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Indiana fest embraces legacy of James Dean

June 03, 2005|From Associated Press

FAIRMOUNT, Ind. — Red lipstick kisses are sun-baked into James Dean's pink granite gravestone, testifying to the enduring allure of the man who, 50 years after his death, remains a symbol of rebellious, misunderstood youth.

Frozen in time by death -- forever handsome, sullen and projecting a cool nonchalance -- Dean is winning new fans with his legacy of cinematic magic, sex appeal and tragedy.

His three big films have been digitally restored and were released Tuesday as a DVD box set. Film crews from around the world are visiting his hometown for documentaries.

And starting today, up to 100,000 people -- including Martin Sheen and Dennis Hopper -- are expected to converge on Marion, Ind., Dean's birthplace, for a three-day festival featuring outdoor screenings of "East of Eden," "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant" on a huge screen at Marion's airport.

Dean was 9 and living with his parents in California when his mother died of cancer in 1940. His father sent him to live with an aunt and uncle on their farm in Fairmount, about 50 miles northeast of Indianapolis. After graduating from Fairmount High School in 1949, Dean headed west to California

Filming for "Giant" had just wrapped when a station wagon collided with Dean's silver Porsche Spyder near rural Cholame, Calif., on Sept. 30, 1955. He died instantly, and Fairmount was soon besieged by a wave of grieving fans.

They still come to the town of 3,000, which has several sites, stores and a museum dedicated to its favorite son.

The James Dean Fest, which runs through Sunday, will give fans a chance to embrace his legacy -- and even buy a house in Fairmount where he once lived. It will be auctioned Saturday.

Visitors from as far away as Japan and Australia are expected.

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