East Of Eden

"Extraordinary"

East Of Eden Review


Elia Kazan's East of Eden packs as powerful a punch today as it must have 50 years ago when it introduced an exciting new star, James Dean, to a wide-eyed audience that had never seen anything quite him before... unless they were Brando fans. This is big moviemaking, with big themes, big performances, big CinemaScope shots, and big, bright "WarnerColor" images. It's the kind of movie that a million Ashton Kutchers and a million Brett Ratners couldn't make in a million years.

John Steinbeck's classic story draws on the Biblical tale of Cain and Abel, the two warring brothers from the Old Testament, and although Cain doesn't slay Abel in this version of the story, he comes close. Dean brings his emotive Method style to the role of Cal Trask, the "bad" son who must compete with his golden boy brother Aron (Richard Davalos) for the love of their cold, Bible-thumping father Adam (Raymond Massey). Together they work a lettuce farm in central California's fertile Salinas Valley. It's 1917, and World War I is raging overseas.

Aron believes dear old Dad's story that Mrs. Trask (Jo Van Fleet) died long ago, but Cal knows better. Hopping the freight train to town whenever he gets the chance, he spies on the madam who runs the local cathouse. He knows she's his mother, and in his simplistic analysis of family dynamics, he reasons that her fall from grace has predestined his fate. When during one of their many fights, Adam tells Cal "You're bad, through and through, bad," Cal replies, "You're right. I am bad. I knew that for a long time... It's true. Aron's the good one. I guess there's just a certain amount of good and bad you get from your parents, and I just got the bad."

Aron, on the other hand, has the good fortune to fall in love with the beautiful Abra (Julie Harris), whose devotion to him quickly becomes ardent, to say the least. Cal, of course, develops his own crush on her, setting up one of the movie's many brutal conflicts.

When Adam's scheme to refrigerate rail cars to ship his lettuce farther east fails (the ice melts too fast), Cal sees an opening to win -- or perhaps buy -- his father's love. He makes a painful visit to his mother's brothel and gets her to loan him $5,000 so he can set up his own business. Investing in bean futures, he rakes it in when wartime price gouging drives prices up. At Adam's birthday party, Aron delivers the joyful news that he and Abra are engaged. All Cal has to offer is a fistful of money that he hopes will help his father rebuild the family business.

In one of those great movie scenes that stays with you for a lifetime, Adam brutally rejects Cal's gesture, saying "Son -- I'd be happy if you'd give me something like, well, like your brother's given me, something honest and human and good... If you want to give me a present, give me a good life. That's something I could value." Here is Dean's moment to shine. Devastated by the rejection, Cal melts down, and, in a move that allegedly deviated from the script, Cal/Dean hurls himself into his father's arms and breaks down, leaving Adam/Massey with a wonderfully bewildered look on his face and nothing to do but ad lib from the heart. The camera grows crooked, and we're all thrown off balance. It's one of Kazan's finest hours. Legend has it that Massey truly disliked Dean and that Dean kept agitating him on purpose to push both their performances to a higher level. It works.

The hysteria goes to an even more feverish pitch when Cal drags the furious Aron to meet the mother he's never known. She's a drunken, slatternly mess when they arrive, and now it's Aron's turn to melt down. "Mother" Cal says, "this is your other son Aron. Aron is everything that's good, Mother. Aron, say hello to your Mother." Cue the meltdown music!

A quick browse around the Net reveals that when East of Eden was released, the New York Times critic dismissed Dean as "a mass of histrionic gingerbread" and derided the movie for leaving most of Steinbeck's novel out of the screenplay. And while it's true that the performances -- Dean's especially -- are a bit much and Kazan really pushes it with the wild camera angles -- both a Ferris wheel scene and a rope swing scene are vertiginous enough to knock you out of your seat -- the movie is as exciting a drama as you're ever likely to see, and ultimately it's the unforgettable Dean that makes it so.

Six months after the film's release, Dean was dead at 24, and a month after that, Rebel Without a Cause, his second great chance to let his Method shine ("You're tearing me aparrrrrrrrt!!!"), was released, enshrining him in the pop culture pantheon forever.

The new DVD includes commentary from Richard Schickel, deleted scenes, a pair of documentaries, and various archival footage.

Torn apart.



East Of Eden

Facts and Figures

Run time: 115 mins

In Theaters: Sunday 10th April 1955

Distributed by: Warner Bros. Pictures

Production compaines: Warner Bros. Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Fresh: 28 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 8.0 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer:

Starring: as Caleb Trask, as Abra, as Adam Trask, as Aron Trask, as Kate Trask, as Sam the Sheriff, as Will Hamilton, as Anne, Harold Gordon as Gustav Albrecht, Nick Dennis as Rantani, as Joe

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Tom of Finland Movie Review

Finnish artist Tuoko Laaksonen used the name "Tom of Finland" as he drew explicit illustrations...

A Ghost Story Movie Review

A Ghost Story Movie Review

Filmmaker David Lowery reunites the stars from his offbeat Western Ain't Them Bodies Saints for...

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

Atomic Blonde Movie Review

From the co-director of John Wick, this similarly styled action romp puts Charlize Theron front...

Girls Trip Movie Review

Girls Trip Movie Review

This movie's premise basically sounds like The Hangover with added black girl power. But it's...

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie Movie Review

There's so much manic energy in this animated action comedy that it can't help but...

The Big Sick Movie Review

The Big Sick Movie Review

It may be rather long for a romantic comedy, but this film has such a...

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

The Emoji Movie Movie Review

There's no reason why this animated comedy adventure needed to be this pointless. Solidly entertaining...

Advertisement
England Is Mine Movie Review

England Is Mine Movie Review

While this is billed as a film about The Smiths' singer-songwriter Morrissey, it's actually an...

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Movie Review

It's been 20 years since French filmmaker Luc Besson shook up the sci-fi genre with...

Dunkirk Movie Review

Dunkirk Movie Review

Britain's epic 1940 evacuation of Dunkirk has been dramatised on film before, but no one...

Killing Ground Movie Review

Killing Ground Movie Review

From Australia, this dark and edgy thriller is skilfully made by writer-director Damien Power to...

City of Ghosts Movie Review

City of Ghosts Movie Review

This award-winning documentary plays like a thriller as it traces the work of a group...

Cars 3 Movie Review

Cars 3 Movie Review

It's been six years since the last Cars movie (there were two Planes movies in...

The Beguiled Movie Review

The Beguiled Movie Review

In her inimitable loose style, Sofia Coppola remakes the 1971 Clint Eastwood movie from a...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.