James Dean Lost His Mom To Cancer As A Young Child And His Dad Sent Him To Live With Relatives Soon After

Jan 14, 2020

James Dean remains an iconic figure in pop culture. Even many decades after his death, Dean's performance in "Rebel Without a Cause" continues to move audiences. Thanks to cable television and other viewing formats, Dean's following continues to grow.

Few people realize that he only appeared in three movies, and, yet, his impact was enormous and generation-spanning. Also unknown to a great many is the sad truth about his upbringing. James Dean's early home life was not pleasant.

When James Dean was only nine years old, his mother was diagnosed with cancer, reports History.com. Eventually, she was overwhelmed by the condition and passed away. Dean’s father did not play a large part in his life after his mother's death. The elder Dean sent the young man to live with relatives in another state. Seemingly, his father wanted nothing to do with young James Dean.

The pain of abandonment likely hurt the young boy tremendously. James never forgot the scars of his childhood, but he did not let the pain hold him back. As he grew older, he thrust himself into a new passion: acting.


James Dean didn't play Cary Grant-esque sophisticated characters on the screen. He played a "young everyman" character who appealed to youthful audiences in the 1950s. His rebellious image struck a chord with millions.

According to History.com, fans did not know the actor formally studied drama and also excelled in academic debating. Dean did not come off as acting on the screen. He was real, and he made audiences believe in his on-screen characters.

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

A lot of Dean's rebellious nature, however, was no act. His psyche contained many personal demons that derived from his father's abandonment and disinterest. Dean's disaffected nature carried over into his film roles. While significant differences existed between James Dean and the characters he played, there was enough realism to make the performances compelling.

James Dean plays Jim Stark in the motion picture Rebel Without a Cause (Bettmann, Via Getty Images)

James Dean's life would come to a tragic end when the actor was only 24 years old. A car accident took his life on a California highway. He left an incredible legacy, one that extends beyond his exceptional film career. James Dean proved that personal struggles don't have to hold someone back. While Dean did suffer emotionally, he never let his struggles keep him from becoming an iconic actor.

Do you know someone who could feel inspired after learning about James Dean's life? Tell them about the actor's tough life, and see if it gives them something to ponder.