James Dean and Ronald Reagan

Also see:
Ronald Reagan and James Dean: Rare Video from 1954 by John Meroney
The Atlantic Culture Channel -- April 20, 2010

Today, it's an astonishing, even eerie, scene: the icon of modern American conservatism, whose rise to political prominence was galvanized by the cultural rebellion of the 1960s, fighting off an attack-at-gunpoint by the quintessential modern American rebel. But when "The Dark, Dark Hours" episode of General Electric Theater aired live from Hollywood on December 12, 1954, Ronald Reagan and James Dean were just two actors yet to find the roles that would define them.

Jennie Rothenberg Gritz is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where she edits digital features.

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