James Dean, Richard Davalos, Julie Harris

I was booked for some last minute stock shots for Rebel Without A Cause.  We were working on the football field of a high school in Santa Monica.   Being so close to the ocean, it was still a little foggy.  Then the word spread like wildfire.  James Dean died in a car accident.    We were all stunned.   The fog added to the unreality of the moment.  I felt a little queasy.   It was just a short couple of months ago that I had worked with him on all 3 of his major movies.  Of course by this time Jimmy had completed all his parts in all 3 of his coming blockbusters.    I think at that time he was just being recognized by the public for East Of Eden.  Rebel and Giant had not been released yet.   So he was not the bigger than life star  that he would become in the next couple of  years. 


I worked mostly in the carnival set and the big parade.   Strangely I can only be seen in the train scene when Aaron crashes through the train window:

Because I worked on this movie for over a month, I got to watch and got to know Jimmy a little and appreciate his uncanny acting talent.   For the most part he was not approachable but that was by edict of Elia Kazan (director) to prevent distracting him from his portrayal.   I was in the ferris wheel sitting in a cupola for about 10 hours all the way at the top on the back lot at Warner Brothers.   Fortunately I was not alone, coupled with a young lady.   OK OK… we did get potty and meal breaks.   But it was filmed in California winter months, it was windy and I froze.   I have never gone on a ferris wheel again. 🙂   Yes, I was on the wheel when Jimmy climbed down the supports.   And he refused letting a stunt man do it.  

Marlon Brando came to visit him two times during the carnival set.    I recall vividly both of them sitting on a wooden bench and mumbling to each other in true Actor’s Studio style.   lol.  in fact I can’t recall a time that I worked with Jimmy or Marlon that they were not what to me sounded like mumbling.    Ok, just having a little fun…. that was the 50s Actor’s Studio method and became much in vogue.   However, Julie Harris, who played Abra, and I’m sure also came from the Actor’s Studio, spoke to me with a clear endearing girlish charm.   We had a little chat during one of the meal breaks when I was allowed off the wheel.   Nor was Richard Davalos, who played Aaron, prone to mumbling during his portrayal.   I got to know Dick fairly well since we were sequestered inside the train for hours while rehearsing and setting up the train shot.     There is a show in Burbank every 3 months that features old and some new stars in person to sell their autographs and pictures  that always gets a huge crowd of fans.  I attend it every couple of years or so.  A few years ago I noticed on their website that Richard Davalos would be there.  I made it a point to go and took along a copy of a set shot I still have of the two of us in the train.   He was delighted with the photo; we chatted for nearly a half hour and he remembered me from the shoot.   If you are curious here is the Hollywood Show website:


Here’s the attendee list for the next show.   This list will grow as the show time approaches:



I only worked on this movie for a short time.  Not much to tell.   As you can see in this little clip, I’m walking to class.  We shot this scene at City College in LA.   Later on I worked in the Planetarium set.   That was a lot of fun.   Even James Dean tried to be a  clown during the setup for the planetarium shots.   Can you find me in this brief moment when we are exiting the planetarium?


I ended up on the cutting room floor.   I was a bellboy in the lobby scene.  Don’t recall much from that day.  Only a little disagreement with a property guy…..  In the scene I carried a valise from the door to the hotel booking desk.  Naturally the valise was empty. lol.   As you know by now none of these major picture directors are ever happy with just one take.   After the director yelled “cut” and the AD yelled “back to one” (shorthand for go back to your starting positions), I began to return the 5 or so yards to my starting position still holding the empty valise.   A much angered property guy stopped me and grabbed the valise out of my hand.   “Don’t you know you can only handle property during the take and rehearsal.  Taking it back to the starting position is MY JOB.” The union property guy angrily informed me.


2 thoughts on “James Dean, Richard Davalos, Julie Harris

  1. I would like to develop music to express the personalities of the charactiers + actors, including James Dean, Julie Harris, Richard Davalos. They were wonderful. If Richard Davalos ancestry is Finnish and Spanish, that might give clues for music.

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