Boulevard of Broken Dreams: The Life, Times and Legend of James Dean

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9780452278400: Boulevard of Broken Dreams: The Life, Times and Legend of James Dean
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This is the first biography of James Dean to look beyond the Hollywood-manufactured cliché to the volatile polarities, conflicted sexuality, and childhood trauma of the person himself. James Dean's legendary status as a Hollywood icon is reconsidered in Boulevard of Broken Dreams, which explores the process by which he became the electric and exciting actor who came to stand for a whole generation's feelings of rebellion.What no one knew at the highlight of his career was that Dean had suffered agonies of torment over his own sexual ambivalence and the concealment that Hollywood studio mores made necessary. Author Paul Alexander talks to Dean's contemporaries, unearths all available source material, and re-creates not only the closed and closeted world of Hollywood in the '50s but the bucolic serenity of Dean's hometown in Indiana as well.This revisionist, passionate portrait, based on many new and documented sources and featuring shocking photographs, argues that Dean's angst-ridden compliance—in public—with rigid sexual expectations helped fuel the fury and electricity of his acting. Its conclusions will be a revelation to film buffs, gay readers, pop-culture aficionados, and everyone concerned with the ethics of image versus reality.

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About the Author:

Paul Alexander has published two books about Sylvia Plath and regularly contributes to The New York Times Magazine, New York magazine, The Nation, Cosmopolitan, Premiere, The Village Voice, ARTnews, and The Guardian. He lives in New York City.

From Kirkus Reviews:

Alexander, whose last book was a biography of Sylvia Plath (Rough Magic, 1991), takes on another promising but doomed artist- icon. Dean, Alexander claims in the first of many debatable assertions, ``brought something new to sex--an ambiguity, an openness, an androgyny that had not been there with other Hollywood stars.'' In no small part, he argues, that quality grew out of Dean's own conflicted feelings about his sexuality, which Alexander says was predominantly that of a homosexual. He recounts the by-now familiar story of Dean's brief life: his out-of-wedlock conception leading to his parents' marriage six months before his birth; his mother's death when he was nine; his father's handing him over to cousins who raised him as a son; his attraction to acting; his difficult relationship with his father; his struggles in Hollywood and New York; and his gradual rise to stardom, cut short by his death at 24 in an auto accident, leaving a legacy of three starring roles and a veritable cult of worshiping fans. What Alexander adds to this story is some potted and misleading social history, explicit tales of sexual encounters, and a great deal of unsubstantiated and highly speculative psychobiography recounted in tedious, overheated prose. The book is riddled with errors, calling Robert Lindner's Rebel Without a Cause a novel (it was a nonfiction book about psychopathic murderers), misidentifying Gary Cooper as the star of Shane, and calling Dos Passos's USA an ``epic poem.'' Alexander is unenlightening about Dean's acting style, his films, or his enduring appeal. The book has nothing new to say, and says it badly. (65 b&w photos, not seen) -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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