Friday, July 02, 2010

James Dean, Posterized

Since he only starred in three features, I thought that James Dean would be the easiest "Posterized" episode, a fill in on a Friday when I was short on time. But because I can never leave well enough alone, I had to make this one complicated, too. Here's three sets of posters for his three classics East of Eden (1955), Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and Giant (1956).

What a batting average, eh?

I think these are original release posters (?) Might be wrong. Tough to find dates to coincide with poster designs. But note that the book was actually the initial selling point of East of Eden and that Dean was only top billed once (for Rebel).

Reissues and such. Note how Dean takes over.

And a few foreign versions for fun. I find it quite interesting that Sal Mineo gets to pull focus on the Italian poster (photo src) but then he does have the gun and what is that they say about movies? All you need is a girl and a gun. Speaking of the girl, Natalie Wood rarely gets much focus in Rebel Without a Cause merchandising which is strange since she's such a classic screen icon herself.

But I bet if you lined up all the posters ever made for these three pictures including original release, subsequent reissues, television airings, repertory house / specialty showings and vhs/dvd/blu-ray covers, you'd find the most conflict in the Giant posters. What do you do when you have three mammoth stars in one movie? Giant's credit hierarchy has always been.
  • Elizabeth Taylor
  • Rock Hudson
  • James Dean
...but they don't always get equal billings on the posters. Sometimes Rock & La Liz are the focus (as they were in the 40th anniversary release) sometimes Liz & James are the focus like you see in the 70s rerelease version of the poster from Japan above. And though it's another discussion entirely you know that if the film were released in our current era James Dean would've been nominated (and won) posthumously for supporting actor instead of lead, since they're so scared of 'same sex but both leads' campaigns these days.

Another entirely different discussion: Is it just my imagination or is La Liz the actress of beauty sharing? Which is to say that she always made her co-stars look yet more handsome than they already were. It's as if her glorious beauty was too much for just one face so some of it drifted over to the actors, too.

Have you seen all three films? If the answer is no, you'd best explain yourself. They're all quite terrific in their own ways.


adam k. said...

I actually think Dean SHOULD have been nominated (and won) in supporting for Giant. That was in no way a leading role, as I recall. It was just the most prominent role in the film after the two romantic leads, and he happened to be a huge star. That was a strange case of reverse category fraud, which you never see now.

It was really Rock Hudson's movie.

I haven't seen East of Eden yet, although I own all three in the form of a James Dean box set.

Glenn Dunks said...

Mostly all great posters.

All of Rebel Without a Cause posters revolved around James Dean in some way. My favourite is probably this one. Not sure why, although that pose sure does help. I know Poland isn't exactly known for its posters to be clear representations of the movie they're advertising, but this Polish design is so bizarre. I have NO IDEA whatsoever what is going on. It looks more like a poster for Death Race 2000.

As for East of Eden I tend to really like this artistic concept from Hungary or the French design you posted that sexualises James Dean even more. Of course, it is an image from Giant, but what are you gonna do?

You're right though about Giant having the most differing designs. I think the 40th anniversary poster has a great romanticism to it and the design of Dean lying in his car with Liz and Rock floating above (yes, floating heads, etc) is quite a nice one. I like how completely shameless this poster is. THE GIANT OF THEM ALL! They don't mince words, do they?

I think my favourite, however, is this quad design with each of the letters bleeding into an image of the stars.

As for the movies? All three a brilliant.

Michael said...

I still have to get on 'Giant.'

To focus on one of Dean's costars, Julie Harris is incredible. How many people can say that they've romanced James Dean, and won 5 Tony Awards? It's a short short list.

Sam said...

I've seen none of them. :( But I really tried to watch "Rebel Without a Cause" though. It came on TCM too late and I don't own any recording devices. One of these days, though!

chris na Taraja said...

For years i had only seen REBEL, but since Virgin went out of business, i bought the three movie set cheap, and decided to sit thru all three movies this past year.

The verdict, I like GIANT best. EAST take a close second, although I'd like to see this story put to film with a little more grit. Then the clunky and awkward REBEL. Dean shines in all three.

chris na Taraja said...

LOVE that poster Glen! What makes him a bomb!

R-Co said...

I watched all three of them for my project and thought they were terrific. I was especially struck by Giant - I didn't expect to love it as much as I did.

If only he were still with us today...

Anonymous said...

Haven't seen Giant yet, I really have no excuse as to why not...just haven't gotten around to it. But I'm definitely planning on rectifying the situation soon.


film junkie -- well it is loooooong. but if it helps to motivate you both PT Anderson and Martin Scorsese love it.

Scott said...

All 3 films are great. And that red jacket has to be one of the most famous garments featured in the films of the 20th century.

JR Dziengel said...

James Dean inspired: