Happy birthday, James Dean! Everyone still agrees that James Dean is a certified sex symbol, even as other aspects of the actor’s life remain open to interpretation.
The Hollywood heartthrob died in a tragic car accident when he was just 24 years old, having appeared in only three films. But James Dean left us with some of the most unforgettable performances caught on film, as well as plenty of material to continue speculating about his sexuality.
“There’s been quite an evolution in the thinking since Dean’s death in 1955,” biographer Val Holley said, “moving from ‘James Dean was straight’ to ‘Dean had sex with men but only to advance his career’ to ‘Dean had sex with women but only to advance his career.'”
Both the director and screenwriter of Rebel without a Cause believed James Dean was exclusively gay. Even his close friend, Elizabeth Taylor, once said matter-of-fact that all her best friends had been gay, including Montgomery Cliff, Rock Hudson and the one and only Jimmy Dean.
HomoHistory has put together a rather comprehensive list of all of James Dean’s rumored gay lovers over the years — mounting evidence that points to the fact that James Dean might have been our very first gay teen idol. Here are all the alleged male lovers on James Dean’s little black book:
A struggling actor at the time, 20-year-old James Dean shared an L.A. apartment with Rogers Brackett, a 35-year-old radio director and producer who bought him nice clothes, took him out to fancy dinners and introduced him to Hollywood heavyweights to help kickstart Dean’s career. “It was a classic ‘kept boy’ scenario,” according to HomoHistory. Later Brackett even paid for Dean to move to New York City so he could study acting, and he introduced Dean to the director of his first movie, East of Eden. The pair remained friends even after Dean moved out and became a star.
Once in New York, James Dean found a roommate and close friend in William Bast, who revealed later in life that his relationship with Dean was more than a platonic bromance. Bast claimed he “experimented” with Dean and that things sometimes got sexual.
Perhaps James Dean’s biggest sexual conquest (allegedly!) was fellow actor Marlon Brando. The two star hunks met when Brando taught a class at Dean’s acting school. Dean apparently “stayed after the class to meet Brando, which lead to a sexual affair that lasted for several months,” according to HomoHistory. But don’t let the fake photoshopped image of the two actors sweetly kissing above fool ya: it wasn’t all lovey-dovey while it lasted.
“James Dean was one of Brando’s most lasting yet troubled gay relationships,” adds Darwin Porter in a recent Marlon Brando biography. “They had a relationship for a number of years but it was always turbulent. At one point they had a big stand-up fight at a party in Santa Monica, California, witnessed by dozens of people.” Talk about gay drama, old Hollywood style.
James Dean met Rock Hudson on the set of Giant, Dean’s final film. Giant also starred Elizabeth Taylor and Noreen Nash. During filming, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor made a bet over who would be the first to score with James Dean. And guess who won? Hudson had sex with Dean just days into the shoot, according to Nash.
Other Gay Flings
The names of actors Clifton Webb and Jack Simmons often get thrown into the mix when discussing James Dean’s gay lovers, but little information exists about these rumored love affairs. If we had to create a rumored gay fling for James Dean, it would have to be with Paul Newman. Can you imagine how adorable that would have been? No? Here’s a little visual to fuel the imagination.