but Dean received top billing in only a single film -- "Rebel Without a Cause."

What was the name of Dean's character in "East of Eden"?

James Dean played Caleb Trask, who believes his father favors his brother, in "East of Eden." The tale of two feuding brothers shares a resemblance with Cain and Abel from the Bible.

How does Caleb strike it rich in "East of Eden"?

Caleb makes his fortune by bean farming, a lucrative profession with WWI on the horizon. He borrows the money from his estranged mother to start his business.

True or false: Dean died before "Rebel Without a Cause" was released.

Dean died just shy of a month before "Rebel Without a Cause" -- his most famous film -- was released on October 29, 1955. Imagine the headlines if a top-billed star died right before a movie release today, and you can understand how the news hit fans of James Dean.

Which actress co-starred with Dean in "Rebel Without a Cause"?

Natalie Wood played Judy in the film, opposite Dean as Jim Stark and Sal Mineo as Plato.

Where does Dean's character, Jim Stark, get into a knife fight with bully Buzz Gunderson?

Buzz Gunderson picks a fight with Jim at the Griffith Observatory, leading Jim to win the battle and Buzz to demand a rematch.

How does Buzz die in "Rebel Without a Cause"?

Buzz challenges Jim to a game of chicken, leading both men to drive stolen cars towards a cliff. Jim jumps out and survives, but Buzz gets stuck in the car and dies.

Who gets shot by the police at the end of "Rebel Without a Cause"?

Both Natalie Wood's character Judy and James Dean's character Jim survive the film, while Plato is shot near the Observatory.

What role did James Dean play in "Giant"?

Dean played a dirt farmer named Jett Rink who falls for a socialite in the 1956 epic western "Giant."

Which actor co-starred with James Dean in "Giant"?

"Giant" was a star-packed movie, with James Dean as Jett, Elizabeth Taylor as Leslie Benedict and Rock Hudson as Bick Benedict.

Who leaves Jett a piece of property when she is thrown off a horse in "Giant"?

When Bick's sister, Luz, is thrown from a horse named War Winds, she dies, leaving Jett his very own piece of land nearby. This frustrates Bick, who tries to buy the land back from Jett.

What does Jett discover on his land in "Giant"?

Jett's luck gets even better after he inherits land from Luz in "Giant." Once he settles in on the land, which he names Little Reata, he strikes oil, and ends up a wealthy man.

True or false: Dean got a Best Actor nomination at the Oscars for "East of Eden."

James Dean became the first male actor to earn a posthumous Oscar nomination for Best Actor when he was nominated for "East of Eden." He earned a BAFTA nomination for his work in "Rebel Without a Cause."

What killed James Dean?

Dean was a huge fan of auto racing and often went to races in his spare time. He was heading to a race in Salinas, California, when he was killed in a car crash on September 30, 1955.

True or false: James Dean was alone in his car when he died.

Dean may have gotten all the attention, but he wasn't alone in his car when he crashed. His mechanic, who was riding with him, survived the crash -- and so did the driver of the car that Dean crashed into.

True or false: Dean had a record of driving too fast.

It's no secret that Dean liked fast cars. In fact, he received a speeding ticket just two hours before he was involved in the car crash that ended his life.

What nickname did Dean give the Porsche he crashed in?

Dean had nicknamed the Porsche 550 Spyder "Little Bastard." The car toured the country until 1960, but its location is not known for certain today.

True or false: The handsome James Dean was missing his front teeth.

Dean lost his front teeth while playing on a trapeze in the barn on his aunt and uncle's property. He wore fake front teeth for the rest of his life.

How old was Dean when he died?

Dean was just 24 when he died on September 30, 1955.

True or false: Some biographers characterize Dean as bisexual.

Dean was involved in relationships with plenty of women, but several men have stepped forward since his death to claim that Dean was also involved in homosexual relationships, leading some biographers to characterize him as bisexual.

Liz Sheridan wrote a memoir about her life with Dean. You probably know Sheridan from what show?

Sheridan played Jerry's mom on "Seinfeld." In 2000, she published a memoir about her love affair with James Dean in the 1950s, "Dizzy & Jimmy: My Life with James Dean: A Love Story."

True or false: James Dean was a successful athlete in high school.

Despite his cool image, Dean was quite the athlete in high school. He excelled at track, baseball and basketball, and broke local records in the pole vault.

Who got Dean's estate when he died?

Despite the fact that he was estranged from his father, and his aunt and uncle were the ones who raised him, Dean's entire estate went to his father after the star died without a will in place.

James Dean was briefly employed on which show before he hit it big?

Before he was a movie star, James Dean took a job on the game show "Beat the Clock." His role was to test stunts, but he was fired because he was so quick at completing the stunts that he couldn't provide producers with realistic times for actual contestants.

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