Oscar: Posthumous Nominations–James Dean

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) has been reluctant to bestow the Oscar Award posthumously.

Some suggest that the Academy’s reluctance stems from its belief that the awards should affect the careers of practicing artists. In some categories, such as the Irving G. Thalberg Memorial Award for distinguished producers, and the Honorary Oscars, the rules state explicitly that the awards “shall not be voted posthumously.”

James Dean had been one of few exceptions, earning two Best Actor nominations posthumously, for East of Eden in 1955 and for Giant in 1956. Dean was killed in a highway car crash while driving his Porsche to Salinas to compete in a race. East of Eden was released a few weeks before his death, on September 30, 1955, and Giant, which he did not complete, about a year later.

When the awards for the 1956 best films were presented, on March 27, 1957, Dean had been dead for eighteen months.

Consensus held that Dean’s second nomination was influenced by the sentimentality factor, though his achievements in both pictures were outstanding.

Dean’s Oscar nominations not only contributed to the box-office success of East of Eden and Giant, but also helped to elevate his extremely brief career to a legendary, even mythic status.