Is it just me, or are there really more "James Dean fans" out there than there are people who have actually seen his films?
I think I'm talked to maybe one other person who actually has seen all of them. Maybe five who know that he was actually incredibly intelligent and read more books in his short years than most people twice his age read in a lifetime. And I can think of a few dozen "James Dean fans" off the top of my head.
I've seen all three films (that he starred in). I saw an interview with Dennis Hopper saying he cried when he first saw Dean act. He was just that good. I wasn't aware of his penchant for literature. I do know he often sat in the corner at parties and played bongo drums. The "James Dean" of legend was not the actual James Dean. I don't think I'd consider myself a "James Dean Fan" in the usual sense. I see him as a guy who died before reaching anything resembling his actual potential.
I think Rebel Without a Cause is the only one I've seen. I think I was about 16 when I saw it. Although I liked it, I think it would have spoken to me more if I'd seen it at a slightly younger and less pragmatic age. I think for a lot of people, his enduring appeal is more about iconography, about a certain Jungian archetype, than it is about his career specifically.