February 8 marked the 80th anniversary of James Dean's birth, and, for me, the qualities that made him so special as an artist (and often caused him to be misunderstood) were his sensitivity and his idealism. Dean starred in just three films before his untimely death, but the characters he played seemed to channel his personal pain—for all the world to see. Because of this, he will forever personify that awkward transition from teenager to adult.
You can learn a lot about a person from what they read. James Dean often spoke of his desire to produce a screen adaptation of his favorite book, Antoine de Saint Exupéry's The Little Prince. The novella's themes spoke directly to Dean's feelings about being judged and his fear of getting close to others. The Little Prince is no War and Peace—it addresses these issues in language that resonates with both young and old, with gems like "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed."
For more of JP's insights on James Dean, check out his blog, The Selvedge Yard.