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Another side of James Dean

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These days, a threadbare IMDb page is a sure-fire way for an actor to end up quietly cursing their agent on a hellish reality TV show set. But James Dean is the cinematic epitome of achieving a lot with quite a little.

Because of his untimely death at 24, the Fifties screen icon appeared in just three films. And it’s that relative dearth of material featuring Dean that makes the discovery of previously unpublished pictures and letters all the more enticing.

Found by Keith Gordon, the son of Dean’s former girlfriend, actress Barbara Glenn (also pictured), and on auction at Christie’s South Kensington in November, the memorabilia is on a different scale to Hollywood’s usual procession of old negatives.

The lots include three love letters written in 1954, which further flesh out the myth surrounding Dean. In one he complains about the quality of a Broadway play he’s appearing in and decorates the paper with doodles of the set. In the others he reacts angrily to a seductive photo shoot Glenn was involved in, jokingly confesses his love

for his horse, and hints at intense loneliness.

But it’s the four unseen photos that truly crown the collection. Depicting a more playful man than the pouting, pomaded figure of Rebel Without A Cause, they show him larking around with Glenn and friends on the beach, while also achieving the near-impossible for a holidaying man — looking cool in a pair of snug Speedos.

The collection is auctioned through Christie’s London on 23 November; christies.com

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