FAIRMOUNT, Ind. (WANE) — Saturday marks 68 years since the death of actor James Dean, who died in a crash in California in 1955.
To honor Dean’s life and legacy, fans of one of the well-known faces of the “Golden Age of Hollywood” flocked to the Town of Fairmount Saturday to attend the annual memorial service at Park Cemetery where Dean is buried.
Although Dean was born in Marion and lived in California at multiple points in his life, he spent the majority of his life in Fairmount, a small town south of Marion and Gas City, with his aunt and uncle.
“It’s a strange thing to think about, but [Dean] really spent most of his life here in our little town,” said Dorothy Schultz, curator of The James Dean Museum in Fairmount.
After graduating from Fairmount High School, Dean went to college in California and later appeared in Broadway productions before starring his is first movie, “East of Eden,” an adaption of a John Steinbeck novel.
Although Dean only starred in three films during his short career, he made an immediate impact by receiving two posthumous Oscar nominations for Best Actor in a Leading Role.
“He was just, quite frankly, an acting genius,” Schultz said.
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In the years after his death, Dean garnered a dedicated fanbase akin to Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe, with fans still idolizing and impersonating the Fairmount star, Schultz said.
In Fairmount, Dean’s legacy still lives on not only through the museum, but through the annual James Dean Festival held each year during the last full weekend in September.
Schultz said the 47th rendition of the festival, which concluded Sept. 24, brought thousands of people from across the world to Fairmount to honor and celebrate Dean.
“One of the things fans really love about Fairmount is it hasn’t changed remarkably much since when [Dean] was here,” Schultz said.
The James Dean Museum, which helps organize the annual festival and memorial service, claims to have the “world’s largest” collection of Dean memorabilia and features numerous pieces including Dean’s baby clothes, his high school diploma, two motorcycles he owned and nearly everything in between.
Although the festival and memorial service only happen annually, the museum is open Thursday-Monday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and can be found at 203 E. Washington St. in Fairmount.
Admission to the museum cost $5, and the museum also features a snippet of memorabilia of Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield and another famous Fairmount resident.