Friday, 20 May 2016

Film Friday: East of Eden 1955

I love this film. I feel so deeply for the character of Cal, struggling for the acceptance of his father. I had an epiphany watching this film: sometimes it doesn't matter what you do, with some people it will never count. If I'm having an emotional wobble, I will watch this film to remind me.

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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 deeply religious father Adam, thus retelling the story of Cain and Abel.

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East of Eden is a 1955 film, directed by Elia Kazan, and loosely based on the second half of the 1952 novel of the same name by John Steinbeck. The film stars Julie Harris, James Dean in his first major screen role and Raymond Massey. It also features Burl Ives, Richard Davalos, and Jo Van Fleet.

My, he was handsome.

Of the three films in which James Dean played the male lead, this is the only one to have been released during his lifetime and the only one Dean personally viewed in its entirety.

On the last day of shooting, Julie Harris went to James Dean's trailer to say goodbye because she was not sure she would attend the wrap party. She found Dean crying because the production was over. "It was so moving. It was his first picture [sic], it meant so much, and now it was over." 

Elia Kazan noted that James Dean's tension and shyness always manifested itself physically, so he allowed the actor to use contorted, awkward postures to convey the character. "It was almost psychotic. He was exactly like the people you see in insane asylums." 

When they first arrived in Los Angeles to begin production, Elia Kazan accompanied James Dean to visit his estranged father, who was living there at the time. He witnessed first hand how badly the father treated Dean and how much the boy wanted to please him. As he got to know Dean better, Kazan saw how this relationship had instilled in him a great deal of anger because of frustrated love, the key to the character of Cal. "It was the most apt piece of casting I've ever done in my life." 

Did you know ... upon being introduced to James Dean on the set, author John Steinbeck exclaimed, "Jesus Christ, he IS Cal!"

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Have you seen East of Eden?
Did you like it?
Do you like James Dean?


  1. I've never seen it, but you make it sound really good!

  2. This one of my favorite films, and books. Ive read the book several times and seen the film maybe 6 times and now I want to see it again. I first saw it in high school and love it and I still do. I love James Dean too. I teach high school students with intellectual disabilities and I have one student who loves tolean on his desk kind of in a James Dean pose and I always call him James Dean

  3. Now that is one film I really loved, but haven't watched for quite a while. And I do love James Dean, obviously. xxx

  4. Being a native Californian of course I've seen East of Eden, read the book & been all over the Salinas Valley. It's an amazing movie & I didn't know John Steinbeck met James Dean. Love that rakish suit he wore at the carnival. Could never under stand why they put that horrid hairpiece on Julie Harris. Have you reviewed "Some Like It Hot" that's my favorite movie.

  5. Love James Dean, but I have never seen this, I shall add it to my list! xx

  6. Nope, haven't seen it. I'll be sure to check it out now though!

  7. That is such a great piece of trivia regarding this film. Love it! Thank you for the fun look at an utter classic of 1950s cinema, Melanie, dear. I so enjoy your awesome Film Friday posts!

    Oodles of hugs,
    ♥ Jessica


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