Wednesday, September 23, 2009

the ironies of life

One of my favorite actors (and probably yours) was a guy named Paul Newman, who died of cancer on September 26, 2008, almost exactly one year ago.

On almost the exact same date, 53 years earlier, an event occurred that propelled the young failed actor to future stardom (his first movie, "The Silver Chalice", bombed at the box office, which caused him to take out a newspaper ad apologizing for its quality)

Included in the cast of characters that were involved in this change in status were a young college student named Donald Turnupseed and the esteemed actor, Alec Guiness ..

but I'm getting ahead of the story.

The first hint of what caused the transformation can be gathered by watching the video clip below (make sure that you have your speakers on for this one) :

the ending of the next video will give you a broader clue:

To quote Paul Harvey, though, here is the rest of the story:

On September 30, 1955, America's favorite young actor was involved in a head on collision with a 1950 Ford driven by Donald Turnupseed, a 23 year old Cal Poly college student.

James Dean died in a nearby hospital later on that same afternoon.

Donald Turnupseed passed away on July 13, 1995. Like Paul Newman, he was also a cancer victim. After the infamous accident involving James Dean, he never publicly discussed the incident.

James was scheduled to portray boxer Rocky Graziano in the film "Somebody Up There Likes Me", after which he planned to retire from acting. After his death, the role was awarded to Paul Newman.

Due to the fact that the studio bosses weren't fully aware of Dean's retirement plans, he was also slated to play the role of Billy the Kid, in "The Left Handed Outlaw".

That role eventually was awarded to ... Paul Newman.

If you'd like to read the full story of "Butch Cassidy's" predecessor on the silver screen, click on the link below:

who ARE those guys?

As I re-read the James Dean biography again tonight on Wikipedia, a few facts jumped out at me:

1) even though James Dean has been dead for 54 years, and he only made three movies (two of which were released after his death) his estate still managed to earn $5,000,000 last year

2) he was almost certainly gay, at a time in America when that was a very dangerous status

3) James Dean and Paul Newman both had an interest in auto racing. Although Dean's racing career was short, he managed to finish in the top three spots in the races that he entered. Paul Newman took racing lessons prior to performing in the 1969 movie "Winning", and went on to have a VERY successful racing career, which included a second place finish at Le Mans in 1979.

4) the Porsche that he was killed in (nicknamed "Little Bastard") has a history eerily similar to the car that Stephen King brought to life in "Christine"

When Dean introduced himself to Alec Guinness outside a restaurant, he asked him to take a look at the Spyder. Guinness thought the car appeared 'sinister' and told Dean: 'If you get in that car, you will be found dead in it by this time next week.' This encounter took place on September 23, 1955, seven days before Dean's death.

Since Dean's death, his Porsche 550 Spyder became infamous for being the vehicle that killed not only him, but for injuring and killing several others in the years following his death. In view of this, many have come to believe that the actor's vehicle and all of its parts were cursed.

Legendary Hot Rodder George Barris bought the wreck for $2,500, only to have it slip off its trailer and break a mechanic's leg. Soon afterwards, Barris sold the engine and drive-train, respectively, to physicians Troy McHenry and William Eschrid. While racing against each other, the former would be killed instantly when his vehicle spun out of control and crashed into a tree, while the latter would be seriously injured when his vehicle rolled over while going into a curve.

Barris later sold two tires, which malfunctioned as well. The tires, which were unharmed in Dean's accident, blew up simultaneously, causing the buyer's auto to crash.

Subsequently, two young would-be thieves were injured while attempting to steal parts from the car. When one tried to steal the steering wheel from the Porsche, his arm was ripped open on a piece of jagged metal. Later, another man was injured while trying to steal the bloodstained front seat. This would be the final straw for Barris, who decided to store "Little Bastard" away, but was quickly
persuaded by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to lend the wrecked car to a highway safety exhibit.

The first exhibit from the CHP featuring the car ended unsuccessfully, as the garage storing the Spyder went up in flames, destroying everything except the car itself, which suffered almost no damage whatsoever from the fire.

The second display, at a Sacramento High School, ended when the car fell, breaking a student's hip.

"Little Bastard" caused problems while being transported several times. On the way to Salinas, the truck containing the vehicle lost control, causing the driver to fall out, only to be crushed by the Porsche after it fell off the back.

On two separate occasions, once on a freeway and again in Oregon, the car came off other trucks, although no injuries were reported, another vehicle's windshield was shattered in Oregon.

Its last use in a CHP exhibit was in 1959.

In 1960, when being returned to George Barris in Los Angeles, California, the car mysteriously vanished. It has not been seen since

This coming Tuesday, I plan to pick up a couple of jars of "Newman's Own" pasta sauce for a spaghetti dinner, and maybe I'll play a little more "Jimmy Dean" music.

Somehow it just seems like the right thing to do.


1 comment:

  1. Dear Tom, (whom I usually call Arizona), I just found this article about Paul Newman, James Dean & the others. Positively a GREAT ARTICLE, & I wish I had been more involved in reading all your posts here. This is a GREAT BLOG. I'll try to get back here often & tell others about you. I have thought James Dean a great actor. I never heard that he was gay, it never even occurred to me, but that does not detract one bit from his appeal as an actor & interesting character. I loved that video with James Dean & music, & the paintings featured on there are FANTASTIC. It looks like Marilyn Monroe (not sure as the figures go by so fast) but I have one of the "reproductions" of that type of 50's scene with Jms Dean, Marilyn & Elvis & Marlon Brando. GREAT ICONS they are.
    Thanks for research & videos. -- Veronica