One could make the argument that there are many iconic photographs of actor James Dean, or even that nearly every photograph of the actor has an iconic resonance. For me, though, when I think of James Dean, this is the image that immediately comes to mind, this photograph of him in character as Jett Rink on the set of the 1956 release, “GIANT.” James Dean wasn’t a tall man, at five foot eight. Rock Hudson was six foot four. There are stories that Hudson couldn’t stand Dean and that they fought bitterly onset, over the friendship and attention of co-star Elizabeth Taylor. Sometimes it isn’t the size of the dog in the fight that matters, so much as the size of the fight in the dog. In some ways, that is what the story of the movie is about, in some ways. In this photograph, James Dean has the presence of a giant. Is there a house in the background? Is he sitting in a car? These are perceptions in the periphery as it is only his, or Jett Rink’s, elegantly relaxed confidence that fills up the space of the frame of this photo.
If you’ve never seen the film, despite some dated scenery and perhaps antiquated dialogue here and there, I think it holds up pretty well.