East of Eden (1955)




Elia Kazan




James Dean, Julie Harris, Raymond Massey, Richard Davalos, Burl Ives, Jo Van Fleet, Albert Dekker, Lois Smith, Timothy Carey, Harold Gordon, Nick Dennis, Barbara Baxley, Richard Garrick, Lonny Chapman


In and around WWI, Cal Trask (James Dean) compete against his brother (Richard Davalos) for the love of their father (Raymond Massey). In the meantime, he tries to reconnect with his estranged mother (Jo Van Fleet) and falls in love with his brother's girlfriend (Julie Harris).


When I think about James Dean, my mind immediately goes to Rebel Without a Cause for two reasons: first, it is one of my favourite movies of all times; second, it was the only film with James Dean I saw until watching East of Eden days ago. And this is definitely the film that's going to come to my mind now because both Dean's debut and Elia Kazan's film are impressive.

As everybody knows this film is based on John Steinbeck's novel. I haven't read it so I won't be able to tell whether it is an accurate transposition or not, I sure can say that it's one of the most beautiful, emotional coming of age story I've seen and one of the greatest sibling rivalry stories ever. I know that it's basically a modern-day version of the Bible's Cain and Abel, but I've read the Bible (I'd like to point out that I'm not a religious person, I just read it to see how much nonsense there was in it. And FIY it's a lot) so believe me when I tell you Cal and Aaron's rivalry is way more interesting.

However, the best feature of East of Eden is easily the characters. Although they could have done with a little bit more development and their motivations could have been explored a little better given the two hours running time, the characters are very complex and intricate and you will easily find yourself reflecting about them long after you see the film.

The characters wouldn't be as great as they are if it wasn't for the cast. Most of the actors are so natural it doesn't even feel like they are actors, but the most impressive is James Dean. His performance is so intense and dramatic and at times it almost feels like he was aware of his upcoming tragic death. There's something in his eyes, a veil of sadness and bitterness, that captures the drama of Cal beautifully.

At last but not least there's the masterful job Elia Kazan did. The use he makes of subtle camera movements and Dutch angles enhance the drama to perfection.


  1. I really do like this film and James Dean is brilliant in this. Another version of this book is a miniseries with Jane Seymour and it is brilliant! I have to say..I think I like this version better than the Dean film because it showcases most of the book...which I have yet to read

    1. Thanks for letting me know! I think I'll check out the miniseries, but I'll read the book first.

  2. Julie Harris performance as Aron's girlfriend ruined the movie for me. Why would they cast a 30 year old(and not a young looking 30 year old at that) to play this young coming of age role. Her performance is grating and not believable.

    1. Honestly, I don't remember much about her in the film but I don't think it bothered me that much.