The Strange Tale Of How Obi-Wan Kenobe (Sir Alec Guinness) Eerily And Accurately Told James Dean He Was Going To Die In His New Car
James Dean is seen here talking to one of his “girlfriends,” the 19-year-old Swiss actress Ursula Andress. This photograph was taken at a benefit for the “Thalian’s Ball” on August 29, 1955 at Ciro’s in Hollywood and shows them in a non-combative mood. The sexually ambiguous Dean may have been set up on dates with Andress by the studio publicity department. Regardless, press accounts at the time refer to Andress and Dean as dating one another.
Even though Andress spoke very little English, their relationship was considered very stormy. At one time it was reported by a tabloid that Dean was said to be taking German language lessons so that they could “argue in another language.” Andress would go on to fame as Honey Ryder, the first “Bond Girl” in 1962’s Dr. No.
Dean, an avid auto racer, agreed to purchase a new sports car on September 21 1955, a silver Porsche 550 Spyder that he nicknamed “Little Bastard” which was then painted on the car.
Two days later on September 23, Dean was eating at the trendy Villa Capri Restaurant on McCadden Street in Hollywood and spotted actor Alec Guinness trying to get a table without any success. Guinness was exhausted having just arrived from London on a 16 hour flight for his first trip to Hollywood. As Guinness and his companion, screenwriter Thelma Moss exited the restaurant, Dean ran after them to intercede.
According to Alec Guinness’s 1986 autobiography Blessings In Disguise;
I became aware of running, sneakered feet behind us and turned to face a fair young man in sweat-shirt and blue-jeans.
“You want a table?” he asked. “Join me. My name is James Dean.”
We followed him gratefully, but on the way back to the restaurant he turned into a car-park, saying, “I’d like to show you something.”
Among the other cars there was what looked like a large, shiny, silver parcel wrapped in cellophane and tied with ribbon. “It’s just been delivered,” he said, with bursting pride. “I haven’t even driven it yet.”
The sports car looked sinister to me, although it had a large bunch of red carnations resting on the bonnet. “How fast is it?” I asked.
“She’ll do a hundred and fifty,” he replied.
Exhausted, hungry, feeling a little ill-tempered in spite of Dean’s kindness, I heard myself saying in a voice I could hardly recognise as my own, “Please, never get in it.”
I looked at my watch. “It is now ten o’clock, Friday the 23rd of September, 1955. If you get in that car, you will be found dead in it by this time next week.”
He laughed. “Oh, shucks! Don’t be so mean!”
Exactly one week later on Friday, September 30, 1955, Dean and his mechanic Rolf Wütherich started the drive from Los Angeles to Salinas where Dean was going to compete in a motor race that weekend in his new car.
At about 5:45 pm the most famous car crash in Hollywood history took the life of James Dean, just as Alec Guinness had predicted.
Author Ronald Martinetti tells how the crash happened in The James Dean Story (1975):
At a narrow intersection in the road, about thirty miles from Paso Robles where Highway 466 met Highway 41, a Ford, driven by a young Cal Poly student named Donald Turnupseed, prepared to turn left.
Dean saw the car too late, crying out as it hurled into them. The impact tore the left front fender off the Ford. The Spyder was thrown in the air and cartwheeled along the ground, coming to rest near a telephone pole. The crash threw Wütherich nineteen feet from the car. His jaw was broken and his hip fractured in several places, but he recovered. (In later years, he became a rally driver for Porsche and was killed in an automobile accident in Germany, in 1981.)
Turnupseed suffered minor injuries; an inquest was held but he was absolved from blame. He later said that the accident happened ‘in a snap of a finger.’
Dean’s body lay twisted in the car. His neck was broken and his chest crushed where the steering wheel had smashed into him.
He was pronounced dead on arrival at a nearby hospital.
One very interesting twist is that there were eyewitnesses who testified at the coroner’s inquest just days after the accident in 1955 that Rolf Wütherich was the driver of the Porsche, not Dean.
Also an unattributed anecdote on Ursula Andress’ IMDB page says James Dean had originally asked her to accompany him to Salinas. I can find no evidence of this.