Title is the date of the car-crash death of James Dean, and James Bridges’ original script tells of the impact on Richard Thomas, starring in an excellent performance as a smalltown Arkansas college kid whose life is permanently transformed by the incident.
Thomas is superb as the kid whose entire attitudes undergo change when news of Dean’s death is heard on the radio. Girlfriend Deborah Benson partially shares the grief, but not as much as Lisa Blount, a freakier chick.
Together with chums Tom Hulce, Dennis Christopher, Dennis Quaid and Mary Kai Clark, Thomas helps commemorate Dean’s demise with booze and mock-occult mysticism, leading to a prank on other students.
Susan Tyrrell is outstanding as Blount’s flamboyant mother.