James Dean's Hometown Revels Without Pause in Fond Memory of Fairmount's Favorite Son

updated 10/15/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/15/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

At 5:45 P.M. on Sept. 30, 1955, James Dean was a 24-year-old actor with moody good looks and a promising future. Minutes later he was dead in a car wreck and on the way to becoming a legend.

His remarkable cultural status was reaffirmed again when nearly 30,000 old faithfuls, new fans and former chums of the actor gathered in Dean's hometown of Fairmount, Ind., for a weekend marking the 35th anniversary of his death. Deanophiles, some of whom had come from as far as Holland and Japan, watched floats, marching bands and a look-alike contest, haggled with T-shirt hawkers, visited the James Dean Gallery and his grave and listened to a speech by Dean's former high school drama coach, Adeline Nail, now 84. "I don't know of anyone who's been gone for 35 years and has that many people still following him," marveled the actor's first cousin, Marcus Winslow, who still lives in the 1904 farmhouse where the two grew up together.

Dean, who was killed instantly when his speeding silver Porsche collided with another car near Cholame, Calif., made only three films before his death: East of Eden, released five months earlier; Giant, which he had finished working on just days earlier; and Rebel Without a Cause, which was about to open. Rebel, in which he played a brooding teenage loner, set the image that would endure for decades. At least for some. "I don't understand it," confessed Robert Pulley, 59, a former Dean high school buddy. "Jimmy was just a normal boy."

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