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James Dean: The eternal epitome of cool

Jochen Kürten / kbmOctober 27, 2015

"Rebel Without A Cause" premiered 60 years ago in New York, on October 27, 1955 - less than a month after the tragic death of the iconic Hollywood actor James Dean. But the unruly rebel with the leather jacket lives on.

James Dean, Copyright: picture-alliance/dpa
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

James Dean is back. Actor Dane DeHaan has the honor and challenge of portraying the Hollywood legend in the film "Life" by director Anton Corbijn, which tells the story of Dean's encounter with photographer Dennis Stock in 1955.

The film is due for release in the US in December, and stars heartthrob Robert Pattinson as Stock.

Just a short time before his tragic death on September 30, 1955, Stock photographed Dean for a magazine and the images have become a part of the cult surrounding the actor.

Over the past six decades, the memory of the actor who died at the age of just 24 has found itself into nearly every aspect of pop culture - from songs to books, visual art, theater and decorative wall posters.

The leather jack, the cigarette dangling coolly from his lips - Dean embodies the images of the sexy, relaxed young American man.

Sure, Dean isn't the only Hollywood legend from the mid-20th century. But his legend is perhaps one of the strongest. Humphrey Bogart's trench coat has long gone out of style. Romy Schneider didn't make it far beyond Europe. And even Marilyn Monroe's unblemished skin seems artificial to today's audiences.

But James Dean hasn't aged a day.

His tragic early death also boosted his iconic status, freezing him in the middle of the rosy 1950s, a time when nothing could go wrong. We never got the chance to meet Dean as an old man - and his career never took a natural end.

Fast cars, cool outfits, smoking without thinking about cancer - those are still things that fascinate young people. Even in another 60 years, James Dean will still be a timeless icon.