Saturday, December 8, 2012

James Dean's Gay Lovers

 James Dean
 James Dean was parking cars at CBS Studios the day that he met Rodgers Brackett. It was 1951 and Dean was a struggling 20 year old actor and Bracket was a very successful 35 year old radio director of a prestigious advertising agency. The unlikely pair hit it off and it wasn’t long before Dean was living with Brackett in his stylish LA apartment. Brackett bought Dean nice clothes, took him to nice restaurants and introduced him to movie stars and other people who could help his career; it was a classic “kept boy” scenario.

Rodgers Dean, taken later in life.

When Dean’s agent expressed concern about the young actor living with a known homosexual, Dean’s only explanation was, “I have my own room.” When his straight friends would come over and whisper that his room-mate was “a queer”, Dean’s answer was “Yeah, I know.”  Some say that Dean was just using Brackett to further his career, sort of a “gay for pay” arrangement.  However, Dean and Brackett stayed close and in touch for the rest of his life; that wouldn’t have happened if it had only been a financial arrangement.

A year or so later, Brackett found a new job in the Television industry in Chicago. Dean was extremely upset and afraid of being abandoned, just like felt when his mother died when he was 9 years old. 

 Lee Strasberg's Actors Studio, NYC

Brackett generously financed Dean’s move to New York so that he could study at the Actors Studio under Lee Strasberg. .William Bast was Dean’s room-mate and closest friend, a fact confirmed by the Dean family. Bast revealed, later in life, that his close friendship with Dean was sometimes sexual. 

 William Bast

Through the Actors Studio, James Dean attended a class taught by Marlon Brandon. He stayed after the class to meet Brando, which lead to a sexual affair that lasted for several months and a friendship that lasted much longer.

  A young Marlon Brando

James Dean acting like Marlon Brando

 Later in life, Brando was quoted as saying, “Like a large number of men, I too have had homosexual experiences, and I am not ashamed.”  Friends noticed during this period that Dean’s acting style, gestures and even his walk were much like Brando's.”

 Marlon and Dean on the studio back lot.

 A Photoshop collage; sadly, this is not real.

Dean soon got a role on Broadway as a boy who seduces a male tourist in AndrĂ© Gide's The Immoralist in 1954. He quit The Immoralist after just three weeks and flew to Hollywood to begin filming East of Eden.  Dean had been introduced to the director, Elia Kazan, by his ex lover Rogers Brackett.  

 Noreen Nash, one of Dean's co-stars on Giant, recalled that the stars Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson had a bet over who bed him first.  According to Nash, Hudson won the bet just a few days into the shoot.

 Rock Hudson and James Dean on the set of "Giant."

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.)

 Clifton Webb

 Jack Simmons with James Dean

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.”

 James Dean with Pier Angeli

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. 

 Rock Hudson and beard/wife, Phyllis Gates (his agent's secretary.)

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.

For those who continue to insist that James Dean wasn't gay, check what his good friend and co-star, Elizabeth Taylor, had to say about it. Jump to the 3 minute mark on this Youtube clip: 

 For more pics of James Dean, check out: 
Hot Vintage Men: James Dean 


  1. Thank you for this summary. There's far too much history-rewriting for gay men who could be role-models (etc) and its good to read some historical facts presented plainly.

  2. It will be a good day when people can lead their lives as they see fit vs. societal "norms" bullshit. RIP Dean, Brando, Hudson and friends.

  3. It is really sad that someone's sex life is no longer private, and everyone has to learn private things.

  4. @Karen, I doubt you would have objected to this story if James Dean's lovers had been women. This story is about validating who he was as real person; sorry if it burst your bubble.

  5. The Celluloid Closet was the best documentary I ever saw, it opened my eyes and my mind.

  6. I don't understand why this article questions whether Dean was gay; Elizabeth Taylor very publicly outed him at the GLAAD media awards in 2000....and, as she was his friend, I would think she would have known. Check out the link below at 3 mins 15 secs

  7. Hi Andy,
    Thanks so much for the link; I've never seen that clip! I get so many angry women sending me messages about how terrible I am for saying that James Dean was gay; maybe this will finally shut them up! LOL
    I think I'll have to copy and paste that clip into the post, thanks again.