We were throwing some thoughts around for articles this month with www.dulleskia.com and this one came up. We hope you enjoy it.
James Dean was just 24 years old when he died in a car crash. Only one of Dean’s movies, “East of Eden,” had been released at the time of his death (“Rebel Without a Cause” and “Giant” opened shortly afterward), but he was already on his way to superstardom–and the crash made him a legend.
He loved racecars
In addition to being one of Hollywood’s bad boys, James Dean was an amateur racecar driver who had previously successfully competed in several racing events just a week before he was killed. On the day of the accident, Dean was traveling with German Porsche mechanic Rolf Wütherich in his new Porsche 550 sports car to another competition. As he approached, the junction of California Route 46 and Route 41 in Cholame, CA, 23-year-old California Polytechnic State University student Donald Turnupseed, blinded by the sun, turned left into Dean’s path and the two collided. While Wütherich was thrown clear of the car and survived, Dean was crushed in the car and died shortly thereafter.
Who was at fault?
Witnesses maintained that Dean hadn’t been speeding at the time of the accident–but some people point out that he must have been driving awfully fast: He’d gotten a speeding ticket in Bakersfield, 150 miles from the crash site, at 3:30 p.m. and then had stopped at a diner for a Coke, which meant that he’d covered quite a distance in a relatively short period of time. Still, the gathering twilight and the glare from the setting sun would have made it impossible for Turnupseed to see the Porsche coming no matter how fast it was going.
The cursed sportscar
Rumor has it that Dean’s car, which he’d nicknamed the Little Bastard, was cursed. After the accident, the car rolled off the back of a truck and crushed the legs of a mechanic standing nearby. Later, after a used-car dealer sold its parts to buyers all over the country, the strange incidents multiplied: The car’s engine, transmission and tires were all transplanted into cars that were subsequently involved in deadly crashes, and a truck carrying the Spyder’s chassis to a highway-safety exhibition skidded off the road, killing its driver. The remains of the car vanished from the scene of that accident and haven’t been seen since. Wütherich, whose feelings of guilt after the car accident never abated, tried to commit suicide twice during the 1960s and he died in a drunk-driving accident in 1981.
The eerie part of this story is that another Hollywood icon, Sir. Alec Guinness (also known as Obi-wan Kenobi of Star Wars fame), heard about the Dean’s purchase of a Porsche 550 weeks before the accident and reportedly said that “He’ll be found dead within a week”. This, tragically, became the case.