Unearthing a Rebel's Roots

Sunday, May 8, 2005

PBS's "American Masters" begins its 19th season Wednesday with a profile of James Dean, whose brief acting career included only three major movie roles before he died in a car accident on Sept. 30, 1955.

Fifty years after his death at age 24, the farm boy from Indiana still has iconic status.

Dean starred in three films, portraying characters who seemed to encompass the restless, rebellious American youth of the mid-1950s. In "East of Eden" (1955), "Rebel Without a Cause" (1955) and "Giant" (made in 1955, released in 1956), his characters were angst-ridden outsiders. Dean is the only actor ever nominated posthumously for two Oscars ("East of Eden" and "Giant").

"American Masters," airing weekly on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on WETA and 10 p.m. on MPT, will offer nine new profiles this season and 12 encores.

New programs in the series tell the stories of Dean, Cary Grant (May 25), Julia Child (June 15), the District's Sweet Honey in the Rock (June 29), George Stevens (July 13), Bob Newhart (July 20), Willa Cather (Sept. 7) and Ernest Hemingway (Sept. 14). A two-night profile of Bob Dylan on Sept. 26 and 27 will end the summer schedule.

-- Patricia Brennan

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