East of Eden – 1955
Directed by: Elia Kazan
Starring: Julie Harris, James Dean, Raymond Massey, Burl Ives, Richard Davalos, Jo Van Fleet
Screenplay by: Paul Osborn, John Steinbeck
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Release Date: March 9, 1955
Director Elia Kazan’s updated re-telling of the Biblical story of rival brothers, Cain and Abel and a paradise lost. A brooding James Dean – as the unappreciated son (Cain), vies against his dull, but favored stuffy brother (Abel) for the affections of their father. The maligned, misunderstood Cain character, representing the unlikeable and outcast director himself (for naming names before the HUAC Committee in 1952), becomes the sensitive hero of this film. As the poster stated, “Sometimes you can’t tell who’s good and who’s bad!…”
Writer Paul Osborn’s screenplay adapted John Steinbeck’s 1952 novel with the same title for this dramatic Warner Bros. film. [The film tells only a small portion of Steinbeck's work, leaving out the childhood of the parents and the Chinese character of Lee.] The CinemaScopic film, set in 1917 at a time just before the US entry into World War I, portrays the relationship between insecure, tortured, neurotic loner Caleb “Cal” Trask (Dean, in his first major role and film) and his dutiful, favored brother Aron (Davalos) – twin sons. Their father is a stern, hardened, devoutly religious, self-righteous man named Adam (Massey), a lettuce farmer living with his family in Salinas, California. The plot becomes emotionally charged when Cal expresses a liking for his brother’s girlfriend Abra (Harris), and then learns that his mother (Van Fleet) is actually alive and operating a nearby brothel.