Stewart Stern's warmest recollections were reserved for some wonderful anecdotes about his first meeting with the iconic actor James Dean, full of those tiny, yet intimate details that bring memories colourfully to life, such as the fact that Dean gave him a strange half smile because he was actually missing his front teeth at the time, or the way that he spun around in the revolving arm chair in which he was sitting, watching his own reflection in a glass window. Fans of Rebel Without a Cause will remember the moment when Jimmy Dean's character Jim Stark moos during the planetarium lecture. What is less known is that this idea came directly from the first time that the screenwriter and actor actually met, when to break the awkward silence Dean let out a moo, and then Stern replied with a bigger, better one of his own. When he retold the story last night, to the delight of the audience, we were also treated to his amazing impressions of a flock of sheep and, finally, three different pigs feeding in a trough together, that he had also shared with James Dean at that first meeting!
Soon after Dean took Stern to a special screening of East of Eden and not since seeing Brando on stage had he seen such inspiring work from an actor. His lasting admiration for James Dean's enormous talent was palpable.
A handful of admirers approached him after the talk and he graciously chatted to us, even signing autographs for the lucky few who were able to get one before the staff rather rudely interrupted us and whisked the star away. The evening was over far too soon – a fascinating raconteur, I could personally have listened to Stewart Stern talk for hours.