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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

James Dean...A Very Bright Star!!

10/10
Author: bobbyt95
27 September 2002

To me James Dean is great..he was so far ahead of his time, we finally caught up to him... He was a great ARTIST in very way...I just adore him and his work. There are many actors in Hollywood who have also given us such great work, but not like Dean!!...he was just a different type of guy..simple really..very passionate of his work. You will always be remembered for all those simple things in life that took us too long to recognize. Heaven had to put you through so much pain emotionally in order for you to reach the rest of the world, to help us in understanding and looking into our children's lives with such curiousness of what they may be going through. Thank you, where ever you are...& God bless forever!!...:)

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Style Over Substance

5/10
Author: jstock426 from United States
14 October 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Does "East of Eden" do what a great film should do, namely, make the viewer lose himself in it? Well, no, not often enough. It exudes style but lacks the enchantment of good storytelling.

Regarding James Dean, his pretty boy looks and premature death behind the wheel of his Porsche elevated him to godlike status; however, how someone with the demeanor of a three-year-old in the back seat of a '54 Nash (without air conditioning) during a long trip on a hot summer day rose so high puzzles; nonetheless, he ranks as the big draw for most people.

It is Julie Harris, commanding and deserving top billing, who puts in a great performance. The camera gravitates toward her, and she owns her character, Abra. Harris' talent dwarfs Dean's. She emotes with her eyes whereas Dean must bang on all the pots and pans to express himself.

As to other issues, the sound track annoys to no end (as does the one in "On The Waterfront"). Kazan lacked subtly in this regard, often allowing the volume and musical selection to overwhelm the scene. Scene continuity deserved more careful editing, too.

"East of Eden" delivers Kazan, but it shouts rather than whispers the Steinbeck story.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

While James Dean performs spectacularly in his role as Cal, East of Eden diverges too much from the original novel for my taste.

2/10
Author: rgonzalez7927 from United States
22 September 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

John Steinbeck's novel, East of Eden, has been hailed as a literary masterpiece, even earning a Nobel Prize in literature. Filmmaker Elia Kazan directed the film adaptation of East of Eden. The film stars James Dean as Caleb Trask, Richard Davalos as Aron Trask, Raymond Massey as Adam Trask, and Julie Harris as Abra. The film was also hailed as great, and was nominated for 4 Academy Awards, of which it won one for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. I, however, disagree with The Academy's opinion of the movie. While James Dean portrayed Cal Trask very well, the movie changed the theme of the book and left out two very significant characters.

Caleb Trask, or Cal as he's referred to in the book, is a very emotionally complex character. He is the representation of Cain in the youngest generation of the Trask family. But unlike Adam's brother Charles, Cal actually wants to be good and fights the his inner darkness for the entirety of his story arc. Therefore, to portray Cal accurately an actor must be able to show the inner turmoil of emotions that Cal feels whenever he feels himself slipping over to the dark side. Jimmy Dean captures this mentality amazingly. In several scenes you can actually see him squirm and struggle with his emotions over Aron, Abra, and his father. In one particularly heart wrenching scene, after Adam rejects Cal's gift, Dean, improvising outside of the script, slowly crawls over to Massey and embraces him in a bear hug, crying and sobbing loudly. Adam then pushes Cal away, only increasing the audience's sympathy for Cal. In my opinion, this scene was the highlight of Dean's acting in the entire movie, and except for a few glaring examples, Dean is able to portray this same level of dedication to his character for most of the movie. It's no wonder he was nominated for an Academy Award for this role. However, Dean's acting can't save this movie.

The novel dealt with many themes, foremost among them the theme of Timshel, or free will. There are several conversations about Timshel throughout the book, usually between Lee, Samuel, or Adam, and in the ending scene of the book, when Cal is begging his father for forgiveness, Adam's last word is Timshel. Thus, the biblical allusion to the story of Cain and Abel is completed, and the theme of free will is brought to the forefront. In the movie, the same scene is treated radically different. Instead of saying Timshel, Adam tells Cal to get rid of the nurse and asks Cal to take care of him himself. The message of the movie is redemption, and the last scene lets the audience know that Cal has finally redeemed himself to his father and finally won his acceptance and love. This theme of redemption is a polar opposite to the theme of the book. The novel's grandest message is that everyone has to choose to be good or bad, and you aren't born bad or predestined to be good. Using the Cain and Abel parable, Steinbeck even goes so far as to say that God won't guarantee that Cain, and therefore humanity, will overcome sin, but that it's up to Cain to choose to overcome sin himself. This theme of free will cannot coexist with the theme of redemption or seeking love and acceptance, because seeking redemption puts your fate in someone's else's hands, not your own. Cain sought redemption from God, and God told him that it was up to him to make the right choices. The movie radically changed the moral of the story, which alienated most people who read the book, including myself.

Lastly, the movie adaptation skipped the majority of the book. Now, it's well known that a movie can't capture every detail in a book, and I even enjoy it when movies take some artistic liberties with their source material. However, when the movie leaves out two of the most significant characters in the book, I think it loses something in the process. Specifically, the movie left out Samuel Hamilton and Lee. For the most part, Steinbeck uses Samuel, an Irish immigrant, and Lee, a Chinese servant for the Trask family, to explore American racism and to discuss the philosophical ideas raised in the book. Additionally, Samuel and Lee are often integral parts of the story. They are the two people who pull Adam out of his stupor after Cathy leaves him, and Samuel is the one who thinks of Aron and Cal's names. After Samuel dies, Lee becomes the moral, intellectual, and philosophical backbone of the entire Trask family and the book as a whole. It's Lee who actually discovers Timshel, after studying the original Hebrew of the Bible, and brings it to the attention of Samuel, Adam, and, later, Cal. Without Samuel and Lee, East of Eden falls apart as a story. To prevent this, the movie fused Abra and Lee's characters into one hybrid character, but in doing so lost most of the philosophy of Lee and a good deal of Abra's character development as well.

While the movie version of East of Eden has some strong points, it ultimately pales in comparison to the book. The movie tries to change too much and loses the intellectual and philosophical ideas that won the book its Nobel Prize. While I didn't expect the movie to show all parts of the book, I cannot support such a drastic rewrite of a classic novel. East of Eden was the single loosest movie adaptation of a book I've seen since The Lightning Thief, and I can't help but come away disappointed after watching this movie.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

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

9/10
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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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

east of eden review

8/10
Author: Molly04 from United States
13 April 2010

To start this review I absolutely have to say that I love James Dean and his performance in John Steinbeck's East of Eden is remarkable! He is emotional and captivating. This is not to say, however, that Julie Harris' (Abra) acting wasn't equal in quality to her on screen partner, she was fabulous as well! This film is a (much shorter) version of Steinback's perplex yet fascinating classic. The film represents a more modern version of the biblical Cain and Able story. Through Dean's excellent performance as Cain and unmistakable body language (especially with his eyes) it is almost effortless for the audience to feel anything but what Dean feels. Abel, played by Cal's brother Aron (Richard Davalos) is clearly favored by their father, casting a rebellious light on Cal's character. In the beginning, as Cal follow's his mother (Jo Van Vleet) down, what seems like, a steaming street. The cinematography in this film allows it's viewer to feel completely 'there' with the character. In this particular scene, the camera allows it's viewers to feel just how hot that street could be. The music accompanied with this movie is always appropriate from scene to scene. I truly enjoy this film and was very happy when I saw that it was a movie that our class would be watching! I rate it an 8 out of 10! Excuse my in formalness here but...YEY FOR JAMES DEAN!

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Emotional Experience

8/10
Author: dougandwin from Adelaide Australia
29 July 2004

There is no doubt that "East of Eden" was James' Dean's hardest acting role, and that he came through it extremely impressively. The somewhat harrowing story of two brothers desperate for their father's love and support makes it a strikingly emotional experience, and can be considered, even today, as relative. The very strong performances by Raymond Massey (who truly was one of Filmdom's best when given a chance) and Burl Ives added so very much to the passion and pathos of this movie. Richard Davalos as the brother to Cal (Dean) played his role with a great deal of feeling, and makes one wonder why his career never really went further. The Academy Award going to Jo Van Fleet did surprise me a bit, as it was really only a small appearance, but she was excellent in it. It could never be classed as a happy film, but a true experience. I though Julie Harris in a pivotal role underplayed it perfectly.

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3 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

An extremely emotional story of a family in conflict.

9/10
Author: patrick_mcknight (patrick_mcknight@hotmail.com) from Vancouver, Canada
4 February 2002

Though not without contrived moments, East of Eden is an incredibly emotional film. A powerful story of a family in conflict in the Cain and Abel mold.

James Dean is wonderful as Cal Trask, the "bad son". I wondered why everyone in town sees him in this light as he tries so hard to do right, but is pidgeonholed into the Cain role. The fact that the film contained almost autobiographal elements from Dean's own life gives the film extra poignance.

Raymond Massey is fine as Adam Trask. An outwardly likeable and respected man, Adam Trask has a curious insensitive and self-righteous streek in personality. Adam is able to lecture Cal on his misdeeds, but sees nothing wrong in lying to his son about his mother.

Julie Harris is touching as Abra, Cal's brother's fiancee. A sweet local girl, she tries in vain to act as an emotional bandaid to the Trask family, but ends up being more the catalyst that tears them apart.

The film was obviously a personal one for director Kazan(who had problems with his own father and was ostrasized for his HUAC testimony). You can feel the tension in his characters just beneath the surface. Abra's forgiveness plea to Adam after Cal's atrocious act could well be taken from Kazan's own life. The film's blazing colour and beautiful Leonard Rosenman score adds to the emotional charge.

Keep plenty of kleenex handy for the birthday sequence through to the end of the film.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

What's all the fuss about?

Author: CranberriAppl from United States
7 November 2009

I am a lover of classic movies. I'm in my 20s, but I've been watching them since I was little. I try not to fall for the "hype" of many of the classics (i.e. Gone with the Wind, Citizen Kane, East of Eden) until I've seen them for myself. Not that my opinion changes their status, but I think a lot of movies have a reputation and too many people are afraid to go against the grain of popular belief.

Anyways, this movie was on TCM this week and I finally got a chance to watch it. I've never read the book, so imagine my surprise when through the reviews and messageboard here, that this movie was only the last portion of the book. That probably explains why nothing in it made me sympathize with the characters. I thought the Cain/Abel theme might be intriguing, but frankly, this was a very boring and overdone movie. I have never understood the hype of James Dean. What I've seen of him has been hammish. Hammish actors unless it's completely intentional makes me cringe. Anyway, many people have addressed the storyline already, so I will only give my impressions. Maybe it's b/c I was born 30 years after the fact, but James Dean does not come off as a teenager. He comes off as an immature, whiny, self-absorbed young adult. I kept wanting to tell him to grow up, even at the end.

Now that I've seen it, I will probably never watch it again. The melodrama effect just didn't work for me. I was not impressed. I prefer Brando and Newman as well.

I just reserved the book at my library so I can see what was missing.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Giving Your Love Capriciously

9/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
14 April 2008

The first film of the James Dean trilogy that established him as the once and forever spokesperson of male youth in angst is East of Eden. It's a novel by John Steinbeck telling of the California of Steinbeck's youth in the years just before World War I.

It's the story of two brothers brought up by a self righteous father, one of whom is the apple of his eye and the other a complete screwup who can't get anything right. Sounds a lot like Cain and Abel, doesn't it?

In Genesis it really doesn't go into why Abel was so favored by God as opposed to Cain. The only thing it says is about their occupations and presumably tending sheep is a better thing to do on the social scale than working with iron. God seems kind of arbitrary there as is the father Raymond Massey who's not named 'Adam' Trask for nothing.

James Dean is the bad son named Caleb or Cal for short and Dick Davalos is the good son named Aaron. Davalos even aspires to the ministry, a calling no doubt Massey might have enjoyed. He's raised the two without a mother and he's told them she's dead.

But Dean finds out different, she's not only alive, but is the prosperous madam of a bordello in nearby Monterey. Dean looks her up and saves his news for Davalos at a time when he's vulnerable.

Like God seeming to arbitrarily and capriciously preferring Abel to Cain, Massey just favors this one son versus the other. Dean knows this on some level and it eats him alive.

Julie Harris has a good role in the film as the fiancé of Davalos who gets more and more drawn to Dean as the film progresses. I very much liked Burl Ives who has the role of sheriff and who really functions as the audience's eyes and ears in East of Eden. It's his perspective from where the film is drawn. He has Massey down just about right, as a good man and a good friend, in many ways just too good and not real into the ways of the world.

In Genesis God ordered Adam and Eve from paradise, but in East of Eden it's Adam who kicks Eve out. The mother is played by Jo Van Fleet who won a Best Supporting Actress Award that year. The confrontation scene with Dean and Davalos is unforgettable.

James Dean was nominated for Best Actor in fact his was the first posthumous nomination given in any of the acting categories. He lost to Ernest Borgnine for Marty. Incredibly enough his last two films were both released after his death on September 29, 1955. It made the tragedy of a promising young star's death into 20th century legend.

I'm not sure why Dick Davalos did not receive equal acclaim for his part as James Dean did. As the chip off the old Massey self righteous block it's far from a one dimensional portrayal. Davalos feels it almost his mission in life to reflect father in every way possible.

The Steinbeck novel was much cut down, there's half the book which explains how the Trask family got to where it is that's completely missing and some more into the future to explain what happens to all of them. Still there's more than enough here and the salient parts of the story and the characters are not missed.

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4 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Words Cannot Describe The Depth Of Dean's Acting And Presence

10/10
Author: Jem Odewahn from Australia
21 April 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

An amazing film which I rank as my single all-time favorite, 'East Of Eden' contains James Dean's best screen performance. He is heart-wrenching as Cal Trask, the wayward, misunderstood son vying for his father's love with his favored twin brother.

This is an adaptation of Steinbeck's much-lauded novel. It is hard to say whether it is an improvement or blot on it's original subject matter, because the adaptation is so loose. Only really the last 80 or so pages of Steinbeck's epic novel remain in the film, but it is the last 80 pages that most readers are interested in-the father-son, brother-brother conflict.

Steinbeck lifted part of his saga from the biblical Cain and Abel story. Cain in 'East Of Eden' becomes Cal Trask, the son who just can't do anything to please his stern, Puritan father, 'Adam' Trask. Abel becomes Aron (played by Richard Davalos), the son who is perfect in his father's eyes. The story is set in the Salinas Valley of California following the outbreak of World War 1, but the real focus in the film is not on the political climate of the time (which is alluded to and addressed sparingly). Instead, the tension between Cal and his father and Cal's competition with Aron for his father's love form the heart of 'East Of Eden'.

From our first glimpse of Dean he exudes the rebel image that audiences primarily associate with him. He is following the woman who he has found out to be his 'dead' mother, Cathy. She is the mistress of a whorehouse in Monterey, and her disappearance from Cal's life at such an early age is a major factor contributing to his tortured emotional state. Dean cannot connect with his father and feels like an outsider in the family. He finds some salvation in a promising business prospect, in which he hopes to please his father by earning back the money Adam has lost on a venture in the lettuce business. Aron's girl Abra (Julie Harris, in an excellent performance)feels a connection with the unruly, reaching Cal that she just can't explain. They are drawn to each other through mutual feelings of rejection and inadequacy, and Abra's good nature could be the thing that helps Cal overcome his difficult relationship with his father and uncertain sense of self.

Dean is a powerhouse in his debut leading role. Dean's major strength was his ability to emote to the camera, and he does it so well here. Watching Cal's torment is watching an extension of Dean's own conflicted self. It is said he didn't act Cal Trask, he WAS Cal Trask, and I find this difficult to disagree with. Kazan chose him not because of an overly impressive technique, but because his rawness and anger so perfectly suited the role. One of the best male performances ever committed to screen.

Julie Harris is also excellent as Abra. One of the complaints about Harris in the role I've often heard is how old she looks compared to Dean (28 to 23), and that she is too plain to be a leading lady. In my opinion, Harris looks fine next to Dean and her girl-next-door quality equips the role of Abra very well. Abra is a mother figure, caring but no glamorous. I feel that Julie Harris is just what Steinbeck intended in the role. Her love scenes with Dean are poignant and tenderly beautiful, they have terrific chemistry.

Fantastic support is provided by Raymond Massey, Jo Van Fleet, Burl Ives and to a lesser extent, Davalos. Massey, with his Classical acting style, was constantly at odds with Method actor Dean throughout filming. Kazan encouraged this animosity, as it he felt it added to the picture. It certainly worked, as we can feel the mutual anger and hurt the two direct at each other. Jo Van Fleet (she won the supporting actress Oscar for her role) plays Cathy, the mother of the twins and Adam's long-lost wife. She is suitably hard, yet they made her much nicer in the film (Read the book and you'll see what a monster she really is). Davalos is adequate in his role, but Dean's force and presence tower over him in every scene they share.

I'm not going to give away too much, as 'East Of Eden' is such a powerful film that it deserves to be viewed objectively, but I must say this film provides some of the most emotionally shattering scenes ever put to film. Cal's desperate plea for his father's love at a birthday party for Adam towards the end of the film is a monument to Dean's ability as an actor, and the ending seldom fails to leave me in tears.

10/10.

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