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A Week in the Life of James Dean, or The Force is Strong With This One
What if someone told you that you had one week to live? What would you do? What places would you visit? Would you read any books? Listen to any particular music? Would the common and insignificant things you pass every day become more meaningful? Would that apple taste any better if you know it was your last one? Who would you thank? Who would you apologize to?
This week fifty-five years ago was the last week in the life of James Dean. He died on September 30, 1955 when his Porsche 550 Spyder crashed head on into a Ford Custom Tudor coupe on US Route 466 near Cholame, California.
He seemed like the type of person who lived life to the fullest and lived every moment like it was his last.
Interestingly enough, he was warned of his own demise exactly a week before it happened.
On September 23, 1955 Sir Alec Guinness was in California for the first time. Actually he wasn’t Sir Alec Guinness yet. That did not happen until four years later in 1959. In any event, he was in California for the first time and he met up with a female acquaintance for dinner. His acquaintance was wearing trousers that unfortunately prevented their admittance into all the smart Hollywood restaurants they went to. They eventually found themselves at the Villa Capri restaurant, which allowed trousers, but without reservations there were no available tables. Guinness and his companion turned to leave.
They then heard footsteps running up behind them.
As luck would have it, James Dean happened to also be in California, at the very same Villa Capri. He had just wrapped filming Giant. Guinness himself had wrapped four movies that very year: Rowlandson’s England, To Paris with Love, The Prisoner, and The Ladykillers. Dean was at the very same restaurant and he apparently had the foresight to make reservations, for he had a table. He invited Alec Guinness and his companion to join him.
Before they went inside Dean said, “Let me show you something.”
Outside of the restaurant was Dean’s newest vehicular acquisition, a Porsche 550 Spyder. When Dean wasn’t acting he raced cars. He had previously owned a MG TD and a Porsche 356 Speedster and actually placed in a few races. His new Porsche 550 Spyder, one of only 90 made, had the serial number 550-0055 and was nicknamed Little Bastard. Mechanic George Barris, who later went on to design the Batmobile, had customized the Porsche. Apparently Dean had just received the car, as there was a bow around it and roses on the hood.
Guinness looked at the car and was hit with a premonition. He told Dean, “If you get in that car you’ll be dead in it by this time next week.”
One can only imagine what was discussed over dinner.
What book would you read? Who would you thank?
Dean was killed exactly one week later when Little Bastard crashed head on into a Ford Custom Tudor coupe on US Route 466 near Cholame, California.