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James Dean Broods... and Dances

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A fun new book, Location Shooting in Los Angeles, written by Marc Wanamaker, Karie Bible and Harry Medved, provides a delicious historic photo-tour of location shooting all 'round the City of Film Shoots, er... City of Angels.

Above, in a rare promotional still photo, James ["You're tearin' me apart!"] Dean broods while filming "Rebel Without a Cause" in 1955 at the Griffith Park Observatory. Shooting took place in and around the elegant, iconic building, which sits atop the hills of Griffith Park, the Central Park of Los Angeles.

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The Observatory, says architectural historian Daniel Paul, who authored the Los Angeles City historic landmark document for all of Griffith Park, is a classic PWA Moderne structure. Daniel explains:

"PWA Moderne is the term for it. Streamline Moderne is something more like the Coca-Cola bottling plant on Central Avenue. PWA Moderne mixes Moderne with a Classical monumentality. The style is also called "Stripped Classicism." This is not to say that the Observatory was a PWA project; it wasn't, except for the sculpture near the building [shown in photo above]."

Wendy Perron, editor of DANCE Magazine, reminds us in a tweet that James Dean (and Marlon Brando) studied dance with the great Katherine Dunham.

A photo captures Dean grinding at the barre, looking none too comfortable, but not too shabby, either, in terms of his placement. Good standing-leg alignment, James Dean! see: artsmeme.

Dean takes Katherine Dunham's class with Eartha Kitt, who was a Dunham dancer from age 16-20, approximately, touring Europe and becoming cabaret star in Paris.

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Debra Levine blogs about dance, film, music and urban culture on arts•meme.

James Dean photo: Bison Archives