The James Dean Story
Released two years after Dean's death, the Warner Bros. Pictures release chronicles his short life and career via black-and-white still photographs, interviews with the aunt and uncle who raised him, his paternal grandparents, a New York City cabdriver friend, and the owner of his favorite Los Angeles restaurant, and outtakes from East of Eden, footage of the opening night of Giant, and Dean's ironic PSA for safe driving.
The music accompanying the film The James Dean Story was composed and conducted by Leith Stevens. An eponymous album containing this music was released by Capitol Records in 1957, the anonymous sleeve notes of which are surely worth quoting verbatim:[according to whom?] ‘Here is the music direct from the soundtrack of “The James Dean Story”, a different kind of motion picture. This is a film in which there are no actors, there is no fiction. It is, instead, the story of a young man in search of himself - a story of a lonely boy growing into a lonely manhood, of a quest for discovery and meaning, of a great talent and zest for creative expression, and of a tragic end which brought more questions than answers.’ The sleeve notes continue ‘The life of James Dean is presented on the screen through the means of a new technique - dramatic exploration of a still photograph. Together with tape recordings, existing motion picture material, and the people with whom he lived and worked, these photographs create the presence of the living character. If there are supporting roles in this picture, the parts must be credited to the people of Fairmount, Indiana, where Dean lived as a boy; to the nine million faces of New York City, where he struggled for recognition as an artist and as an individual; and to the men and women of Hollywood who shared in the development of his career.’
The sleeve notes then go on to describe the music thus: ‘The film’s music is as unusual and exciting as the motion picture itself. Leith Stevens, the composer, captures a haunting reflection of the violent yet strangely understandable uncertainties of modern youth. Stevens, whose musical scores have distinguished such films as “The Wild One”, “Private Hell 36”, “Destination Moon” and “Julie”, describes the loneliness and frustrations, the fury and tenderness of James Dean’s life and the world in which he moved. With his use of such instruments as the recorder, harmonica and bongo drums, and in his unique utilization of the jazz idiom, Leith Stevens produces music with dynamic personal identification, not only for James Dean, but for every boy who’s ever worn a leather jacket and for every girl who’s ever danced without her shoes. Stevens traces the development of Dean throughout his boyhood, his early rebellion against conventions, the discovery of his artistic abilities, and his failure to resolve his personal problems. “Who Am I?” depicts the young Dean groping for self-identification; “Lost Love” is a painful portrayal of a romance without a happy ending; and “Testing The Limits Of Time” is a brilliant montage of the moods and actions which Dean experienced in his last few months. Tommy Sands, the nation’s newest singing sensation, sings the theme song “Let Me Be Loved” by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans.’
The sleeve notes conclude ‘Here, in this album, is music with all the beauty, savageness and pathos which characterises “The James Dean Story”’.
The film is available on DVD.
- The James Dean Story at the Internet Movie Database
- The James Dean Story is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]