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CNN Larry King Live

Entertainers Discuss James Dean

Aired November 24, 2005 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, James Dean, icon of teen rebellion.

JAMES DEAN, ACTOR: Every time you can't face yourself, you blame it on me.


KING: Dead at 24 in a mysterious car crash 50 years ago. But he fascinates us more than ever.


DEAN: I ought to...



KING: Now his close friends and ex-girlfriend share intimate memories of the real James Dean, the man behind the legend.


DEAN: Me, I'm going to have more money than you ever thought you could have, you and all the rests of you stinking sons of benedicts.


KING: It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

It is hard to believe that he only made three movies. Two of them were released after he died tragically in an auto accident. It's also hard to believe that he's been gone over 50 years. But on September 30th, that was the 50th anniversary of the death of James Dean.

Our guests are Dennis Hopper, friend and costar of James Dean in both giant and rebel without a cause and star of the NBC series "E- Ring."

In New York is Eartha Kitt, the actress/singer, James Dean friend. Martin Landau, friend, the Oscar winning actor currently appearing on CBS's "Without a trace."

Mark Rydell, director, actor, and friend of James Dean, directed and co-starred in a 2001 TV movie about James Dean's life.

And Liz Sheridan was James Dean's girlfriend, actress, and former dancer, perhaps best known for her role as Jerry Seinfeld's mom.

Dennis Hopper, how'd you meet?

DENNIS HOPPER, ACTOR: Well, I went into contract with Warner brothers 1955, January 7th, 1955, that I was going to be in "Rebel Without a Cause" and then play the son in "Giant." I was 18 years old. I saw jimmy walking down a hallway, the first time I saw him. He had the turtleneck sweater on, and levis and very crumpled hair, and about a four day old growth of beard and a cigarette dangling out his mouth, and he walked by. My agent said, "That was James Dean." I said, "That was James Dean?"

KING: How did you meet him, Liz Sheridan?

LIZ SHARIDAN, ACTRESS, FORMER GIRLFRIEND: I was about 21 and he was 18, 19. I was living at the Rehearsal Club in New York, which was a club for young ladies in the theater and dancers and all kinds of things. It was sponsored by the Theatre Guild. And somebody -- one of the girls brought him home to eat because we had a cafeteria downstairs. And he was hungry, apparently. And...

KING: Had he done New York theater then?

SHERIDAN: No, he hadn't done anything. He was not through the, you know -- the portals yet. And he was sitting in the living room, which is where we received our gentleman callers, and I came downstairs, waiting for dinner, and we were in the living room and he was on one couch and I was on the other, and there was nobody else there. And he started reading from a magazine, he just read a line.

KING: Out loud?

SHERIDAN: Out loud. So I had my own magazine in front of me. So I read another line out of my magazine, which didn't do any good to his. And we just kept this up. It was like a conversation.

KING: For what reason?

SHERIDAN: It made absolutely no sense. And we thought it was the funniest thing that we had ever done in our lives.

KING: And you developed a long, romantic relationship.

SHERIDAN: A long relationship.

KING: Marty Landau, you go back ages, right? How did you meet?

MARTIN LANDAU, ACTOR: Well, ages and ages. It was the early days of television, live television, and the CBS casting department decided to let -- open the doors for actors who weren't known and so they took over a Broadway theater, which they were using for variety shows and stuff, and once a week they'd have an open casting call. And it was a rainy day and it was a great day to meet your friends, you know, instead of running through the streets and making rounds. And I walked in, they gave you a number as you came in, and they saw you 10 at a time on the stage. And I got a number, sat down, was waving at friends, and the guy next to me was a guy I had never seen before with glasses and kind of bundled up. It was a cold winter's day. And he said "How does this work?" I said, "Well they'll call -- you know, what's your number?" and he was one number away from me and I said, "Well, we'll go up together. There'll be 10 of us and if we're right for a part they'll say we'll give you a reading for a small part."

KING: You had to look right. Right?

LANDAU: You had to look right. Yeah. I'd been there many times. It was a cattle call, it was humiliating, actually. And I usually only went there when it rained. But, so he said -- I said, "Is this your first time here?" he said, "Yeah," he said, "You?" I said, "No, my last."


LANDAU: And, anyway, they called our number, so we went up and we stood there, you know, and we were dismissed. You know, none of us were right, so it seemed. And we walked out and the sun had come out and we walked down the street and we passed a construction site and it said "sidewalk superintendents." And I was, you know, a little crazy in those days and I started hollering down at the hardhats, saying, "Move that darn thing over there," and he chimed in. So we did this -- and these hardhats looked at us, you know, like what the hell is going on here. He said, "move the bulldozer," you know, and then we walked to the skating rink. I was heading for Cromwell's and He tagged along with me.

We went to the skating rink. Most people went skating with winter coats and stuff. And there was one girl wearing like a professional skater's outfit. And she was spinning and we started to applaud her and then she started performing for us at the end of the rink. And then we started acting like royalty and it was a command performances. Anyway, Jimmy and I did these crazy off the cuff...

KING: You hit it off.

LANDAU: Incredibly.

KING: Right from the start.

Eartha Kitt, now I don't associate Eartha kitt with James Dean. Tell me about it. How'd you meet James Dean?

EARTHA KITT, ACTRESS: We used to go to the Palladium here in New York for Rumba dancing; I think it was on Friday and Saturday nights. And I used to always be at George Abbott's table because George Abbot was a fantastically wonderful Rumba dancer and I became his partner because I was very much in love with that kind of dancing. And Jamie and Marlon Brando used to also visit his table from time to time. So we used to have sort of a teasing contest as to which one of those boys would be a better Rumba dancer than George Abbott. And of course George Abbott always won. And after we got through dancing, George Abbott and myself, Marlon Rambo and Jamie would grab me. And I remember I was running down the stairs of the Palladium and standing on the sidewalks of New York deciding what we were going to do for the night. And then Jamie suddenly said to me, "I want to move like you, can you teach me how to move my body like you do on stage?" And I told him where to meet me, which was the (UNINTELLIGIBLE)dance studio, here in New York and that's where we met for dance classes. And that's where Jamie and I always met downstairs from that studio to have coffee, to have our little tete-a-te conversations.

KING: You called him Jamie?

KITT: Yes. I don't know why, but I...

KING: He moved pretty good.

KITT: Yes.

KING: Mark Rydell, how did you first meet James Dean?

MARK RYDELL, DIRECTOR: We were hired to do a television show, Jamie and I -- although I called him James. We did "Omnibus," the first teleplay -- it was a wonderful television show, Sunday afternoon.

KING: Sunday afternoon live.

RYDELL: And it was a -- Jimmy and I did William Inge's first teleplay, which was "Glory in the Flower." Hugh Cronin, Jessica Tandy, Jimmy and myself. And we walked home from doing that show. That's when I had that experience with him when I was -- we were walking along, in those days Madison Avenue was a, you know, just one- way street downtown and there were no stores in those days. It was just kind of buildings for people...


RYDELL: Yes, and we're walking along and he's talking to me about bullfighting. And we're -- and he's talking about bullfighting and we're walking and suddenly the busses -- you know the busses would travel at 40-miles-an-hour down Madison Avenue because there was nobody to pick up on Sunday and suddenly he whipped off his jacket and jumped in the road and did a pass, like a bullfighter with the bus. The bus absolutely just barely touched his shirt. I leapt back, like any sensible Jewish boy. You know, I was shocked because I said to myself, this guy is going to kill himself and it was a year before he died.

KING: We'll take a break. Just a year.


KING: We'll take a break and discuss what made James Dean James Dean and why that continues. And everybody can jump in on it. We'll be right back. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DEAN: You all right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You had to start slugging, didn't you? What, were you showing off for her?

DEAN: Huh?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You had to start slugging.

DEAN: I was trying to help you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I doesn't need your help!

DEAN: I was trying to help you Aaron.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you want to slug people do it for yourself and not for me and don't lie to me...

DEAN: I tried to help you.







UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it doesn't matter anyway, because we're moving.

DEAN: You're not tearing me loose again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, this is news to me. Just why are we moving?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, do I have to spell it out?

DEAN: You're not going to use me a as an excuse. Every time you can't face yourself you blame it on me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is not true.

DEAN: You say it's because of me, because of the neighborhood. You use every other phony excuse. Mom, I just once, I want to do something right and I don't want you to run away from me again.


KING: James Dean is number 17, get this, on the "Forbes" magazine list of the highest earning deceased celebrities. His estate made $5 million in 2003. The magazine says, "His look, timeless in its coolness, is a major draw for advertisers looking to reach both young demographics and nostalgic baby boomers." Why, Dennis Hopper, does James Dean linger?

DENNIS HOPPER, ACTOR: Well, he's the greatest actor that I ever saw. I never saw anyone that could even touch him. He was -- he told me that he had Marlon Brando in one hand saying "go screw yourself" that wasn't exactly the term he used, but -- go screw yourself, and he had Montgomery Clift in the other saying "please forgive me." And somewhere in the middle was James Dean.


DEAN: Just like everybody else trying to get away from here. Me, I'm going to get out of here one of these days.


HOPPER: He moved. He -- Eartha, boy, you know. I mean, he moved better than any actor. He's like an expressionist to me. He not only filled himself with emotion, but he like -- he did things that were so unbelievably physical. I mean, the walking, pacing off the land in "Giant" lifting himself up on the -- when he discovered oil, the dancing in the oil. Jus his whole being...

KING: How much of it, Liz, do you think was the way he looked? The face?

SHERIDAN: Well, I don't know if anybody knows this, but one of the reasons that he looked so kind of forlorn and lovely and lost was because he couldn't see a damn thing.

RYDELL: That's right.

KING: Really, he was blind-like? I mean...

RYDELL: Without his glasses.

SHERIDAN: Yeah, I was always hiding his glasses.

HOPPER: We went one day to lunch and I thought he was putting them on and sat there. Dick thought he was like was really angry at Jimmy because Jimmy was ignoring him. And Jimmy didn't rec -- for 15 minutes, and he finally said, is that you, Dick?

KING: That bad?

HOPPER: No, he couldn't see.

SHERIDAN: I used to hide his glasses from him. It was fun.

KING: Did he wear contacts?

HOPPER: But he also said that that helped him act. That he had to imagine everything. He said he told me he had to imagine everything beyond a certain point without his glasses.

KING: But how much of it, Liz, was his -- he was strikingly good looking.

SHERIDAN: Oh, yes, he was wonderful looking and He had a manner that was cute and -- I hate the word cute, but he was cute and funny and wanted to be paid attention to. That was the most serious thing that he wanted, he wanted people to believe what he said was true. And by the time he got to be famous, people were crawling all over him and it bothered the hell out of him.

KING: What was he like on stage?

LANDAU: He was exciting on stage. But I wanted to say something in relation to this. It was post-war in the '50s and up until that time, grownups were making the decisions as to style, music. And there was this unrest that went on in this country among teenage people. And it was very quiet. It was a revolution. Jimmy, in the 20 some television shows that he did and the two Broadway shows that he did and the three movies he did epitomized this character. Jimmy looked like the boy next door, but he wasn't the boy next door. He was boy next door that was beginning to exist at the time.

KING: He was a rebel.


DEAN: You, you say one thing, he says another and everybody changes back again.


LANDAU: Yes, he was a rebel. He was a rebel in a lot of ways. But Elvis came along this time as well. So there was -- he epitomized -- he was like the quintessential person at that moment in time to play these roles, because he was a very talented fellow.

KING: Eartha, why does he last?

KITT: Why did he last?

KING: Why does he last now? Why do people still know of him?

KITT: Because he -- I think he was very truthful to his work. He liked his work very much. And he and I used to talk about that all the time. And I always talked about the fact that if you're going to use your words, then the body has got to go along and translate what you're saying. Words don't mean very much unless it goes along with what the body is doing. And I think that because he was so honest with his work and so honest with himself in general -- I mean, he knew what he wanted, even though he was not that interested in becoming the world's biggest star. Because I felt that -- he said to me many times, too, that he didn't want to be treated like a piece of flesh. He wanted to be treated like a person and the artistic side of him then would be the value that the public can accept. But he wanted also to be accepted as himself, as a real person. KING: Can we say, Mark, had he lived, he would have gone on to do great things into his 40s, 50s, 60s?

RYDELL: Had he lived. But, you know, that's a real serious question, because he was a troubled guy.

KING: Troubled?

RYDELL: Troubled, very troubled. And I think, you know -- I don't know whether he would have lived one way or another. Something would have happened to him, because he was living on the edge all the time with his motorcycle. He really tested the limits constantly.

KING: Why do you think?

RYDELL: I think, well, you see -- I -- my understanding of Jimmy was he was so desperate for familial love. He needed a father very badly and attached himself to many men as father figures, Kazan and George Stevens, even George Stevens, who was a bad father to him. But there were others, Nick Ray became a father to him, and he needed that desperately.


DEAN: Talk to me, father. I got to know who I am. I got to know who I'm like.


RYDELL: He was pushing the limits, always. continually pushing the limits.

KING: What were you going to say, Eartha?

KITT: Larry, he also needed love and affection and he was constantly looking for that. And I think when he found it, he wanted to hold on to it and when he lost it, he became very, very disappointed. That's one of the reasons why, I think, that maybe you say he was so troubled. Yes, he was troubled. And I think in that troubled feeling that he had, he would have found himself eventually through the characters that he found to play. And I think he would have found that more on stage than he would have in the movies...

KING: We'll be right back. We'll pick up the comments with Dennis Hopper and the rest of our delightful panel. Don't go away.


DEAN: Forgive us of the iniquity of my sins. Sela (PH).


DEAN: Six.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I suggest a little slower, Cal. And you don't have to read the verse numbers. DEAN: For this shall everyone that is godly pray unto thee and surely in the floods of great waters they shall not come nigh unto him. Sela (PH), seven.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Not the numbers.

DEAN: Thou art my hiding place. Thou shalt preserve me from trouble, thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Sela (PH), eight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have no repentance. You're bad.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When are you going to get married, Jeb? Don't you need somebody to help you with this kind of responsibility?

DEAN: Well, when I get some time to look around, I'll go back East, Maryland, places -- say, you got any good looking sisters back there might be interested in some poor people?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Money isn't all, you know, Jeb.

DEAN: Not when you got it.


KING: Now Liz Sheridan just told us during the break that he wanted to -- he told you he wanted to direct?


KING: Leave acting?


KING: Why?

SHERIDAN: Why did he want to leave acting?

KING: Yes.

SHERIDAN: That I don't know. And he wasn't famous when I met him. What he eventually wanted to do was to be a director and he was serious about that.

KING: Was he a good boyfriend?

SHERIDAN: Oh, he was wonderful. We had so much fun. Did he ever take his teeth out for any of you? Did he ever drop them in your drink?

LANDAU: Oh yeah, sure.

KING: He had false teeth?

He had false teeth.

SHERIDAN: He had two front teeth that came out.

He had several teeth...

SHERIDAN: When we hitchhiked to Indiana, his father came from California to meet him there on the farm. And -- to fix his teeth. And they were so dear with each other, he and the father -- shy and quiet and kind of almost getting to know each other. And we decided we'll let them alone.

KING: But they say he needed a father, though.


HOPPER: He was so wounded by the fact when he went back to Indiana from -- after his mother died and his father, in a sense, abandoned him. He never saw the father again until he came to California, really, to be an actor.

RYDELL: He was wear false teeth...

KING: You say no?

SHERIDAN: He did that day when he came to...

HOPPER: I think that jimmy -- jimmy had a real thing for life. This thing of him wanting to die or having a thing about dying, screw that theory. Throw it away. He wanted to live. And he took it right up to the edge. I mean, I saw him drive race cars and race cars. He was there to win the race. It wasn't about anything more than that.

KING: But sometimes high risk takers do takers do have a...

HOPPER: ...go down to Taiwan and take cabs It was about how close you could get to the cab. It was about that and that kind of sensibility.

KING: But he was a high risk taker, though.

HOPPER: Well, he may have been a high risk, but not any more than Steve McQueen. I mean, these guys, you know Steve had the same problem.

KING: I agree.

HOPPER: I mean, Paul was out racing cars. It was a time of racing cars and bullfighting and Jimmy did it. He didn't play like, well, we're going to act. No, he went and did it.

LANDAU: He clearly did not have a death wish.

SHERIDAN: No, he didn't. LANDAU: We talked about getting older. And one of the -- I remember we used to sit on a rock in Central Park and talk, and one of the things that he talked about was becoming an old boy. And he -- you know, in other words, Paul Newman looked like -- was pretty much Jimmy's age but looked more manly. Jim looked like a boy and he was saying, you know, I've got to...

KING: I want to be older?

LANDAU: I've got to do well before I get old. We talked about directing and Michael Chechauff (PH) and different acting styles and so on. But he talked about getting old. I mean, he talked about -- you know, we talked about girls. We talked about actors. We talked about theater. We talked about Brando and Monty Clift.

KING: Was he a magnet on stage, as Brando was? Was he -- when he walked on the stage, did he change the room?

SHERIDAN: I only saw him in "See the Jaguar," which was one of his first, which lasted like two days or something.

KING: Was he, Dennis, did you see him on stage?

HOPPER: You know, I've only known three people in my life -- Jimmy Dean, Marlon Brando and Bob Dylan -- and Bob Dylan and Marlon Brando were famous. James Dean was not known. James Dean died before "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant" came out. So, when we were down in Texas he was totally unknown. Nobody knew who he was. And when he left a room, everybody went to the next room. Do you know? You've seen this phenomenon.

LANDAU: The Pide Piper.

HOPPER: And when Marlon would go to a room and there would be a party, everybody would go to the next room, go with him. And the same think with Dylan. Well, Dean had that kind of magnetism.

LANDAU: What is it, it's a magical quality?

KING: What is it? It's not explainable is it?


LANDAU: It's magnetism. I mean, in truth...

RYDELL: Star quality. Amazing, amazing star quality. He's too beautiful to be a director.

HOPPER: But he wasn't that...

KING: Spoken like a director.

HOPPER: Let me say one thing. We see him on screen, he was incredible looking. But he wasn't that great looking in life. I mean, you could pass him by very easily as a visual person. I mean...

LANDAU: He looked like an all-American boy, wore glasses.

HOPPER: But he was like -- he played against that. You wouldn't say, oh, there's a handsome guy.

LANDAU: But most of the time his hair wasn't combed and he was unshaven, so I mean, you wouldn't pay that much attention to him.

KING: And we've got to break and we'll reintroduce the panel. More about the life and times of the late James Dean, 50 years gone. Don't go away.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lesley, you go on in the house, take the women with you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jeb, we're real glad you struck it. Now, you go on along home.

DEAN: Oh, my, you sure do look pretty, Miss (UNINTELLIGIBLE). You always did look pretty. Just pretty nigh -- good enough to eat.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Take it easy, take it easy.

DEAN: My, you're touchy, Vic. You're touchy as an old cook.



MARK RYDELL, ACTOR AND DIRECTOR: He catches Jimmy and actually clips him. And Nick sees that he's been hit with the knife, and he says, "Cut, cut, cut." And Jimmy gets furious and grabs Nick and says, "Don't ever, ever say cut. Don't say cut to me. I'll say cut if something is wrong. Don't you ever cut the scene. He really cut me and this is part of the scene and I want that reality." And was furious and walked off the set, and it took a while before we started shooting again.


ACTOR: You're crying chicken --

JAMES DEAN, ACTOR: Don't call me that.


KING: Welcome back. We're looking at the life and times of the late James Dean.

Our guests are Dennis Hopper, friend and costar of James Dean, in both "Giant" and "Rebel Without a Cause," and star of the NBC series "E-Ring."

In New York is Eartha Kitt, the actress/singer, James Dean friend, who taught him the best, moves on screen, by the way.

Martin Landau, friend, actor currently appearing on CBS's "Without a Trace" Working on an upcoming ABC series called "The Evidence."

Mark Rydell, director, actor and friend of James Dean. Directed and co-starred in a 2001 TV movie about James Dean's life, and is working on a new film called "Even Money."

And Liz Sheridan was James Dean's girlfriend, actress and former dancer. Perhaps best known for her role as Jerry Seinfeld's mom in that very successful sitcom. You washed his underwear, Liz?

LIZ SHERIDAN, ACTRESS: I washed his dirty underwear.


KING: How did that come about?

SHERIDAN: Well, we -- when we met, which I told you about, then we spent most of the time on the telephone. So we decided, this is ridiculous. We really could not breathe without each other. So we moved into a funky place. It was very funny. The Hargrave Hotel. Sort of upper west side. And we set up house. And we had a wonderful time. And he taught me how to draw pictures and --

KING: Oh, he drew?

SHERIDAN: Yes. And he would give me lessons on you draw this and draw that, and I'm going out and I'll be back. He taught me how...

KING: And you washed his undies?

SHERIDAN: I washed his undies.


Yeah, when you live together, you do that. Well, I don't know about you.

KING: What do you remember about where you were, Dennis, when you learned he died?

DENNIS HOPPER, ACTOR: I was at the players' room and it was just before the lights had gone down. And my agent -- somebody came in and said something to my agent. He got up and left and then he came back. And he said, "I'm going to tell you something, but I want you to make sure that you're going to stay here in the theater, that you're not going to leave. Promise me that." I said, okay. I said, "Why, what's happened? Because I thought it was one of my families. I knew something had happened. And he said, "James Dean is dead."

And I just totally freaked out. I think I hit him. I sat down and the lights in the theater went out. The lights came up on an empty -- I remember an empty chair on the theater. And I got up and I ran out in the street and I started looking for people that I knew, trying to find out what happened.

KING: You told him -- Eartha is it true you told him you didn't like that car?

EARTHA KITT, ACTRESS AND SINGER: Yes. I was visiting my friend, Arthur Lowe Jr., when he was living with Arthur at the time.

I was on my way to Las Vegas and Jamie took me in that car and took me across Mulholland Drive to where he was living in the Valley to pick up some records he wanted to play. I told him I did not feel comfortable in the car. And I said you should not be in this car; this car is going to kill you.

And he looked at me and he said, "Oh, Kitt, you're on one of your voodoo trips again." And I remember exactly where I was when he died. I was working at El Rancho Vegas and I came off my stage and was in my dressing room when a Girl came into my room and told me that Jamie Dean had died. I was almost screaming too telling her, "That was the dumbest, stupid joke I have ever heard in my life. Don't play with me like that."

She said turn on the radio and I did, and it was announcing that he was dead. And, of course, we all stood still. We had no words.

KING: Was it a two-car accident, Martin?


KING: What happened?

KING: He was in a Porsche, and there were very few Porsche spiders. There were very few of them in the country. It's a very low car. People weren't used to -- you know, he wasn't going that fast, he was doing 70 miles an hour, approximately.

HOPPER: He had been given a ticket about an hour before at 120.

LANDAU: Just before. I know.

HOPPER: The car would do 170 miles an hour.

LANDAU: I know that. I know.


LANDAU: But they say his mechanic, who was with him, said he was only doing about 70.

KING: There was a passenger?

LANDAU: Yes. He was his mechanic. They were going to a race to actually race the car. He had just finished his work on "Giant" and he wasn't allowed to race during "Giant."

HOPPER: He had also taken the money that he made from "Giant" to buy the car. KING: So what happened?

LANDAU: Well, he was going along, heading north, and this guy was...

HOPPER: Turnip Seed.

LANDAU: Turnip Seed was his name. Was parked right there. There was an island, in essence. And just at the most inopportune moment, the guy turned this way. And apparently Jimmy said something like, "He's not going to do that."

HOPPER: No, that's not -- That's not what I heard.

LANDAU: Because I talked to Turnip Seed once.



HOPPER: It seemed the highway went this way and there's a road coming in like this at an angle. Then this stop sign and this guy didn't stop at the stop sign.

KING: So it was the other guy's fault?

HOPPER: Oh, absolutely. Jimmy just drove right into him. And Rolf said to him, he says the guy sees this. He said, "You better watch out for that guy." And Jimmy says, "He sees us, he'll stop."

KING: He'll stop.

HOPPER: Which I remember because Jimmy never trusted anybody like that. It may have been the only time that he ever trusted someone.

KING: Was he killed instantly?

LANDAU: Instantly.

KING: Let me get a break. We'll be right back. Don't go away.


ACTOR: Jimmy, we probably have a great many young people watching our show tonight. And for their benefit, I would like your opinion about fast driving on the highway. Do you think it's a good idea?

DEAN: Good point. I used to fly around quite a bit you know. I took a lot of unnecessary chances on the highways. And I started racing and now I drive on the highways, I'm extra cautious. Because no one knows what they're doing half the time. You don't know what this guy is going to do or that one. On the track, there are a lot of men who spend a lot of time developing rules and ways of safety. And I find myself being very cautious. (END VIDEO CLIP)



KING: We're back. Was Jimmy Dean the only one to die?

LANDAU: Yes, he was.


KING: The other guy lived?

LANDAU: His neck was broken. The other guy lived. He since has passed away but he did live.

KING: How did you learn of It, Liz?

SHERIDAN: I was living in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands and I had a horse, and we were on the beach. And we were running up and down. And I would swim the horse a lot. And there was a little tiny bar right on the beach. And I stopped and I tethered the horse up to a tree, loosened his saddle and went over to the bar and had a rum and coke and talked to the bartender. And there was a lot of wonderful music on and I was dancing and he was dancing and we were having a good time.

And there were some UDT guys on the beach and it was fairly empty. It was interrupted -- the music was -- to say that a young actor had been killed. And I was still sort of dancing. And finally, they got close to telling his name, and I knew what they were going to say. And I got -- when I heard his name, I remembered I ran to my horse and tried to get back on, and the saddle fell because it wasn't -- it was loose. So I untied it. I leaped on my horse and I ran to the sea, to the ocean, which is where they tell you to go in St. Thomas. And I didn't know where I was going. I just kept going. And the horse didn't want to go that way, so he brought me back in.

But it was unbelievable. I had to go to work that night in San Juan at a place where I was playing the piano and singing. And, yes.

KING: You did work?

SHERIDAN: Yes, I did.

KING: Where were you, Mark?

MARK RYDELL, ACTOR AND DIRECTOR: I was at NBC. You know, I was studying, directing with Bob Mulligan. Was directing a film called "Playhouse" with Sidney Poitier and Don Murray. I was following around; he was teaching me camera things I needed to know. And the voice came over the loud speaker saying that Jimmy had been killed.

I cannot tell you how paralytic that moment was. Everybody stopped, because everybody knew somehow instinctively that Jimmy was a miraculous human being. It was not the loss of another actor...

KING: Good person?

RYDELL: Decent, wonderful, decent guy. But he was -- everybody knew he was going the distance. You could feel it about him every time you talked to him. You knew that he was on his way to being something that, here, we are 50 years after his death talking about him.

In Japan, the biggest selling poster is one of Jimmy Dean. It's so amazing how he captured the imagination of the entire world.

KING: With only three films.

RYDELL: Three films.

KING: Why, Dennis? Why was he the best actor? Because of the way he moved?

HOPPER: Well, because he -- he told me that, you know, you could do Hamlet standing on your head eating a carrot, as long as people could see your eyes every once in a while, and know that you're telling the truth.


ACTOR: What did you do to the old man?

DEAN: Oh, lay off of me, will you? I said nothing, nothing. Why does everybody try to get on my back?


RYDELL: That inner truth that he had. He could do anything physically. He had that inner truth and that's ...

KING: And that's hard? You can't teach that?

RYDELL: Well, I think you can endure it or something.

To set an example, you could make the point that the sense of truth is the key talent that an actor has to have. He has to really recognize the truth. You know, Marlon demonstrated it every minute, as did Monty Clift and as did Jimmy.

Those guys had a refined sense of the truth. They didn't lie. They experienced what they experienced fully and openly and did not hide.

KITT: And it was also a fact that he was not afraid of revealing his feelings as the truth of what he was feeling.

LANDAU: And his vulnerability, which a lot of male actors are not necessarily -- it's not necessarily available to them. He was willing to be an open wound.

KING: You think he would have been a good director, Mark?

RYDELL: It's interesting to think, the director -- I think he wanted to be a good director but I don't know -- a director is like a father figure. He has to be kind of a benevolent dictator, a friendly, loving dictator, who makes everybody feel terrific and gets the -- sets an atmosphere that's nutritious for everybody. I don't know if he would have been a good director.

I was as overwhelmed with him as an actor; I can't imagine him doing anything else.

KING: "East of Eden," "Giant" and "Rebel Without a Cause" are all available on DVD, by the way, from Warner Home Video, individually or as part of a box set.

And Mark Rydell's 2001 movie about Dean's life, simply entitled "James Dean," is also available on DVD. We'll be right back.


ACTOR: Jed, come on inside. I want to talk to you.

DEAN: Just a minute. Afraid I'm going to beat you to it. I'm quitting. i lost one friend I had in this place and I know it too. So I'm quiting. I'm dead quit. Don't have to say another word to me.

ROCK HUDSON, ACTOR: Nobody's firing you, Jed.

DEAN: Boy howdy, nobody's firing me. I told you Iquit.




KING: What was he like, Dennis, for the fellow actor working with him?

HOPPER: Well, I mean, I came out of doing Shakespeare, so I was 18 years old when we did "Rebel Without a Cause." I'd never seen anybody improvise before.


DEAN: Is that meaning me? Is that meaning me?

ACTOR: Chicken. Yes.

DEAN: You shouldn't have called me that.


HOPPER: But I had never seen anybody just do things and not show them, which is what he instructed me to do.

KING: So was he easy to act with or difficult?

HOPPER: He was wonderful to act with because he was involved. If you were in the scene with him, he was part of the scene. He got you in whether you could act or not, you were part of that scene. He would make you real.

KING: He was a very giving actor, Mark?

RYDELL: Giving and taking is what acting is about. He would give but he would also take what you hand out.


ACTRESS: Please don't start any trouble.

DEAN: I'm not going to start any trouble. Come on.

LANDEAU: It's like a good tennis match. You know, hit the ball back. You don't know where it's going to come next. That kind of improvisational and moment-to-moment reality is what Jimmy was excellent at.

HOPPER: In the play that we did, "The Omnibus," Hume Cronin had a scene -- Jimmy and I were sitting in a booth in kind of a candy store situation, drinking sodas supposedly. And Jimmy had a little bottle of booze that he was -- that was part of the script and he was putting it in the soda. And Hume Cronin came over and said, "Give me that bottle." And Jimmy's line was, "Take it." So Hume reached for the bottle and Jimmy kind of pulled it back. Infuriated Hume Cronin.


Took the bottle from him. "Is that what you're looking for kid?" He said to him. He was very tough with him because Jimmy challenged him. He said to him, "If you want the bottle, take it."

KING: That wasn't in the script?

RYDELL: No, no. He made him do it. What it did was elevate the scene immediately because Hume got angry at this kid who was defying him.

KING: And it worked?

RYDELL: Oh, absolutely.

KING: What was his biggest fault, Liz?

SHERIDAN: Oh, goodness. His dirty underwear. I don't know. His biggest fault. Okay. He didn't have a good sense of time in the sense of --

KING: Late?

SHERIDAN: Yes. Not always late. Just got hung up a lot. Things like that. He -- I don't think this is a fault. He dropped his two front teeth in people's drinks when they weren't looking, because they came out. That's not a bad thing. He was extremely playful.

KING: Did he drink a lot?

LANDEAU: Not usually, but once in a while.

SHERIDAN: Oh, he both drank beer and smoked like hell.

LANDEAU But, I mean, he wasn't a drunk is what I'm saying.

SHERIDAN: No, not in those days.

KING: But he smoked a lot?


KING: Was he unhappy, Eartha, do you think?

KITT: I think he was traumaed, yes. But as a person who is unhappy, per se, I don't think he was unhappy as someone would be talking in terms of me being unhappy or someone being unhappy.

I think he was just a very traumaed person and this is what he showed all the time without even realizing it was being seen. Those of us who saw it realized it. And you always wanted to put a hand out to him, to hug him, to hold him.

Because that's the feeling I always got from him, that he wanted to be held. He wanted to communicate with you and he wanted you to communicate with him. He didn't like to be in a conversation that didn't make sense, for instance. That's why, maybe, a lots of times we didn't have to talk to one another, because we understood what the other one was thinking even before the words were spoken.

KING: There was a gay rumor about him, right? Because you worked with Mineo and the work with Rock Hudson.

LANDEAU: But I also knew all of his girlfriends.

KING: He was engaged, right?

SHERIDAN: Not me. Not with me, he wasn't.

HOPPER: I never saw any of that either. I saw him madly in love with Ursula Andres and madly in love Piera Angele.

LANDEAU: I think most of that stuff has been written by gay guys. They want him to be gay.

HOPPER: It has, exactly.

KING: We'll be right back with our remaining moments. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ACTRESS: I love you Jed. I really mean it.

DEAN: Well I'm -- I'm...




ACTOR: You'r angry about the money?

DEAN: No, I'm not angry. I like it. I think it's great. I'm going to go away. I'll take that money with me and I think I'll start me a little business. Just like my mother did.

ACTOR: What you know about your mother?

DEAN: I know where she is. I know what she is, and I know why she left you. She couldn't stand it. You didn't really love her anymore than you do me. Because of you goodness, your rightness. You never gave either one of us an inch, ever, for what you thought was right. You kept on forgiving us, but you never really loved us.

I know why you didn't love me. Because I'm like my mother and you never forgave yourself for having loved her.


KING: In our remaining moments, let's get caught up on what these folks on doing.

Dennis Hopper stars in new NBC series "E-Ring and other film projects in the works.

Are you enjoying episodic television?

HOPPER: I'm having a good time. I really love this character I'm playing.

KING: Eartha Kitt spends much of her time doing musical performances around the country, concert halls in Palm Beach, jazz festivals in Newport, Rhode Island and Litchfield, Connecticut. Her website is You keep on working, right?

KITT: Yes, and I'm now working on an album.

KING: Another one.

KITT: It will be out any minute now. Yes.

KING: Monotonous. Never forget that.

KITT: Never.

KING: Martin Ladneau has a recurring role on CBS's "Without a Trace" and is working on a new ABC series coming next year called "The Evidence."

What is that, like, in the "Law & Order" tradition?

LANDEAU: Yes, I play an old guy who's pretty smart with two young cops. It's a John Will show. We made a pilot and it sold. We're going on the air. I also have a movie coming out that I shot in Poland. A World War II piece about the holocaust.

KING: Mark Rydell directs the upcoming film, "Even Money," who's all-star casts includes Kim Bassinger, Kelsey Grammer, Ray Leoda and Danny DeVito.

What's it about?

RYDELL: It's about gambling and taking risks, and taking risks for more than you can afford. The pressure that happens to people who get hooked into gambling.

KING: And Liz Sheridan does a lot of stage work around Los Angeles. Can still be seen and Jerry's mom in the original "Seinfeld" episodes. Five seasons of which are already on DVD or soon will be available. And her website is

SHERIDAN: And I wrote a book.

KING: That's right you did. What's the title?

SHERIDAN: "Dizzy and Jimmy."

KING: What?

SHERIDAN: My nickname was Dizzy. It always has been all my life and half the people I know call me Dizzy. It's called "Dizzy and Jimmy." You can buy it on my, you know, whatever you call it.

KING: Website.

SHERIDAN: And I also have a one woman show. I also did a pilot which was sold. I can't say anything, but as of Friday, we're set to go. So everything is lovely. And we're so old, aren't we? Isn't that wonderful.

KING: Hey, everything goes -- everything goes well for...

SHERIDAN: And we're going to get older and older as time goes by and just work like hell.

KING: Well we'll never -- we'll never forget him. Thank you all.

Fifty years, September 30th, 50 years gone. James Dean. Gone, but not gone.

Thanks for joining us and good night.