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East of Eden
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Reviews & Ratings for
East of Eden More at IMDbPro »

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Dean's best

Author: jjnxn-1 from United States
10 May 2013

Extraordinarily good version of the second half of the Steinbeck classic novel. Dean is riveting as the conflicted Cal with Julie Harris as Abra matching him every step of the way. Tautly directed by Kazan even in the quieter moments this pulls you right along. Burl Ives makes his few small scenes count and Raymond Massey is strong as the misguided and righteous father. The real standout in support is Jo Van Fleet in her Oscar winning role as the cruel Kate, she crafts a fully realized person in just a few short scenes. James Dean was fine in all three of his big screen films but this is his best performance. If you have the chance catch the Jane Seymour miniseries of the entire book, it has its faults but her performance as Cathy/Kate in it is sublime.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

James Dean's Best Performance In His Best Film

Author: barrygermansky-1 from Canada
28 April 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Working with Elia Kazan, one of the greatest directors of 1950s stage and screen, James Dean was able to fully display his heartbreaking vulnerability and trademark ambiguity. He adds an element of mystery to his character, Cal Trask, by carefully choosing which emotions to reveal to the audience and which ones to keep hidden.

Dean is an extremely physical actor, and some of his most imitated acting flourishes are his mannerisms and movements. Throughout the film, he slouches, fidgets, pulls on his ear, lies down in the dirt with his beans, and throws his head back to highlight his frustration. These attempts at naturalistic acting are among the best ever committed to celluloid.

Dean is the movie. There's no question about that. But, there's some excellent support from Julie Harris, Raymond Massey (as his cold, remote father), and Jo Van Fleet as his long-lost mother. Elia Kazan took advantage of the fact that some of the actors, most notably Massey, did not get along with Dean, and was able to make the bitter exchanges and arguments between the characters all the more believable.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

The beginning of the end of a legend.

Author: bobsgrock from United States
1 March 2009

Today, it seems quite amazing that an actor could only appear in three films and still have such a profound impact on acting over fifty years later. James Dean, in his first major role in a major picture, sweeps you into his world as the wild, mysterious and moody Cal Trask, a young man who is hopelessly trying to gain his father's love and affection despite the fact he only seems to care for his brother, Aron. In terms of style, Dean may seem a bit melodramatic and even to the point of hysteria in some scenes. Nevertheless, he is able to get completely under the skin of this torn and complex character so richly provided by John Steinbeck, whose novel was the basis for this film. It is rather incredible to watch Dean literally throw himself into the role, keeping you on your toes wondering what he could possibly do next.

As for the supporting cast, it is a good one with Julie Harris absolutely shimmering as Arba, the girl of Cal and Aron's affections, as well as Raymond Massey playing a most unlikable father figure. Jo Van Fleet also gives a rather unique performance that got her and Oscar and will definitely stick with you. At the head of all this talent and stardom is Elia Kazan, the great American director fresh off an Oscar win for On the Waterfront. Here, he attacks Steinbeck's controversial material and creates a moving and startling portrayal of people in a period that was just beginning to creep into modern and the turmoil and sadness that can break a dysfunctional family even further down.

It really is a shame Dean was subjected to such an early death. His talent was monstrous and his potential endless. Even so, this and his other two role show him as the inspiring and incredible young actor he was, forever immortalized in our minds as the symbol of a man searching for what will complete him and his journey to find peace and truth.

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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Good Adaptation of the last 1/4 of Steinbeck's masterpiece

Author: ( from Pullman, Washington
23 October 2002

Kazan's version of East of Eden captures the mood and main points of the Steinbeck novel very well. Sure, its a bit annoying that main characters from the book (Sam Hamilton, Lee...) were not a part of the film. For a two hour movie, it did manage to cram a lot in and even stands as its own work (it would not be a requirement for the viewer to have read the book -- though I think it made it better for me knowing the backstory.

Highs--- (1) The climax scenes (those between Cal and his father, and Cal and Aron) were pulled off incredibly -- really effective and moving. (2) Jo Van Fleet's performance as Kate was great -- she was just the type of snake I imagined from the book. (3) James Dean's Cal was at times excellent -- His portrayal was a good mixture of Steinbeck's character and the typical James Dean character fans of his would like to see.

Lows---- (1) The video quality is awful. The movie was shot by Kazan in cinemascope (really wide) and doesn't translate well to small screen non-letterboxed. It makes it real hard to tell what kind of job Kazan did visually as a director -- not to mention there was text cut-off in some scenes, and a lot of scenery missing (an important part to Steinbeck anything). (2) Julie Harris hams it up a bit as Abra, but I guess that's normal for old movies (when most actors were trained for stage).

Overall: (1) Captures emotion of the Steinbeck novel (2) Entertaining story that most people could keep interest in for two hours (3) Worth the 2 bucks it'll cost to rent for 5 days... and will be worth 20 bucks to own on DVD in widescreen.

Score: 4 out of 5 popcorn buckets...

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Emotionally stirring drama wrought from a famous novel.

Author: Poseidon-3 from Cincinnati, OH
16 January 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Only the last half or perhaps the last third of Steinbeck's classic novel was used in the making of this feature film, but it turns out to be enough. Massey plays the stern, but gentle, father of two sons (Davalos and Dean) whose mother was such a monster that he has raised them to believe she's dead. Dean, however, has managed to find out that not only is she alive, but she lives in a neighboring town as a rather infamous madam! His already dysfunctional relationship with his father is further strained when he realizes that Massey has lied about this. The fact that Davalos is held up as a paragon of virtue and has an appealing sweetheart (Harris) only adds to Dean's neuroses and insecurity. However, he decides to win over his father once and for all by making back a substantial amount of money that was lost in an ill-executed business venture. When that also doesn't turn out the way he planned, he falls apart before his father and lashes out at his brother, with disastrous results. Reams have been printed about the meteoric rise of Dean and his devastating demise after just three major film roles. It's hard to believe that anyone can live up to the hype after the iconic stature his face and career have been given over the decades. However, in this, his virtual film debut, he is stunning. Odd, unsettling, gentle, fierce, impish, vulnerable, volatile and tender are just a few of the words that describe him in this film. His revolutionary approach to the script may have upset the more traditional performers in the film (namely Massey), but they are better themselves because of it. His visceral and authentic portrayal jumps off the screen today and must have been amazing to behold in 1955. Massey is also very strong and well-suited to his role. The two create dramatic fireworks together (some might even say waterworks if they buy into the sentimentality of the material.) Harris, who gets top-billing though the story really isn't hers, per se, is excellent as well. Even though she's the tiniest bit too old for her role, she invests it with so much heart and talent, it's hard to top. Unlike Massey, she responded well to Dean's Method shenanigans and even gave him a bit of his own medicine in a scene involving tapping him in the face with a fresh cut wildflower. Ives, soon to give the world several terrific performances in films like "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "The Big Country" lends solid support as a sort of mentor of Dean's. Van Fleet, an Oscar-winner as Dean's mother, creates an air of mystery about her and is believable in her tough role. (This part would later yield Jane Seymour one of her very best roles ever in the 1981 TV mini-series version.) Davalos is attractive and strong as the brother who is perceived to be full of sweetness and light, but contains a darker side himself. Inexplicably, he, of almost anyone associated with the film, seems to have benefited the least, with very few important parts in his future. Other supporting roles are turned in by Smith, as a fearful, low-esteemed bar girl and Dekker as Dean's entrepreneurial partner. Dekker (who had one of Hollywood's all-time bizarre deaths, being found hanging naked with vulgarities written all over his body) has a surprisingly bare shower scene in which he tells Dean not to get too close too him because he's hot enough already! The film is chock full of atmospheric and clever directorial touches including blocking off parts of the screen to reveal only what is necessary and staging one scene so that only the actors' legs can be seen beneath a weeping willow tree. It's a beautiful, well-crafted story with pertinent relationship examinations that still hold up today. Alienation of youth is something that transcends the decades, thus allowing new generations to experience the feelings that Dean's character felt. This is one time the subject lives up to the hype.

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Kazan's Paradise Lost

Author: Christian-Doig
26 September 2005

Elia Kazan is the most accomplished actors director Cinema has ever known, and East of Eden is possibly the best example of that fact. Not only it is the most beautifully crafted description of a (young) man's inner struggle at his own constant longing for his father's love, but also a character study ideally rendered through the unique performance of its lead actor. Previously, James Dean had just made some theater and television stuff that had already gotten him a fair amount of recognition, mainly due to his signature neurotic style. Dean was a hard-core Brando fan, which puts in perspective the apotheosis of Stanislavskian acting East of Eden represents. Kazan knew who he was dealing with: an Actors Studio dropout with a cause.

His obvious artistry in communicating an issue as personal as any from the Cinemascope canvas (still during its early years) is astonishing. Such an inventive use of the frame in scenes like the opening of the film, the lettuce train scene and the birthday party scene, certainly would have been out of reach for any man just a bit less adequate to the medium. And his use of music -- a poignant work by Leonard Rosenman, who following East of Eden would score the Kazanesque Rebel Without a Cause in 1955 -- is superb as always, matching the heights he had already arrived at himself in On the Waterfront (1954) and Viva Zapata! (1952).

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10 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Read the book please! This version is junk!

Author: jessica_6089 from Australia
20 February 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

If you haven't read Steinbeck's book, than you would have to think that the 1955 version was terrible. The movie cuts into about the last 200 pages of a 600 page book and many events and characters have been cut out.

Where's Sam Hamilton? Where's Lee?? They are integral characters that shape the story! Some characters have been made up. i.e The bullied German character only had 2 words in the book, and he's been given 1/2 hour in the movie.

You watch the scene's between Cal and Cathy and we are given no history as to why Cathy is the way she is. There was no back story of Adam and Charlie, which is why Cal and Aron are so similar to their Dad and Uncle. Please read the book. You will learn so much that has been cut out!!!! This movie ignores the essence of the story.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

James Dean's Best Performance

Author: Desertman84 from United States
25 October 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

East of Eden is a film that was loosely based on the second half of the novel of the same name by John Steinbeck. It is about a wayward young man who, while seeking his own identity, vies for the affection of his deeply religious father against his favored brother, thus retelling the story of Cain and Abel.The film stars James Dean,in his first screen debut,Julia Harris,and Raymond Massey together with Burl Ives, Richard Davalos and Jo Van Fleet. It was directed by Elia Kazan.

This is a short screen version of John Steinbeck's best-seller.It was about Cal Trask, the "bad" son of taciturn Salinas valley lettuce farmer Adam Trask. Although he means well, Cal can't stay out of trouble, nor is he able to match the esteem in which his father holds his "good" brother Aron.Only Aron's girlfriend Abra and kindly old sheriff Sam Burl Ives) can see the essential goodness in the troublesome Cal. When Adam invests in a chancy and wholly unsuccessful method of shipping his crops east, his wealth plummets. In an effort to save the business, Cal obtains money from his estranged mother,who also happens to be the proprietor of a whorehouse and invests it in a risky new bean crop.

The gamble pays off,but Adam refuses to take the money from Cal, and the resultant quarrel causes Adam to have a stroke. Cal tries to talk to him, but gets no response and leaves the bedroom. Abra enters the room alone and pleads with Adam to show Cal some affection before it is too late. She persuades Cal to go back into the room. When Cal makes his last bid for acceptance before leaving town, his father manages to speak. He tells his son to get rid of the annoying nurse and not to get anyone else, but to stay and take care of him himself. The film ends with Cal and Abra sitting by Adam's bedside, the emotional chasm between the father and son apparently closed.

East of Eden is one great movie.It was a Kazan's Biblical allegory from the Book of Genesis set in modern times.It was one of the best films he has ever made.The story was rich in emotion.The cinematography was classic as well.Aside from his superb direction,it was also the first significant role of James Dean,whom I believe had his best performance in this movie as compared to Giant and Rebel Without A Cause and has shown promise that he could have been one of the best actors(if not the best) in history if he not only died early of a car accident.In summary it was one excellent and classic film that was elevated by Dean's enormous talent.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Not exactly your typical Bible story...and well worth watching.

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
12 September 2010

This is the only major movie James Dean lived to see in which he had acted--too bad he didn't show up to the premier. Within months of the debut he'd be dead--and never see the success he'd attain in "Giant" or "Rebel Without a Cause".

Dean is THE star of this film--a troubled young man who just assumes he's 'bad'. The reason for it, he discovers, might be because his dead mother is NOT dead but alive--alive and working in a brothel! This is a huge contrast to his father and 'good' brother and pious father. The father (Raymond Massey) doesn't understand Dean and there is a huge gulf between them. Some of it clearly is because the father is filled with self-righteousness--a self-righteousness that makes it hard to connect with mere mortals. Oddly, although he's seen as the bad boy, Dean tries again and again to do right and make his father proud--in many ways he really is the good son because he tries so very hard to gain his father's approval. How can all this get sorted out and what about the relationship between the two amazingly different brothers? Tune in to this excellent film--which is, believe it or not, a highly unusual reworking of the Biblical story of Cain and Abel--and Steinbeck seems to strongly favor the under-dog, Cain! Excellent acting, a nice script and a sense that this is something different from Hollywood all make this a film you won't want to miss.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Seeing this Movie with James Dean, Proves it was Never Just Hype!

Author: dallasryan from United States
7 February 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This movie is very complex. Steinback was a brilliant man and had some very deep, thought provoking books. East of Eden, the film, with James Dean is amazing. It's pretty much a kind of Cain and Abel tale where we, the viewer, are trying to understand in some way, where Cain is coming from, and that's just some of what East of Eden is about.

James Dean makes his character, Cal, unpredictable and amazing in all aspects. Dean's performance is up there with Brando's best and diverse performances. To think what Dean may have done, he would have been around as an actor until he was an old man, but unfortunately, it didn't go that way.

That's what makes Dean's death so great and at the same time so tragic, that all of the Film Historians and film buff's know that he may have been the greatest actor of all time, it's tough to say if he was better than Brando or other greats because he only did 3 solid movies and that was it.

But I think it's safe to make an educated guess from what I did see from Dean, that he was a better actor than Brando, and Brando was amazing. Dean could have written his own ticket for the rest of his life in the film industry and the irony is, he did write his own ticket, just not in the way that he or we had hoped for. East of Eden is the movie that shows he's got the goods, all 3 of his movies show that in some kind of way. Furthermore, the character I feel for the most in East of Eden is the Older brother of Dean's character in the movie. It's cold what Cal does to his older brother, but really if you look at it, it's pretty messed up what happens to all of the characters in the movie.

East of Eden is a great movie and a movie that will mess with your head. If you want to see what James Dean was all about, this is the movie right here that will show you everything about him.

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