Apr 03

Actor James Dean killed in car crash

October 1, 1955 Telegram-Tribune documenting the death of James Dean in a car crash near Cholame.

A lot has changed since actor James Dean was killed in a collision at the highway intersection that now bears his name.
Freeways were the exception, not the rule.
Datelines for Dodger stories were BROOKLYN.
Highway safety and automobile design have come a long way. It was the end of September and there were already 27 traffic deaths in the county. Another would fall the very next day. Now with crumple zones, seat belts, airbags, roll cages and other engineering improvements, accidents are more survivable then they were before. The intersection has been redesigned and moved since the accident and Highway 446 has been renamed 46.

Another major change is the advent of celebrity news. If something like this happened today there would be news helicopters and satellite vans and cell phone video on the internet within a few hours of the accident.
Dean would become a bigger celebrity after his death. According to IMDB his second film "Rebel Without a Cause" would open a month after his death. His third and final film "Giant" would be released just over a year later.
The Telegram-Tribune gave this story more than the usual prominence for a fatal accident in that era. It has the front page lead headline, however the accident at the far corner of the county on a Friday night, no reporter went out with a camera.
Though it was front page news in both newspapers the Paso Robles newspaper had the visual advantage of publishing two days after the San Luis Obispo edition. They were able to access photos from the Highway Patrol and a Hollywood portrait of Dean in their coverage.

Here is the coverage of the accident from the Telegram-Tribune's Saturday Oct. 1, 1955 edition:

Movie Star James Dean Dies in Auto Crash

James Dean, 24, whose meteoric rise to film stardom came in his first and only released picture, "East of Eden," was killed in an automobile collision in San Luis Obispo county last night.
Dean died in an ambulance enroute to the Paso Robles war memorial hospital, the California highway patrol reported.
The fatal collision occurred at the intersection of highway 446 and 41 near Cholame and 28 miles east of Paso Robles.
Dean was driving a $7,000 German-made Porsche sports car, accompanied by his mechanic, Rolf Weutherich, 29, who only recently came to this country from Germany.
The other car was driven by Donald D. Turnupseed, 23, Tulare, a student at Cal Poly.
Dean suffered a broken neck and numerous other injuries. His battered body was taken from the crashed car, but the mechanic was thrown from the vehicle upon impact. His injuries are serious.
Turnupseed escaped with only slight injuries.
According to the CHP, the Porsche was traveling west on 446 when the student's car attempted a left turn at the intersection and the collision occurred.
Dean's father, Winton Dean a dental technician at the VA hospital in Los Angeles arrived at the Keuhl funeral home in Paso Robles early today to complete the funeral arrangements for his son.
It was announced that services would be held at the Hunt mortuary, Fairmont, Ind. at 2 p.m. on Saturday Oct. 8.

Paso Robles Press October 3, 1955 coverage of weekend accidents including James Dean's fatal accident.

HOLLYWOOD, Oct. 1 (UP) — Speed loving James Dean, Hollywood's latest bobby sox idol was killed last night in a head-on collision of his $7,000 German sports car and another automobile.
Dean, 24, was driving from Hollywood to a road race in northern California at the time of his death on a darkening highway 28 miles east of Paso Robles.
A car driven by Donald Turnupseed of Tulare, Calif, a 23-year-old Cal Poly student, turned left in front of Dean's light aluminum Porche Spyder and the two automobiles crashed head on.
Dean died instantly. His body was battered and there were numerous broken bones and cuts. The low slung little Porche skidded more than 100 feet from the point of impact before it stopped.

Mechanic Hurt

Dean's passenger, Rolf Weutherich, 29, a mechanic from a sports car garage in Hollywood, suffered a broken leg and fractured jaw but was in good condition at Paso Robles Memorial hospital.
Turnupseed escaped with a bruised nose.
Dean's father Winton S. Dean, a dental technician at Sawtelle veterans hospital here, traveled today to Paso Robles, midway between here and San Francisco to return the body to Los Angeles for the funeral.
Young Dean's hobby of driving Porsche sports cars in road races was well-known in the cinema industry and a cause for worry among his employers, Warner studio. But the tousel-haired actor always insisted "It's not driving the races that is dangerous, but driving on highways and streets with those ordinary drivers."
True to his fear, he met death not in the week-end race he entered in Salinas, but on the highway.
Dean had only last week finished work on "Giant" one of the top pictures of the year.
His co-stars, Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson and director George Stevens heard the news as they watched the day's "rushes" in a projection room at Warner studio.
"We all sat there, just stunned," said Stevens. "It is a great tragedy. A boy cut off at the beginning. He had extraordinary talent."

Great Future

Miss Taylor wept that " I am so shocked I can't say anything."
Hudson called Dean a "faultless brilliant actor." Miss Taylor's husband Michael Wilding said, "Dean would have been the greatest actor of them all if he had lived."
Dean was born Feb. 8, 1931 in Marion, Ind. son of Winton and the late Mildred Dean. He attended high school in Indiana and studied at Santa Monica, Calif. junior college and UCLA drama school. Three years ago he tried an acting career in New York and won immediate success on such dramatic TV shows as Philco playhouse and Kraft TV theater. He became an established star on Broadway in "See the Jaguar" and "The Immoralist."
Director Ella Kazan tapped Dean for "East of Eden" in Hollywood.
Dean took over where Marlon Brando left off in becoming the town's most colorful character.
he whizzed about town in a motorcycle and wore blue jeans and T-shirts. He was often moody and shy. He dated such young beauties as Ursula Andrs, Lili Kardell and Jeanette Miller.

Sharp eyed readers will note that the ambulance carrying Dean and Weutherich to the hospital was also involved in an accident. That story was also on the Telegram-Tribune's front page.

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