Nick Adams and James Dean clowning around during a wardrobe call for “Rebel Without A Cause.”
DADDY and DEAN by Allyson Adams
In Celebration of the new, restored “Rebel Without a Cause” premiere on Nov. 1, 2013 with Martin Scorsese presenting at the Bling Theatre for the LACMA event, I offer up some Nick Adams and other Rebel Without A Cause Gang stories.
It’s a Rebel Weekend with all spectrums of the James Dean legacy spreading their fallen wings. James Franco, James Dean’s alter muse, is releasing his new film “SAL” that depicts the last day and night of Sal Mineo’s life before he was fatally stabbed. Franco was also 2012 Bad Boy Art Rebel of MOCA exhibit accurately titled “Rebel.” Author of “Sal Mineo” Michael Gregg Michaud and “The Rebel & The King” Allyson Adams (moi) daughter of late actor, Nick Adams, are peeking behind the curtain at Larry Edmunds Bookshop on Sat. Nov. 2 at 4pm to discuss the lives and friendships of The Rebel Without A Cause icons: James Dean, Natalie Wood, Sal Mineo, Dennis Hopper and Nick Adams.
Publishing The Rebel & The King has been my introduction to the 50’s and I was intrigued when I found stories my father had written about Elvis, James Dean and Natalie Wood. Before my father met Elvis, the legendary Dean had just been tragically killed in his Porsche Spyder “Little Bastard” in 1955, one month before the release of Rebel Without a Cause, and before the completion of Giant. Daddy and James were notorious friends and Nick was a talented impersonator who did the voiceover for James Dean’s drunken scene in Giant because Dean mumbled. The scene is often referred to as the Last Supper because it was the last scene in which Dean acted.
Taken from an article Nick Adams wrote “The James Dean I Knew” my Dad writes, “There was an intensity, an eagerness for life in Jimmy…It would burst out in sudden whims for scuffling and horseplay…
Hamlet wore horn rimmed glasses…Jimmy would have gotten a kick out of that line. More than anything else in the world Jimmy wanted to play Hamlet. Hamlet has been described many ways, but sometimes I wonder if old Bill Shakespeare didn’t picture “The Prince of Denmark” as being of average height, with a short broad jaw, short nose, gray eyes, brown hair and horn rimmed glasses.
I’m sure that if Mr. Shakespeare could have seen that smile, that twitch of the head, that walk with a slight slouch, that boyish magnetism, those eyes that showed a limitless hopeful expectancy-I’m sure the great writer would have said: “That’s my Hamlet, but what about the glasses?” And Jimmy would have replied, “I don’t wear them when I’m acting!”
I first met Jimmy about five years ago in 1951. We made TV commercials together. We be-bopped around a juke box with two girls, singing “Pepsi-Cola Hits the Spot.” Yes, I’m sure Jimmy would have gotten a big laugh out that line.
Here is a boy who was born in an obscure town in Indiana. He grew up on a farm. He never owned a home. He never wrote a novel. He had no credentials except himself. With this alone he became one of the finest actors in the country, the envy of millions, and one of the most popular motion picture stars since Rudolph Valentino.
Some people turned against him, some denied him, some criticized, some laughed, some cried, but I am sure that I am justified in saying that no one has affected or crept into the hearts of so many in so short a time.
“Billy The Kid!” Are you kidding me? You mean to say they did the “Kid” on TV…No kidding!” Jimmy was doing the part of Jett Rink in “Giant” when he said this. We were having lunch together in the commissary at Warner Brothers. I had seen a TV show the night before in which the life of “Billy The Kid” was portrayed. The second most important thing in the world for Jimmy was to do the life of “Billy The Kid.”
I think it’s sort of ironical that the two parts Jimmy wanted to do the most are both legendary. In a way “Billy The Kid” was a lot like Jimmy. They say the “Kid” was a slim, slight little fellow- didn’t look like much, but he never wasted a bullet- as Jimmy never wasted a minute. He always had a couple of dozen projects going. He was always searching. Jimmy always said that the ordinary human being has many basic needs. He feels them deep within himself. If any of these needs aren’t filled, the result is a longing, a restlessness, a disappointment and these can lead to illness.
Jimmy will never get to do the two parts he loved most. At least not in this world. But I have a feeling that somewhere, someplace, Jimmy is unsheathing his foil readying for the scene with Laertes.
James Dean was born on February 8th, 1931, and everyone who knew him agreed that there was no false pride or insecurity in Jimmy’s makeup. He was naturally simple, genuine, and humble. He was shy, too. He didn’t want to make any fuss about his success or fame.
The second time I saw Jimmy was while I was stationed in New London, Connecticut. His first Broadway play was being tried out in Hartford, and Jimmy sent me a ticket. We had corresponded a few times and he knew where I was stationed. After the curtain fell for the last time that evening I just sat bewildered and amazed how improved Jimmy had become since our TV commercial days.
I went backstage and congratulated him and then we went to a broken down coffee shop and sat and talked for about three hours until finally the owner threw us out. I learned a lot that night and because of many of the things that Jimmy told me, I built more confidence in myself and my work.” (End of Nick Adams passage from “The James Dean I Knew.”)
In another article my father wrote, he tells the story of being in New York with Natalie Wood the day James Dean crashed. Nick heard the news and had to hide Jimmy’s death from her all night so she could get some sleep for her filming the next day. Nick had a long night wrestling with his own grief and wrote a tribute to his friend, which was later published. Then in the morning, Nick broke the sad news to the shocked starlet.
Nick Adams’ death and friendships are more famous than his movies. Nick and Dennis Hopper were roommates and stole each other’s clean socks.I feel like I found a buried treasure with all these stories swiriling about with the ghosts of James Dean, Natalie Wood, Dennis Hopper, Elvis and my father. I love this stuff.
Please join me and Michael Gregg Michaud to hear us discuss the Rebel cultural icons of our time this Saturday Nov. 2 at 4pm at Larry Edmunds Bookshop,
6644 Hollywood Blvd. Los Angeles CA 90028. http://www.Larryedmundsbookshop.com