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James Dean Lived Here

A quiet street in Sherman Oaks for the '50s rebel.

With the recent passing of Elizabeth Taylor, my mind wandered to her co-star in the Oscar-nominated  film Giant. It was the last project he would ever work on, that 1950s icon James Dean. And I was curious about his last days.

Sherman Oaks was the last place he called home. At 14611 Sutton St. In a rustic, log cabin-style villa easily set apart from the stucco homes that littered the hills and lowlands below Ventura Boulevard.

It’s only blocks away from Marilyn Monroe’s first apartment building.  Just two streets off Van Nuys Boulevard.

Decades removed. But still, I felt, haunted by his presence.

“I had no idea this was the place,” said local resident Mary Hawkes. “I heard he lived around here but I didn’t know that was the place. Such history. I bet it’s not the same house, though.”

She’s right. Though it stood for years, the home was recently knocked down and renovated. Modernized. You can see a picture of it here. But the serene, placid suburban neighborhood is the same. Almost, you imagine, at odds with the rebel image Dean created. It’s quiet here, almost deafeningly so. A place you could imagine would be trapped in time.

It was here, on the morning of Sept. 30, 1955, that James Dean hopped into his Porsche Spyder. He made a left, then a right, then a left onto Van Nuys and another right onto Ventura.  He traveled a mile or so to a gas station that is now a flower shop. 

From there he headed to a race in Salinas.

A race he would never run. Dean was killed moments after uttering to his mechanic, who was with him, “He has to see us.” An oncoming car crashed into the Porsche and the star’s light was suddenly extinguished.

The current owners of the Sutton Street property were not at home. A buzz at the gate went unanswered. Maybe there have been too many knocks at the door from historians, fans, tourists and the ghoulish. It's not hard to feel the ghost of a legend on this spot.

Lee Raskin April 12, 2011 at 04:22 PM
Close but no cigar! James Dean on the morning of 9-30-55 did not hop into his Porsche Spyder from 1461 Sutton. He actually hopped into his '55 Ford Station wagon and drove down Ventura to Competition Motors at 1219 N. Vine Street in N. Hollywood, where his Spyder was garaged for the previous night for a thorough tune-up by his mechanic, Rolf Wutherich. The group left Competition Motors around 1:15 pm...Dean and Wutherich drove the Porsche Spyder and stunt driver friend Bill Hickman and photographer drove Dean's station wagon with an empty car trailer back up Ventura Fwy to the Mobil station at Beverly Glen Blvd., where they gassed up. Wutherich took the famous color pix of JD and the Porsche Spyder at the Mobile station with the Ford stationwagon and trailer in view. Yes, the service island still remains after 55 years ...as a flower shop took over the old Mobil station. Lee Raskin, Porsche and James Dean historian/ author, James Dean At Speed (Amazon.com)
Hollis Evans April 12, 2011 at 06:20 PM
Agree for the most part with Lee Raskin. Dean and his crew, however, returned to Sherman Oaks via Ventura Blvd., as the Ventura Freeway had not been built yet. Also, Competition Motors was housed on Vine Street in Hollywood, not North Hollywood.
notmyfault April 12, 2011 at 08:46 PM
I tried to find the bathroom James Dean used at the gas station, but I don't see it anywhere.
Christine April 15, 2011 at 05:03 AM
I love the stories about celebrities that lived here in the Valley. I was born and raised in Van Nuys, so it is interesting to hear stories, read the addresses, and especially see old photos. How about doing a story on Robert Redford? Thanks Patch for the interesting articles that you provide! :)
Sam Tarzanian February 13, 2014 at 02:38 PM
My daughter is helping to post. I waited on James Dean the morning of his death at Chamberlain & Long Automotive at 4319 w. Olive Avenue, Burbank. I had graduated in June and was waiting for my pre-induction Army physical. I worked in customer service and saw James Dean quite a bit in mid-1955. We were located across from Warner Bros. I think he was coming from Warner's Payroll to pay on his account that day. I distinctly remember him saying he had been reclassified to 1A in San Diego in May 1955, where we inductees went after the notice in those days, but Uncle Sam had given him a 6 month grace to finish his filming commitments. I know he mentioned that Jack Warner was having a bird over it. It was also mentioned in the local Movie Mags of the era. We were foreign car specialists in those days and had many celebrity clients.


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