Forging Divinity: Warner Bros.' Role in the Creation of the James Dean Icon Open Access

Willis, Shannon (2009)

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James Dean is an image known throughout the world. His icon has been a major influence on the construction of youth culture in America and elsewhere and has been a personal inspiration for countless teenagers, writers, directors, artists, etc. But no scholar has attempted to explain the origins of that icon, where it came from, or how it was created. In this thesis, I will seek to answer those very questions. In an investigation of the publicity material and advertisements surrounding James Dean and his films during the 1950s, I conclude that Warner Bros., a heretofore undocumented force in the construction of Dean as a star and icon, seems to have played a major role in the manufacturing of the Dean legend. Chapters One, Two, and Three will trace the rise of Dean's stardom through the late 1950s, analyzing specifically what Warner Bros. did to perpetuate the image of James Dean. And Chapter Five will take a closer look at the specific kind of image Warner's created for Dean and the broader implications that image has for society.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1. Manufactured: The Making of James Dean 6

Pre- East of Eden Ballyhoo 7

Previews and Buzz 16

Eden Advertising 20

Released and Reviewed 23

Post- Eden Dean 25

Chapter 2. Image of a Dead Man: The Post-Mortem Selling of Dean in 1956 28

Rebel Without a Cause 28

Damage Control 32

Post-Mortem Promotion of James Dean 42

Giant Fodder and Release 46

Chapter 3. Icon: The James Dean Phenomenon with and without Warner Bros. 49

Giant Ads 49

Giant Success 55

Warner Bros. Bows Out 57

The James Dean Story 61

Chapter 4. A God in Blue Jeans: Dissecting the Image of James Dean 66

Actor 66

Rebel 70

Man-Boy 76

Sex Symbol? 80

Conclusion 84

Bibliography 87

Filmography 89

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