Joshua Tree 1951 Review - The Life Behind The Legend


Even though it’s been over fifty years since he died, James Dean, the bad boy actor, who became a legend, is still around.  Robert Zimmer, Jr., (Producer) of Iconoclastic Pictures spoke of the feature, Joshua Tree -1951, a true picture of the real James Dean.  Originally, the film had started as a short, but it soon became evident that there was too much ground to cover.  “So much of his life is not known, so we had to fictionalize parts of it, but everything we could, we took from public record. It’s a snapshot of his life in Los Angeles and centers upon the weekend at Joshua Tree where his roommate and friend, Violet, defined their lives.” 

Joining them at their night club scene, dressed by set designer Samuel Perone, and assisted by assistant director, Jessica Kivnik, we saw the authenticity of the work. 

Joshua Tree, 1951: Serita Stevens, James Preston, Henry Tarlow

A loner, and always searching for the attention and love that he lost after the death of his mother, James lived a wild life with plenty of “pretty young things” hanging around.  “He was an asshole and self destructive (not unlike Sheen), but with a lot more talent.”  We remember this cultural icon for his three lead movies, East of Eden, Rebel Without A Cause, and Giant.  The later he stared with Elizabeth Taylor.  It was she, who only recently on her death bed, revealed the secret of his molestation as a child. 

Star James Preston looks remarkably like the fabled troubled teen.  In fact, he knew he was fated to take this role because in an acting class, before he knew the role was available, he had said to his scene partner, Delilah Rain (Violet) that was whom he wanted to play.  She introduced him to Matthew Mishory, the director, and he was cast almost immediately.   It was only a short time later that Eddie Singletary signed on as Roger, the talent manager. 

Joshua Tree, 1951: Jessica Kivnik

“There’s a little bit of James Dean in everyone.  We’re all desperately seeking that elusive love.”  James, to prepare for the role, read and watched everything he could about the actor.  “I just wanted to be able to act and react just as he would have done.” James enjoys acting in whatever “transforms me and affects people.  I think this film will do that.” 

The film took fourteen months from the time the script was conceived to now.  “That’s pretty good timing, especially with the economy, for an indy film these days.”  It was only after they did the trailer, which can be seen on You Tube (look for the Joshua Tree 1951 trailer), that the money started coming in. 

Joshua Tree, 1951: James Preston as James Dean

Set to release in January 2012, just in time for Sundance and the festival circuit, Robert hopes to have Joshua Tree 1951  available for theatrical viewing later that year. 

Joshua Tree, 1951: extras Ashley Buxton and Katie Dodd

Dying in a car crash on September 30, 1955, the 24 year old star somehow knew he was destined to live on.  When asked by a biographer ‘what makes a man?” James response had been ,”If he lives on beyond his death.”  James certainly did and still does that. Dean was the first actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and remains the only actor to have had two posthumous acting nominations. In 1999, the American Film Institute ranked Dean the 18th best male movie star on their AFI's 100

Joshua Tree, 1951: James Preston

If James Dean had lived, no doubt he would have been  one of the greats.  I’m looking forward to seeing the movie next year.  Meanwhile, check out the trailer for Joshua Tree 1951 on You Tube. 


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