When Frank Worth Met James Dean-Global Images

Frank Worth was an American photographer who befriended and photographed many Hollywood actors and actresses between 1939 and 1964. His black and white candid pictures are unusual for the era, when most stars limited themselves to carefully posed glamour portraits. He kept many of his photographs private so that they were not seen until after his death.

One afternoon in 1954 while in a pharmacy parking lot, Worth came across a young man who was mesmerized by his Humber Hawk car. The two began chatting and eventually Frank was convinced to allow the boy to check out the car's engine. This would just be the beginning of their friendship. Little did Frank Worth know, he just befriended one of the biggest rising stars of the time: James Dean.

The two would get together and Worth would pose and photograph James, unknowing he was anybody of importance. Outside photos, they would of course share their love for cars. It wasn't until close to the screening of East of Eden in early 1955 that Frank found out just who he was spending all this time with. He once called up Dean and jokingly called him a 'rotten egg' for not telling him sooner that he was a movie star.

In 1955 Frank was assigned to photograph the set of Giant, which starred Rock Hudson, James Dean, and Elizabeth Taylor. The images captured of the actors behind the scenes were simple, playful, and honest. Looking back through them you can see the photos were all moments in time captured by a photographer who valued friendship and a good time.

On September 30th, just a few weeks before Giant wrapped, James Dean was killed in a car accident. He had just finished all his scenes and was taking a short break before having to complete ADR for the film. It was a well known fact that Dean was an avid car racer. So well known that the director of Giant, George Stevens, wrote a clause into Dean's contract about not racing while the movie was filming. Dean passed away on a Friday, but filming resumed that Saturday. It was reportedly difficult for the cast to continue, but most especially his costar Elizabeth Taylor.

Frank Worth never sold any of the photographs he took of James Dean, despite the many offers he received. Even until his death in 2000, he refused to make a quick dollar off the deaths of his friends.

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August 20, 2019 — Katie Dessin

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