James Dean's death  

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James Dean's death

On September 30, 1955, Dean and his mechanic Rolf Wütherich set off from Competition Motors, where they had prepared his Porsche 550 Spyder that morning for a sports car race at Salinas, California. Dean originally intended to trailer the Porsche to the meeting point at Salinas, behind his new Ford Country Squire station wagon, crewed by Hickman and photographer Sanford Roth, who was planning a photo story of Dean at the races. At the last minute, Dean drove the Spyder, having decided he needed more time to familiarize himself with the car. At 3:30 pm, Dean was ticketed in Kern County for doing 65 in a Template:Convert zone. The driver of the Ford was ticketed for doing Template:Convert over the limit, as the speed limit for all vehicles towing a trailer was Template:Convert. Later, having left the Ford far behind, they stopped at Blackwell's Corner in Lost Hills for fuel and met up with fellow racer Lance Reventlow.

Dean was driving west on U.S. Route 466 (later State Route 46) near Cholame, California when a black-and-white 1950 Ford Custom Tudor coupe, driven from the opposite direction by 23-year-old Cal Poly student Donald Turnupseed, attempted to take the fork onto State Route 41 and crossed into Dean's lane without seeing him. The two cars hit almost head on. According to a story in the October 1, 2005 edition of the Los Angeles Times, California Highway Patrol officer Ron Nelson and his partner had been finishing a coffee break in Paso Robles when they were called to the scene of the accident, where they saw a heavily-breathing Dean being placed into an ambulance. Wütherich had been thrown from the car, but survived with a broken jaw and other injuries. Dean was taken to Paso Robles War Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival at 5:59 p.m. His last known words, uttered right before impact, were said to have been "That guy's gotta stop... He'll see us."

Contrary to reports of Dean's speeding, which persisted decades after his death, Nelson said "the wreckage and the position of Dean's body indicated his speed was more like 55 mph (88 km/h)." Turnupseed received a gashed forehead and bruised nose and was not cited by police for the accident. Rolf Wütherich would die in a road accident in Germany in 1981 after surviving several suicide attempts.

While completing Giant, and to promote Rebel Without a Cause, Dean filmed a short interview with actor Gig Young for an episode of Warner Bros. Presents in which Dean, instead of saying the popular phrase "The life you save may be your own" instead ad-libbed "The lives you might save might be mine." [sic] Dean's sudden death prompted the studio to re-film the section, and the piece was never aired - though in the past several sources have referred to the footage, mistakenly identifying it as a public service announcement. (The segment can, however, be viewed on both the 2001 VHS and 2005 DVD editions of Rebel Without a Cause).

William Bast identifies a potentially bipolar depression in James Dean's erratic behavior and mood swings. In his description of their relationship, Dean emerges as a character very much torn apart between wanting to reach out (to Bast) and needing protection against possible rejections or wanting to hide any supposed weakness. Shortly before his death, Dean also gave away his pet kitten Marcus, saying: "I figured, I might go out some night and just never come home." Bast also repeatedly observed Dean's heavy use of alcohol and drugs during the filming of Rebel Without a Cause.




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