Too Fast To Live, Too Young to Die: James Dean’s Final Hours
Keith Elliot Greenberg
“Still looking for that blue jean, baby queen
Prettiest girl I ever seen
See her shake on the movie screen, Jimmy Dean…” (James Dean)
– David Essex from the song “Rock On”
Is there anything new about the tragic and untimely death of James Dean that the world does not already know? Author Keith Elliot Greenberg’s new book answers a resounding yes. Greenberg is known for his book, “December 8, 1980: The Day John Lennon Died.” In Too Fast to Live, Too Young to Die, Greenberg follows the biographical trajectory of Warren Newton Beath’s excellent book, “The Death of James Dean” (c. 1986). Like Beath’s book, Greenberg zeros in on the facts surrounding Dean’s death and final hours, his motivations and the world James Dean occupied at the time of his fatal crash in the Porsche 550 Spyder on September 30, 1955. For the James Dean fan, I recommend reading both Beath and Greenberg’s books. Greenberg builds on preexisting facts and tells Dean’s tragic ending in an investigative and engaging style adding new details from additional sources, also focusing more on mechanic Rolf Weutherich, Dean’s passenger at the time of the crash. We know, with certainty, what James Dean did in his final days thanks to these two books.
To think that Dean made a meager three Hollywood films, yet his legend lives on in hundreds of biographies, and multitudes of fans visit his grave every year. Is it any wonder about our abiding fascination with his life, method of acting, screen persona and death that remains au courant?
I like to read the Acknowledgment section in biographies. It helps me glean insight into just how far the author delved into their research, especially in the perfunctory and lazy age of Wikipedia. Greenberg credits his team at Hal Leonard Performing Arts Publishing Group, his editors, and the best resource of all: the public libraries. He referenced books from LAPL and Fairmont Public Library. The end result: He and his team assembled a riveting entertainment biography of legendary James Dean. I also like the cover design showing a gritty, atypical and unglamorized photo of Dean, as if he had just been working on his car. No airbrushing here.
So why write another biography? There are new details which I won’t disclose. You’ll have to check it out for yourself. This book is a fast read with swift and coherent writing style.
Dean has been gone now for 60 years. He would have been 84 years old this year had he lived. Gone too soon. He epitomized cool and was quoted: Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.”
I’m listening to Lana Del Rey’s Blue Jeans as I write this review (she references James Dean) in her song. The references continue. The legend lives on. James Dean will never die and remains 4Ever Cool.
I read this book courtesy of Netgalley for publishing an honest review.