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02/26/2010

Steffi Sidney and James Dean, 'Rebel' castmates

February 26, 2010 |  3:22 pm

Steffisidney

Steffi Sidney-Splaver, who had a brief career as an actress in the 1950s and appeared with James Dean in Nicholas Ray's 1955 film "Rebel Without a Cause," died Monday in Seattle, according to her husband, Rick Splaver. She was 74.

In 2000 she and five other surviving cast members reunited for a special showing of the film at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's Leo S. Bing Theater. Also present that night were Corey Allen (Buzz), Jack Grinnage (Chick), Beverly Long (Helen), Frank Mazzola (Crunch) and Dennis Hopper (Goon).

In an interview with The Times' Susan King in advance of the screening, Sidney-Splaver recalled how the youthful cast bonded on the set.

"When we were shooting at Griffith Park one afternoon before lunch, we were both free," she said, describing an excursion with Dean. "He said, ‘Do you want to take a drive?’ I said, 'Sure.' So he took me in his Porsche — not the one he got killed in — and we drove around the whole Griffith Park curvy thing. I started talking to him, and he said, ‘Don’t talk to me. I never talk when I’m driving.’ "

Dean died in a car crash Sept. 30, 1955, at age 24 in the Central California town of Cholame. The movie's other headliners, Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo, also died unexpectedly. Wood drowned off Catalina in 1981; Mineo was stabbed and killed outside his West Hollywood apartment in 1976.

In the same 2000 interview with King, Sidney-Splaver explained the circumstances behind the above photo with Dean:

A month before Dean died, Sidney encountered Dean at a private party for Frank Sinatra. "My father took me, and Jimmy came in with his then-girlfriend, Ursula Andress, who couldn't speak a word of English," says Sidney.

"He was very drunk. He came over to me and threw his arm around me and said, 'We've never taken a picture together, Steffi.' I said, 'Fine, let's take a picture.' Afterwards he got thrown out because he was too drunk. But the 8-by-10s of that picture came [to me] on Sept. 30, 1955."

A complete news obituary of Sidney-Splaver will follow at www.latimes.com/obits.

-- Claire Noland

Photo: James Dean and Steffi Sidney in 1955

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