Tragic Genius: Quotes from James Dean

Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today.

The gratification comes in the doing, not in the results.

There is no way to be truly great in this world. We are all impaled on the crook of conditioning. A fish that is in the water has no choice that he is. Genius would have it that we swim in sand. We are fish and we drown.

And my heart just did a flip-flop over that.

Since I'm only 24 years old, guess I have as good an insight into this rising generation as any other young man my age.

And I've discovered that most young men do not stand like ramrods or talk like Demosthenes. Therefore, when I do play a youth, such as in Warner Bros. Rebel Without A Cause, I try to imitate life. The picture deals with the problems of modern youth. It is the romanticized conception of the juvenile that causes much of our trouble with misguided youth nowadays. I think the one thing this picture shows that's new is the psychological disproportion of the kids' demands on the parents. Parents are often at fault, but the kids have some work to do, too. But you can't show some far off idyllic conception of behavior if you want the kids to come and see the picture. You've got to show what it's really like, and try to reach them on their own grounds. You know, a lot of times an older boy, one of the fellows the young ones idolize, can go back to the high school kids and tell them, "Look what happened to me! Why be a punk and get in trouble with the law? Why do these senseless things just for a thrill?" I hope "Rebel Without A Cause" will do something like that. I hope it will remind them that other people have feelings. Perhaps they will say, "What do we need all that for?" If a picture is psychologically motivated, if there is truth in the relationship in it, then I think that picture will do good.

I firmly believe Rebel Without A Cause is such a picture.

Only the gentle are ever really strong.

But I can't go with you. Son, you drive too fast.

I want to be a Texan 24 hours a day.

Being a good actor isn't easy. Being a man is even harder. I want to be both before I'm done.

Eternity? ... That is one hell of a movie.

If a man can bridge the gap between life and death, if he can live on after he's dead, then maybe he was a great man.

But you can't show some far off idyllic conception of behavior if you want the kids to come and see the picture. You've got to show what it's really like, and try to reach them on their own grounds.

I also became close to nature, and am now able to appreciate the beauty with which this world is endowed.

You're tearing me apart!

To my way of thinking, an actor's course is set even before he's out of the cradle.

Trust and belief are two prime considerations. You must not allow yourself to be opinionated.

To grasp the full significance of life is the actor's duty; to interpret it his problem; and to express it his dedication. Being an actor is the loneliest thing in the world. You are all alone with your concentration and imagination, and that's all you have. Being a good actor isn't easy. Being a man is even harder. I want to be both before I'm done.

It's a nice acting challenge for me because the character's much older and he's Jewish and he's quite lonely. At first he feels like his home is being invaded by this person and they have a few spats, but then he discovers the younger character is also Jewish and he grabs a hold of that. (Gardiner) has other secrets that at first tear us apart then bring us together at the end.

You never gave any of us an inch, ever, for what you thought was right,

Being an actor is the loneliest thing in the world. You are all alone with your concentration and imagination, and that's all you have. Being a good actor isn't easy. Being a man is even harder. I want to be both before I'm done.

It breezes along quite quickly.

To me, acting is the most logical way for people's neuroses to manifest themselves, in this great need we all have to express ourselves.

Without that space, an actor is no more than an unthinking robot with a chest-full of push-buttons.

It was an accident, although I've been involved in some kind of theatrical function or other since I was a child in school, music, athletics. To me, acting is the most logical way for people's neuroses to manifest themselves, in this great need we all have to express ourselves. To my way of thinking, an actor's course is set even before he's out of the cradle.

An actor must interpret life, and in order to do so must be willing to accept all the experiences life has to offer. In fact, he must seek out more of life than life puts at his feet.

Studying cows, pigs and chickens can help an actor develop his character. There are a lot of things I learned from animals. One was that they couldn't hiss or boo me.

Since I'm only 24 years old, guess I have as good an insight into this rising generation as any other young man my age.

It was an accident, although I've been involved in some kind of theatrical function or other since I was a child - in school, music, athletics.

When an actor plays a scene exactly the way a director orders, it isn't acting. It's following instructions. Anyone with the physical qualifications can do that.

James Dean   American motion picture actor, symbol of rebellion, (1931-1955)
James Dean American motion picture actor, symbol of rebellion, (1931-1955)

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Comments 2 comments

P Morgan profile image

P Morgan 7 years ago

Fan of James Dean. Nice Hub!


melody23 profile image

melody23 6 years ago from Los Angeles

He really was a very intelligent young man. Granted he tried too hard sometimes, but the lucidity and intellect behind the quotes are clear.

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