James Dean is best known for his role as Jim Stark in “Rebel Without a Cause,” and, of course, as a tragic figure of youth being cut down in it’s prime.
This mini-documentary looks at Deans entire life, from early isolation, to his rise to fame, to his love of speed that would ultimately be the end of him. Although he was seen as just a Hollywood adrenaline junkie by his racing peers, he had immediate success in his early racing career and had all intentions of pursuing it seriously.
To pursue his dreams, he needed a more serious car. That is when Dean set his eyes on the Porsche 550 Spyder. The 550 Spyder was designed to be the ultimate racing car for the street. The chassis won all over the world and was extremely sought after. Using his connections, he was able to get his hands on the car and set it up for racing, also giving it its nickname, “Little Bastard.”
September 30th, 1955. James Dean was leaving his friend’s shop with plans to get seat time in the car on the way to an upcoming race. After being pulled over for speeding early in the trip, Dean was determined to make the most of the little time he had in the car to prepare for the race. When a car turned left in front of the Porsche, either not seeing Dean’s car or misjudging the speed, they hit, sending the “Little Bastard” airborne.
Because the remote location of the wreck, the 24 year old James Dean never made it to the Hospital.
This crash was the end of Dean’s tragic story, but only the beginning of the so called “curse” of his car. After the wreck, Dr. William Esrich bought the engine and put it into his own Lotus, which he then crashed hard in his next race. Another racer was killed in a crash after borrowing other parts from the “Little Bastard.” From there, coincidence or not, the legend of the curse took off. Custom car-creator George Barris then took the legend to insane heights. But, as the documentary confirms, most of the claims were either totally made up, or un-provable.
The remains of the car have since been lost which just adds to the mystery.