Cinematographers, composers, writers, an actress and a costume designer had all received posthumous Oscar nominations, but never a male actor until 1956, when Dean’s portrayal of troubled teenager Cal Trask in “East of Eden” won him a best actor nod.The next year, he was nominated again for best actor, this time for playing ranch hand Jett Rink in “Giant.” He didn’t win either year, however, losing out to Ernest Borgnine and Yul Brynner, respectively. A lover of speed, Dean reportedly used part of his “East of Eden” advance to purchase a red convertible and a motorcycle.On the afternoon of September 30, 1955, as Dean drove his brand-new Porsche Spyder to a road race in Salinas, California, a police officer ticketed him for going 65 mph in a 55-mph zone.
Natalie Wood was a transitional star, her career straddling Hollywood’s awkward shift from the classic studio system to the independent free-for-all that continues to characterize film production today. But at age 9 his mother died of cancer, and he was sent back to Indiana to live on his aunt and uncle’s farm. Born in a small city in Indiana, Dean soon moved with his parents to Santa Monica, California, when his father, a dental technician, was transferred to a hospital there.Her death, although deemed an accident at the time, has been shrouded in scandal ever since.The case was reopened late last year (and, as of today, re-closed), reviving our macabre interest in stars we didn’t even know we still cared about.From that point on, he would rarely see —or even talk—to his father, other than a brief spell in which he stayed in his father’s home while attending Santa Monica City College. Thanks to a childhood accident, his front teeth were fake.Described by his cousin as “never one to sit still,” a young Dean had his two front teeth knocked out while swinging on a trapeze in his aunt and uncle’s barn. Despite being nearsighted, short and skinny, Dean was a standout athlete at his Indiana high school, playing baseball and basketball and running track.But upon finishing the film, he traded in the Speedster for an even more powerful Porsche 550 Spyder, which he nicknamed “Little Bastard.” 8.He was ticketed for speeding two hours before his death.(Dean later embellished the story, saying he lost them in a motorcycle accident.) As an adult, he purportedly enjoyed surprising acquaintances by casually removing his false teeth mid-conversation. “He was a heady player and a good competitor,” his basketball coach once told a reporter.“He was what you would call a clean-cut, All-American type boy.” Dean particularly excelled at the pole vault, breaking the county record by the time he graduated in 1949. His first professional gig was a soft-drink commercial.