For a guy who starred in only three movies, James Dean has had an oversized impact on pop culture.

Eighty-five years after his birth (on February 8, 1931) and 60 years after the release of his final film ("Giant"), Dean is still our top poster boy for teen angst. And it didn't hurt his legend that his death in a car crash at age 24 meant we never had to watch him grow old, lose his looks, sell out, or make a bad film.

As iconic and familiar as Dean has remained for six decades, there's still plenty of mystery behind this lost-too-soon idol. In honor of his 85th, here are 10 things you need to know about the "Rebel Without a Cause" star.

1. Though he typically played the brooding outsider, Dean was a jock and a team player as a teen. He excelled at baseball, basketball, and pole vaulting in high school and took up fencing in college.

2. Dean lost his two front teeth in a trapeze accident in the barn on his aunt and uncle's Indiana farm, where he spent much of his youth. He supposedly liked to remove his false teeth at parties to unnerve other guests.james dean - giant3. Dean began acting as a kid on the farm. As he recalled later, "Studying cows, pigs and chickens can help an actor develop his character. There are a lot of things I learned from animals. One was that they couldn't hiss or boo me."

4. Dean's first professional acting gig was a Pepsi commercial. He'd landed a stage role in a production of "Macbeth" at UCLA, and a well-connected classmate brought him along to the ad shoot, where Dean served as an extra and earned $30. He soon dropped out of college to become a full-time actor.
5. In 1951, Dean moved to New York, where he found work on Broadway and TV. Liz Sheridan (pictured), famous decades later for playing Jerry's mom on "Seinfeld," claims she dated and even got engaged to Dean during his time in New York. In 2000, she wrote a memoir called, "Dizzy & Jimmy: My Life With James Dean: A Love Story."

6. In an episode of anthology drama series "General Electric Theater," Dean's co-star was Ronald Reagan. Called "The Dark, Dark Hours," the half-hour filmed play starred the then-unknown Dean as a hoodlum who invades the home of a doctor (Reagan) and forces him to treat his friend's gunshot wound. Like many of Dean's non-Method-trained co-stars, the future President reportedly clashed with Dean over the latter's improvisations, which resulted in his performing each rehearsal of a scene in a different way. The episode aired live in December 1954, a few months before "East of Eden" made Dean famous. You can see a condensed version of it here.7. Dean famously enjoyed car racing, so much so that "Giant" director George Stevens banned him from the sport during the shoot. In a public service announcement Dean filmed two months before his death via a car crash, he urged young drivers to practice highway safety, saying, "The life you save might be mine."

8. Dean's name appears in the screen credits of only the three films he starred in, but he can also be seen as an extra in at least four other films: Sam Fuller combat drama "Fixed Bayonets," Dean Martin-Jerry Lewis comedy "Sailor Beware," "Has Anybody Seen My Gal" (starring Dean's future "Giant" co-star Rock Hudson), and the John Wayne football drama "Trouble Along the Way."
9. Dean and fellow Method actor Paul Newman (pictured) often competed for the same roles; they even screen-tested together for "East of Eden." Among the roles Dean was attached to at the time of his death were boxer Rocky Graziano in "Somebody Up There Likes Me," Billy the Kid in "The Left-Handed Gun," and Brick in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof." Newman ended up playing all those roles, and they made him famous.

10. Dean became the first actor to earn a posthumous Oscar nomination and the only actor to date who's earned two posthumous nods. The first came in 1956 for "East of Eden," the second a year later for "Giant." He lost both times. 11. Dean was not nominated for the movie he's most remembered for, "Rebel Without a Cause."
categories Movies, Trivia