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East of Eden (1955)

PG | | Drama | 10 April 1955 (USA)
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A wilful young man contends against his brother for the attention of their religious father while reconnecting with his estranged mother and falling for his brother's girlfriend.

Director:

Elia Kazan

Writers:

John Steinbeck (novel), Paul Osborn (screen play)
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Won 1 Oscar. Another 12 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Julie Harris ... Abra
James Dean ... Cal Trask
Raymond Massey ... Adam Trask
Burl Ives ... Sam - the Sheriff
Richard Davalos ... Aron Trask
Jo Van Fleet ... Kate
Albert Dekker ... Will Hamilton
Lois Smith ... Anne
Harold Gordon Harold Gordon ... Gustav Albrecht
Nick Dennis ... Rantani
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Storyline

In the Salinas Valley, in and around World War I, Cal Trask feels he must compete against overwhelming odds with his brother Aron for the love of their father Adam. Cal is frustrated at every turn, from his reaction to the war, to how to get ahead in business and in life, to how to relate to estranged mother. Written by Ed Stephan <stephan@cc.wwu.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Of what a girl did . . . what a boy did ... of ecstasy and revenge! See more »

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for thematic elements and some violent content | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

10 April 1955 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

John Steinbeck's East of Eden See more »

Filming Locations:

Salinas, California, USA See more »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Warner Bros. See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Perspecta Sound encoding) (35 mm optical prints)| 4-Track Stereo (35 mm magnetic prints) (RCA Sound Recording)

Color:

Color (WarnerColor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.55 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Jack L. Warner was opposed to the casting of Julie Harris, since she was a decade older than her character. See more »

Goofs

Sam the sheriff drives Cal home at the beginning of the film in a right-hand drive car. See more »

Quotes

Adam Trask: [Adam gives Cal the bible to read] Start at the fifth verse. Verse 5.
Cal Trask: [Cal begins to read... ] "I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah."
Adam Trask: Go on.
Cal Trask: [he continues] Six...
Adam Trask: And I suggest a little slower, Cal. And you don't have to read the verse numbers.
Cal Trask: [Cal continues on] "For this shall every one that is godly pray unto thee. And surely in the floods of great waters they ...
[...]
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Crazy Credits

Cards during opening credits: In northern California, the Santa Lucia Mountains, dark and brooding, stand like a wall between the peaceful agricultural town of Salinas and the rough and tumble fishing port of Monterey, fifteen miles away. AND "1917 Monterey, just outside the city limits" See more »

Connections

Featured in ABC Late Night: James Dean Remembered (1974) See more »

Soundtracks

I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles
(1919) (uncredited)
Music by James Kendis, James Brockman and Nat Vincent
Played when Cal is throwing at the bottles
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Dean's Best Performance-An Outstanding Film
17 November 2006 | by aimless-46See all my reviews

If you have ever come out on the short end of a sibling rivalry and/or felt seriously wronged by a parent(s), you will probably connect nicely with "East of Eden" (1955). Since the majority of viewers meet these criteria it is easy to see why the film finds a new audience with each generation. And it is easy to understand the tears that are often shed by both first-time and repeat viewers.

Although set at the start of World War I, the generational issues portrayed really had came to a head by the mid-1950's. Which is why the film was so timely and contemporary when it was released. It was Elia Kazan's troubled relationship with his own father that first attracted him to Steinbeck's novel and caused him to focus the film on the portion of the story that addressed this issue.

Originally I ranked it a distant third in the James Dean film pecking order but over the years it has somehow passed "Giant" and "Rebel Without a Cause" IMHO, and I now find it to be clearly his best and more enduring work. It is a real actors/director's film, with just six significant characters and with especially good performances from Dean and from Julie Harris. Both were a bit old for their parts but Dean's boyish manner allowed him to sell the character and Harris (who had convincingly played a twelve year old just a few years earlier in "Member of the Wedding") looks the proper age in every scene except one (an outdoor scene shot in the bright sun). She struggles sometimes with reining in her sophistication but that could just be the subjective perception of this viewer.

Here are some random points to appreciate in this great film:

Don't misinterpret Cal's (Dean) motivation, he is not doing things to win his father's love but because he loves his father (communicated by the early scene where he watches his father working in the kitchen). The former motivation would be simplistic; the latter opens up a host of interesting and ironic interpretations as you realize the seemingly bad son Cal actually understands his father and admires his goodness more than "good" son Aron (Richard Davalos).

Aron is not really the innocent figure he appears to be, he does not like Cal and throughout the film betrays him.

Abra (Harris) is caught between the two brothers, moving steadily from Aron to Cal as the film progresses. Aron represents everything she understands that she should be and Cal represents everything she has been denying herself. The story is largely seen from her point of view, and her growth parallels her (and the audiences) slow realization that Cal is not bad but misunderstood. The two are slowly falling in love but do not kiss until she gets up in the ferris wheel, a place where (symbolically) she is no longer standing on solid practical ground.

It is really a coming of age story for both of them, with Abra slowly embracing new areas of human experience and Cal moving from adolescence to manhood; thanks largely to her timely interventions. Watch for subtle details that Kazan has included, like Cal's inability to make extended eye contact with his father, brother, and mother; something that he has no problem doing with Abra. And Cal's unsteady progress as he moves forward momentarily and then retreats by looking away.

Note Kazan's use of a raked camera angle for the scenes inside the Trask home, unfortunately this device is a little too extreme and calls attention to itself. Also used in "The Third Man", it was done here to reinforce the off-kilter nature of this family's dynamic. It goes away after the scene in which Cal finally confronts his lifelong jealousy of his brother and accuses his father of rejecting him because he is so much like his mother, telling Adam (Raymond Massey) that he cannot forgive himself for having married Kate. This is the point at which Cal moves forward into permanent manhood, prior to this he had stepped forward briefly and then retreated back into childhood.

Watch for the method-acting device of an actor playing with an object as a means to introduce naturalism into the scene (Abra first flirts with Cal with a flower, Jo Van Fleet makes a show of taking out and lighting a cigarette, Cal repeatedly dips his finger into a wine glass). "East of Eden" would be nothing but an overwrought melodrama without a host of little things like this that humanize the story.

Watch for the awkward tension in all the scenes between Cal and Adam, Kazan cultivated the off-screen friction between Dean and Massey; reasoning that it would translate into more realistic on-screen sequences between the two actors.

Watch for the stunning sequence late in the film when Cal slowly moves out from under the tree branches (his menace reinforced nicely by the score).

Finally note the contrast between the restrained closing scene (which is also the climax) and the melodramatic style of the almost everything that has preceded it in the film.

Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.


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