The collision heard around the world
British actor Alec Guinness was in a Hollywood restaurant with James Dean on September 23rd, 1955. Moments earlier, outside the restaurant, Dean had shown Guinness his new Porsche Spyder sports car.
Guinness, who went on to play the legendary Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars, took hold of Dean’s arm and said, “Please do not get into that car, because if you do” —[he looked at his watch]— “it’s now Friday, 10 o’clock at night and by 10 o’clock at night next Friday, you’ll be dead if you get into that car.”
At 10 o’clock on that next Friday, James Dean was in a morgue in Paso Robles, California.
Friday, September 30, 1955, 5:45 p.m.
The brief spectacular life of legendary actor James Dean ended on a northern California road when a local boy, Donald Turnupseed, made an illegal left turn in front of Dean’s Porsche Spyder convertible.
Dean’s German mechanic, Rolf Wütherich, was in the passenger seat.
Dean’s last words were, “That guy’s gotta see us.”
The collision mangled the sports car and killed James Dean on impact. He was 24.
THE FATE OF THE OTHER TWO
Wütherich, survived the crash and died in a drunk driving accident in 1981.
Turnupseed was only slightly injured when his Ford collided head-on with the Porsche. His offense of an illegal left turn was cancelled out by the fact that the Porsche was speeding. Dean had been stopped two hours earlier by a California Highway Patrolman and ticketed for speeding. Turnupseed died of lung cancer in 1995.
GOTTA START SOMEWHERE
James Dean’s career began in live TV dramas, like this one from the Campbells Soundstage in 1953. The show was broadcast live in front of an audience.
The performances on such live TV shows were often amateurish but this is how many future great actors got their start.
AND ON TO GREATER ROLES
Just three years later, James Dean’s acting had matured to what would have been superstar status in this classic scene from the 1956 movie Giant with Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor.