Was he or wasn’t he? I think we’d all like to BELIEVE that James Dean was gay – or at least bisexual – and that if we were around at the time we’d have a shot with him. According to HomoHistory:
There are conflicting reports about Dean’s sexuality; there are a few who try to deny that he had any sexual affairs with men, there are those who say that he was bisexual and some who say that he was exclusively gay (those include Rebel without a Cause director Nicholas Ray and screenwriter Gavin Lambert.)
Dean publicly dated women and privately dated men such as the actors Clifton Webb, Brando, Jack Simmons, Bill Bast as well as the producer Rogers Brackett. James Dean avoided the draft by registering as a homosexual. Later, when questioned if he was homosexual he is reported to have said, “No, I am not a homosexual. But, I’m also not going to go through life with one hand tied behind my back.”
Rumors about Dean’s sexuality began to spread as his fame increased and he quickly became engaged to the actress Pier Angeli. Angeli abruptly broke off that engagement which led to further speculation. At a time when it was impossible for male leads to be openly gay, it wasn’t at all unusual for gay actors like Rock Hudson to enter into sham marriages.
Both the gay and straight communities want to claim Dean as one of their own, but I think it’s safe to say that he was gay. Most of the accounts from those who were his friends and associates show that he had “very close” relationships with several gay and bi-sexual men. That an actor is gay or bi-sexually isn’t at all hard to believe, but when it conflicts with the on screen image, the public chooses to reject the truth.
“There’s been quite an evolution in the thinking since Dean’s death in 1955,” biographer Val Holley said, “moving from ‘James Dean was straight’ to ‘Dean had sex with men but only to advance his career’ to ‘Dean had sex with women but only to advance his career.’”
Both the director and screenwriter of Rebel without a Cause believed James Dean was exclusively gay. Even his close friend, Elizabeth Taylor, once said matter-of-factly that all her best friends had been gay, including Montgomery Cliff, Rock Hudson and the one and only Jimmy Dean.
Here, then, is the alleged list of Dean’s conquests.
A struggling actor at the time, 20-year-old James Dean shared an L.A. apartment with Rogers Brackett, a 35-year-old radio director and producer who bought him nice clothes, took him out to fancy dinners and introduced him to Hollywood heavyweights to help kickstart Dean’s career. “It was a classic ‘kept boy’ scenario,” according to HomoHistory. Later Brackett even paid for Dean to move to New York City so he could study acting, and he introduced Dean to the director of his first movie, East of Eden. The pair remained friends even after Dean moved out and became a star.
Once in New York, James Dean found a roommate and close friend in William Bast, who revealed later in life that his relationship with Dean was more than a platonic bromance. Bast claimed he “experimented” with Dean and that things sometimes got sexual.
Perhaps James Dean’s biggest sexual conquest (allegedly!) was fellow actor Marlon Brando. The two star hunks met when Brando taught a class at Dean’s acting school. Dean apparently “stayed after the class to meet Brando, which lead to a sexual affair that lasted for several months,” according to HomoHistory. But don’t let the fake photoshopped image of the two actors sweetly kissing above fool ya: it wasn’t all lovey-dovey while it lasted.
“James Dean was one of Brando’s most lasting yet troubled gay relationships,” adds Darwin Porter in a recent Marlon Brando biography. “They had a relationship for a number of years but it was always turbulent. At one point they had a big stand-up fight at a party in Santa Monica, California, witnessed by dozens of people.” Talk about gay drama, old Hollywood style.
James Dean met Rock Hudson on the set of Giant, Dean’s final film. Giant also starred Elizabeth Taylor and Noreen Nash. During filming, Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor made a bet over who would be the first to score with James Dean. And guess who won? Hudson had sex with Dean just days into the shoot, according to Nash
The names of actors Clifton Webb and Jack Simmons (above) often get thrown into the mix when discussing James Dean’s gay lovers, but little information exists about these rumored love affairs. If we had to create a rumored gay fling for James Dean, it would have to be with Paul Newman. Can you imagine how adorable that would have been? No? Here’s a little visual to fuel the imagination.
Me? My fantasy pairing would have to be James and his Rebel costar Sal Mineo. Good GOD they were cute together.