Thursday, July 01, 2010

Corey Allen

The headline was “Corey Allen, Actor and Director, Dies at 75.” It got my attention. Before he was Corey Allen he was Alan Cohen, my roommate in 1953-54, when we were both students in the Theater Arts Department at UCLA.

Alan and a couple of guys were living in a great little house in Brentwood. When one of the roommates left he asked if I wanted to replace him. I was more than happy to do so. The house was owned by an artist, John Ferren. It was at the end of a short road, Chenault Street, that abutted the back fence of the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center. Now, Brentwood is an upscale area filled with expensive homes and apartments. Then, it felt almost rural, quiet with simple one-story houses, and a lot of vegetation.

While we were living in Brentwood, Corey got his first big acting break, a featured role opposite James Dean in “Rebel Without A Cause.” As it turned out, for most people this part was to define his career. He was the gang leader who clashed with Dean and challenged him to a ‘chickie run.’ They would each drive a car toward a cliff to see who would chicken out first. Corey ended up going over the cliff and was killed.

Corey Allen went on to have a successful career as an actor and director. After those early years we weren’t in touch. I’d notice his name on film or TV credits, and that was about it. Still, seeing his obituary reminded me both of my own mortality and of some very pleasant memories from a long time ago.


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