Montblac has a sense of the import and impact of histories’ great characters. For those of us who live after their time has passed, it’s not unlike watching a James Dean movie. We can see the appeal, but the true scope of their contributions can only be felt like an echo from a bygone era, a ripple in the pond of history. Yet, even an echo can have a lasting impression on us. For teens who grew up in the 1950s, things were different. James Dean was their Curt Cobain, a voice they understood who stood out against the dull and familiar tedium of their time. Somehow raging against the establishment even as he relied on it to do his job. Like Cobain, he was taken far too soon from their lives. All the future of his talent and writings was wasted in a moment no one could stop.
James Dean was known for his good looks, love of fast cars and his wild bad-boy persona in films. The pert package most people see in press releases is not the full story, of course. Like most of us, there was more to James than met the eye. Born February 8, 1931, in Marion Indiana his troubles started early in life. James was what you might call a mama’s boy. He was closest to his mother and loved her dearly. The family moved to California when he was still very young, and the Hollywood culture clearly impacted the growing James. Unfortunately, in 1938, his mother began having severe issues. She lost weight very rapidly and complained of ‘stomach’ troubles. By the time James was just nine years old, his mother had passed away from uterine cancer. The death of a parent is enough to shake any child to the core. If that wasn’t enough sorrow and change to cope with his father found that he was unable or unwilling to raise James alone in the wake of his wife’s death.
Instead of keeping James in California, Winton sent his son back to Indiana where he could live on a farm in Fairmount with his Quaker aunt and uncle. This must have been a very strange time for young James. However, despite his troubles, James was a bright child who always did well in school, and he was on several school sports teams in his youth. It’s said that most people liked him.
James also became close with a local Reverend, James DeWeerd, with whom he later had a sexual relationship. The exact nature of this relationship is unknown since the variations of this story are wildly different. Some versions claim it was abusive. Others claim it may have been consensual, but it almost certainly lasted for quite some time. Whatever the case, DeWeerd had a serious impact on James’ life. He certainly helped to foster James’ love of bullfighting, cars, and theater.
After graduation, he took his dog and headed back to California. There he would stay with his remarried father and stepmother to attend Santa Monica College for pre-law and eventually transfer to UCLA. Once there, he changed his major over to the theater, which never sat well with his father. It wasn’t too long before he began getting his first TV and movie roles and dropped out of school to pursue his career as an actor.
On The Job
For a while, James struggled to get work and had a second job at CBS parking cars. He continued to pursue his goal with singleminded determination, eventually landing a spot in the Actors Studio, around 1952, to study method acting. In 1953 James landed the role in East of Eden, and his career was taking off. For the next five years he would make Hollywood history in his three classic films East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause and Giant while racing cars for fun on the side.
Though he ultimately made less than a dozen movies and only played minor roles in most of them. James Dean is credited with influencing the disillusioned young people of the time and even changing rock and roll in spite of not being a musician. The youth of America mourned his untimely death in a car crash. Only later would his writings, love letters and poetry become part of his legacy.
In addition to his rebellious contribution to society, James is lauded as one of the early LGBTQIA actors and a poet of extraordinary depth. Montblanc actually made three commemorative pens in James’ name. The first is a red beauty reminiscent of his incredible leather jacket that featured heavily in Rebel Without a Cause, one of the first technicolor movies released. The denim texture on the barrel is a nod to his love of bluejeans.
The second pen is carved from gorgeous ebony wood. It is reminiscent of a switchblade and gives another nod to Rebel Without a Cause, echoing the famous knife fight scene. This one was limited to just 99 pieces to reflect his 1999 induction to the American Film Institute’s Greatest Male Actors List.
James Dean Limited Edition 1931 Fountain Pen
The Limited Edition 1931 fountain pen commemorated his birth year and was limited to 1931 copies. The silvery barrel is a nod to the oil cooler grille on his Porsche 550 Spyder “Little Bastard.” All the James Dean pens feature distinctive details unique to his life. The clips are shaped like shotgun barrels. An 18-karat gold rhodium-coated nib is decorated with a racing flag design that reminds us of his other goal, to become a Grand Prix champion.
The words, “Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today,” adorn the cap ring. The cap itself is made of the same precious ebony wood as the knife-fight pen. In addition to the pens, Montblanc issued a special “James Dean Red,” ink and a small red notebook to complete the picture.
There has never been a more iconic bad-boy, and Montblanc’s gorgeously crafted pens are a perfect nod to his style and impact on the world around him. James Dean was truly singular, and the pens that commemorate him couldn’t be more outstanding. The 1931 Limited Edition is the perfect way to show your rebellious spirit as well. No collection of Americana or pens is complete without one of these incredible additions.