The SANDS OF TIME Collection – 26. American Pie

26. American Pie
Elvis Aaron Presley, Norma Jean Mortensen & James Dean — 885 x 720 mm
© Robert Morgan

ELVIS PRESLEY (1935-1977)
Singer, Actor, and Musician

Elvis Aaron Presley was born on 8 January 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi, USA.  Presley was an American singer, actor, and musician. A cultural icon, he is commonly known simply as “Elvis,” and is also sometimes referred to as “The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll” or “The King”.

Presley began his career in 1954 as one of the first performers of rockabilly, an uptempo fusion of country and rhythm and blues with a strong back beat.  His novel versions of existing songs, mixing “black” and “white” sounds, made him popular – and controversial – as did his uninhibited stage and television performances.  He recorded songs in the rock and roll genre, with tracks like “Hound Dog” and “Jailhouse Rock” later embodying the style.  Presley had a versatile voice and had unusually wide success encompassing other genres, including gospel, blues, ballads and pop.  To date, he has been inducted into four music halls of fame.

In the 1960s, Presley made the majority of his 31 movies, most of which were poorly reviewed but financially successful musicals.  In 1968, he returned to live music in a television special, and performed across the U.S., notably in Las Vegas. In 1973, Presley performed the world’s first live concert via satellite (“Aloha from Hawaii”), reaching at least a billion viewers live and a further 500 million on delay.

Throughout his career, he set records for concert attendance, television ratings and recordings sales.  He is one of the best-selling and most influential artists in the history of music. Health problems, drug addiction and other factors led to his death aged 42 on 16 August 1977.

NORMA JEAN MORTENSEN (1926-1962)
Actress, Singer, and Model

Marilyn Monroe personified Hollywood glamour with an unparalleled glow and energy that enamoured the world. Although she was an alluring beauty with voluptuous curves and a generous pout, Marilyn was more than a ’50s sex goddess. Her apparent vulnerability and innocence, in combination with an innate sensuality, has endeared her to the global consciousness. She dominated the age of movie stars to become, without question, the most famous woman of the 20th Century.

She was born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926 in Los Angeles, California, to Gladys Baker. As the identity of her father is undetermined, she was later baptized Norma Jeane Baker. Gladys had been a film cutter at RKO studios, but psychological problems prevented her from keeping the job and she was eventually committed to a mental institution.

Norma Jeane spent most of her childhood in foster homes and orphanages until 1937, when she moved in with family friend Grace McKee Goddard. Unfortunately, when Grace’s husband was transferred to the East Coast in 1942, the couple couldn’t afford to take 16-year-old Norma Jeane with them. Norma Jeane had two options: return to the orphanage or get married.

On June 19, 1942 she wed her 21-year-old neighbor Jimmy Dougherty, whom she had been dating for six months. “She was a sweet, generous and religious girl,” Jimmy said. “She liked to be cuddled.” By all accounts Norma Jeane loved Jimmy, and they were happy together until he joined the Merchant Marines and was sent to the South Pacific in 1944.

JAMES DEAN (1931-1955)
Actor

James Byron Dean (February 8, 1931 – September 30, 1955) was a two-time Oscar-nominated American film actor. Dean’s status as a cultural icon is best embodied in the title of his most celebrated film, Rebel Without a Cause, in which he starred as troubled stereotypical high school rebel Jim Stark. The other two roles that defined his star power were as the awkward loner Cal Trask in East of Eden, and as the surly farmer Jett Rink in Giant. His enduring fame and popularity rests on only three films, his entire starring output. His death at a young age helped guarantee a legendary status. He was the first actor to receive a posthumous Academy Award nomination for Best Actor and remains the only person to have two posthumous acting nominations (although other people had more than one posthumous nomination in other Oscar categories).

James Dean was born to Winton Dean and Mildred Wilson Dean at the “Seven Gables” apartment house, at the intersection of 4th and McClure Streets in Marion, Indiana. Six years after his father had left farming to become a dental technician, James and his family moved to Santa Monica, California. The family spent some years there, and by all accounts young Jimmy was very close to his mother. According to Michael DeAngelis, she was “the only person capable of understanding him”. He was enrolled in Brentwood Public School until his mother died of cancer in 1940.

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