Brick, an alcoholic ex-football player, drinks his days away and resists the affections of his wife, Maggie. His reunion with his father, Big Daddy, who is dying of cancer, jogs a host of memories and revelations for both father and son.
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Early in 1954, while they were still working on the script, Paul Osborn suggested to Elia Kazan that he go see James Dean, attracting much attention for his small role in Andre Gide's "The Immoralist" on the New York stage. Kazan was familiar with Dean from the Actors Studio, the famous theatrical training ground he had helped to found. The two had even worked briefly on a small project there. Kazan didn't think much of Dean but, responding to a quality he thought might be right for the part of Cal, decided to call him into the Warner Brothers office. He said Dean just sat there surly and unresponsive. Unable to carry on an articulate conversation, he offered Kazan a ride on his motorcycle. It was a risky and harrowing experience Kazan regretted agreeing to, but he also realized right then that he had his Cal. He sent Dean to meet Steinbeck. The author's reply after the meeting was that he didn't like Dean personally but "He's it!" Dean gave notice to the producers of "The Immoralist" and was out of the play in two weeks. See more »
The film is set in 1917, but the hairstyles of both Cal and Aron are both obviously contemporary hairstyles of young men in the 1950s. See more »
[after Cal asks why she shot his father]
Because he tried to hold me, he tried to tie me down! Nobody holds me!
See more »
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 »
The dispute with shoemaker Gustav Albrecht about the war had been cut from the 1955 dubbed release for Germany and Austria. You could only see Albrecht leaving the fair claiming "Can't I say my opinion?", Cal climbing down the Ferris wheel and following Aaron and Albrecht, some fight in front of Albrecht's house and the sheriff appearing. The reason for all this remained totally unclear; the recruiter's speech is cut except for one background line "Join the army!" when Cal and Abra pass by, and you actually don't even get that Albrecht might be of German descent. In most of today's copies the missing scenes are included, distinguishable by the German subtitles. See more »
Ever felt lost?--have trouble finding your place in the world?--feel jealous of, or ignored by, a family member? If you answered yes to any of these questions, beware--the resonance you may feel toward the characters of this film may be so intense, the emotional pull of its story so overwhelming, that at its end you will find yourself exhausted, spent, trembling in its cathartic wake. I find it so every time I see it. As an examination of the terrible undercurrents in family relationships, of adolescent angst and loneliness, of the universal need for love and the awful consequences of its being withheld, it is nearly peerless. Movies that toyed with similar themes, like "The Graduate" or "Rebel Without a Cause," though great films, do not come close to packing the emotional wallop this film delivers.
To a large part, the intensity of the affective response generated by watching "East of Eden" must be attributed to the strength of the performances. No false notes here. Raymond Massey, a truly superb actor who has largely, and undeservedly, been forgotten, gives one of his best performance as the father with a secret, a man with the best intentions in the world, who has nonetheless unwittingly crippled his son Cal with his sometimes harsh criticisms and his favoritism of his brother Aron. Julie Harris is simply wonderful as Abra, a young woman who gradually becomes disenchanted with the "perfect" brother, Aron, finding herself becoming more and more interested in the vaguely frightening, yet vulnerable Cal. Her "speech" near the end of the film to Cal's father is heartrending. Everyone else is fine, from the always dependable Burl Ives to Albert Decker, and Jo van Fleet deserves special mention as the supposedly dead mother. The vehicle which propels the film, however, is James Dean who not only gives the best performance in his all too short career, but one of the best in cinematic history. It is truly amazing to watch him work here. The viewer becomes like putty in his hands, bending and rending our emotions at will. It's a performance not to be missed.
The movie has received criticism because it does not follow the book, and leaves out at least the first two thirds of the novel. "East of Eden" is one of my favorite books, yet I have no trouble accepting this film on its own merits--which are considerable. A movie CANNOT be a book, though there have been several directors who seem blithely unaware of this giving us plodding movies straight-jacketed by their literary source. One cannot judge this movie solely by comparing it to the book, and with each deviation from the source, give it a demerit. I believe this movie is every bit as great as the book--but it is NOT the book. And John Steinbeck himself loved this movie, reportedly saying that the movie was a greater achievement than his book had been. That's a recommendation good enough for me, and should be enough for the lovers of the book. You CAN love both. I do.
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