Monday is the 30th anniversary of James Dean's death, which isn't something you'd expect to go unnoticed in a town where most young actors still seem to have taken their cues from Dean. And sure enough, the original rebel without a cause will be more visible over the next few weeks than he has been in years.
Tomorrow, Warner Bros. -- Dean's studio in the '50s -- will re-release "Rebel Without a Cause" and "East of Eden" on a double bill booked into 13 cities around the country. But they've got more up their sleeve than simple re-releases: Warners has uncovered Dean's original screen test for the studio, which they showed to the film industry early this week and which will be distributed as a short subject to go along with the two other films.
Dean was always something of a controversial fellow, and even this re-release has started to stir up a minor fuss. The James Dean Memorial Foundation, it seems, has been working for years to raise enough money to erect a three-times-life-size statue of Dean in a local cemetery, and it figured this week would be the ideal time to step up its efforts.
The problem, says foundation leader Bill Dakota, is that Warners wants to make money from the Dean re-releases but won't help to commemorate the actor in any other way. Aiming to raise $200,000, Dakota spearheaded a drive that found Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley declaring next Monday James Dean Day -- but when Warners asked Dakota to read the mayor's proclamation at this week's industry screening, he declined. That could be because Warners asked him to read a shortened version of the proclamation, which in its unedited form specifically praises Dakota's plans for a memorial statue . . . 'Santa' Takes Fligh
It's uncertain how Tri-Star's big-budget "Santa Claus -- The Movie" will do when it's released this Thanksgiving, but the studio has arranged to give the movie quite a few captive audiences. In an unprecedented move, the studio has made a deal with Air Fare Inc., an in-flight movie supplier that will put the film in airplanes the same day it's released to theaters.
That move sounds vaguely reminiscent of the strategy used a couple of years back with "The Pirates of Penzance" -- which was also shown on cable TV the day of its opening, but didn't do very well in either place -- but Tri-Star says the plan will increase attendance rather than hurt the box office take. The reason, Tri-Star President David Matalon has said, is that "middle-aged businessmen" will see the movie on airplanes and then take their families to see it once they land. Besides, he said, the airlines wouldn't want the movie except during December. All's Well That Ends Well
When the musical "Annie" was released three years ago, Deluxe -- the film lab that made prints of the movie -- lent a copy to Marvin Davis to view in his personal screening room. Deluxe was a subsidiary of 20th Century-Fox and Davis owned Fox, but that didn't keep Columbia Pictures from getting steamed that one of its movies was lent without its permission. In the aftermath, Columbia took its processing business away from Deluxe and moved to MGM's labs. Lawsuits were filed, but now the dust has settled, legal action has reportedly been terminated, and Columbia is back with Deluxe -- just in time to see Marvin Davis get out of the movie business and sell his share of Fox to Rupert Murdoch. Maybe there's a moral in there somewhere. Odds and Ends
He may be pint-sized compared to Sly Stallone, but Michael J. Fox and his "Back to the Future" have knocked off "Rambo" and taken over the title of 1985's biggest grossing movie. The sci-fi comedy turned the trick last weekend as it topped the $150 million mark, retained its position atop the box office charts and built a $2 million lead over "Rambo." If you want to get technical, though, neither film has made as much money this year as "Beverly Hills Cop" -- but since that film was released in 1984, in Hollywood terms it doesn't count . . . Remember "Capricorn One," which postulated that the moon landing was faked on a sound stage? The upcoming "F/X" takes that scenario in a different direction: In the film, which stars Bryan Brown, the State Department hires Hollywood special-effects men to stage a nonexistent Mafia assassination.