Wednesday, 30 September 2015

JAMES DEAN a biography, Ballantine Books, New York

For my third and final post on the actor James Dean (1931-1955), who died on this date 60 years ago, I've selected the front covers of the very first book to be written about his life, by the screenwriter William Bast (1931-2015).

JAMES DEAN was published by Ballantine Books of New York, it was subtitled  'A Biography', though in Bast's words it's really "designed specifically as a personal description" of his friend as he knew him. The cover photographs for both the dust jacket of the hardback and the paperback edition each use an image from the famous portraits of Dean taken by Roy Schatt. 

Today, the hardback is rarely seen and commands a high value in the collectors market, but the 35c paperback is fairly common as it must have sold hundreds of thousands of copies following its publication in 1956. 

Ballantine's Hardbound Editions retailed at $2.75

Walking on West 68th Street, New York, 1954

In 1957, one year after Bast's 'biography', the next book on James Dean was a cheapo 25c paperback issued by New York's Popular Library - these days well remembered for their pulpy crime novels with wonderfully fetching cover art - which aimed to capitalize on the cult of Dean. 

Unlike Bast's pioneering attempt, this one slipped through the cracks of history, almost without trace: Popular Library W 400

However, Dean fandom continued to thrive during the 1960s, but with no further books - until the publication of David Dalton's acclaimed biography 'The Mutant King' in 1974, which was without doubt instrumental in igniting a mass revival of interest in all things Dean. 

And in the subsequent decades, filmographies, further biographies, umpteen newspaper and magazine articles, photograph books, academic essays, TV and radio documentaries, fanzines and fansites continue to explore every conceivable aspect of the legend of James Byron Dean...

Still available to listen: You're Tearing Me Apart: Rebel Without a Cause at 60

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