22 December 2015
Unpublished James Dean Anecdotes
By Lee Raskin, Author of James Dean: On The Road To Salinas
A Giant Need for Speed
In early June 1955, hundreds of Warner Bros. technicians and actors converged on a little dot on the Texas map called Marfa. It was a dusty, West Texas town of 2,500 folks, located about four hours from El Paso. Marfa would be the Giant filming location.
Bob Hinkle teaches Jimmy how to be a real Texan on the set of Giant. Photo Bob Hinkle
Into the fourth week of filming, Jimmy was becoming bored with little to do and no place to go. He spent hours off the set with his new friend, twenty-three-year-old Bob Hinkle, an authentic Texan who served as the dialogue and roping coach for Jimmy and others. Hinkle and Jimmy would go out at night and shoot jackrabbits on the prairie. Jimmy would brag in the morning how many jackrabbits he had killed. Hinkle recalls, "He kept a running tally–it was over 260 rabbits and two coyotes at last count."
Jane Withers, who was playing the role of Vashti Synthe, established her own version of a USO for the cast. She invited Jimmy to join, but he didn't participate right away. When everyone else left for the evening, Jimmy and Jane listened to records and read scriptures together. They became good friends.
Jane had a tiny two door Nash that she named 'Little Miserable.' Jimmy wanted to drive it, but Jane was afraid to let him have the keys. One day she gave in to him. Jane remembers "Jimmy got that Nash rolling pretty good, maybe seventy miles per hour. I started to scream at Jimmy to stop and let me out. Jimmy stopped. I got out and started to walk, bad ankle and all. Jimmy pleaded with me to get back in the car. I refused. I was scared at his driving, but more importantly, I was hurt and had turned into 'Little Miserable' at that particular moment."
Author Lee Raskin interviews Jane Withers at Dean Fest 2005. Photo Mari Ryan
Finally, Jane agreed to get back in the car after Jimmy told her that he was sorry. Jane said to Jimmy, "If you could just trust yourself, your whole life could change." Jimmy never again tried to frighten Jane Withers.