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 <email@example.com>
The film's premiere, at New York's Astor Theater, also served as the first in a long line of benefit events organized to help pay for the purchase and renovation of the newly acquired home of The Actors Studio, which had itself provided arguably the film's three most powerful performances, courtesy of James Dean, Julie Harris and Jo Van Fleet, as well as strong supporting turns from Lois Smith, Barbara Baxley and Lonny Chapman (and to whom Warner Brothers studio chief Jack L. Warner had generously offered the entire proceeds of the New York premiere). The celebrity ushers on hand included Margaret Truman, Arlene Francis, Jayne Meadows, Marjorie Steele (aka Mrs. Huntington Hartford), Roberta Peters, Carol Channing, Eva Marie Saint and Marilyn Monroe. Moreover, the event's organizer, Morton Gottlieb, worried that patrons would balk at the hefty fee charged for just a movie, organized a lavish post-screening party featuring free entertainment, including Channing, accompanied by Jule Styne, singing the song he wrote for her in Broadway's "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes", "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" (Gottlieb having failed in his attempt to persuade Monroe to reprise her hit from 1953's Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)), composer Harold Arlen performing a piano medley, a song composed for the occasion, performed by its authors, Howard Dietz and Arthur Schwartz and, last but hardly least, a young and still little known Sammy Davis Jr. (less than four months after the near-fatal auto accident which had cost him his left eye, and more than one year before he'd make his official Broadway debut in "Mr. Wonderful"), here making his Big Apple downtown debut and bringing down the house in the process. See more »
During WWI, a band organ at the carnival plays "Ain't We Got Fun", which is from 1921. 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 »
Top performances for film of Steinbeck's favorite book
Although some of his other books receive more acclaim and readership ("The Grapes of Wrath," "Of Mice and Men," "The Winter of Our Discontent"), John Steinbeck said that "East of Eden" was the novel that he lived to write. Indeed, the moralism of his writing reached broader and deeper in Eden than in any of his other works. The story here is set mainly in Steinbeck's beloved Salinas Valley and Monterey County.
Warner Brothers did a commendable job in bringing the story to life on the silver screen. It condensed a 600-page novel into a two–hour film, yet kept all of the main elements of the drama. The title for the story comes from the Bible. Genesis 4:16 reads, "Cain then left the Lord's presence and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden." The plot of the story is a modern Cain and Abel tale, and it is repeated within succeeding generations.
In the Bible, Cain brought "some of the fruits of the soil" to offer the Lord. Abel brought "the best of the firstlings," or "some of the firstlings and their fat portions." The latter were more pleasing to God. So, Cain did so-so, average, but Abel went out of his way to give the best to the Lord. God didn't love Cain any less -- he was just most pleased with Abel's offering. Yet Cain succumbed to pride, greed, envy, anger and lust.
Most know the story of "East of Eden" or will find other reviews that discuss the plot. So, my remarks here are brief and cover some things not mentioned. Seeing this film again after many years, on a DVD, I had the advantage of extras that included some deleted scenes. I think one inclusion would have made the film perfect – the scene of Cal and Aron in their room after they had argued outside and Cal said that Aron was "the one he wanted" referring to his father's favoritism, as he saw it.
Without that sequence, we see Cal suddenly perking up, pitching in and being Mr. good-guy helping his father. But, there's no real explanation or background to let us know why he would change. I don't know why they deleted that scene – it made the perfect fit and segue with Aron and Cal talking and Aron explaining in a way that Cal could understand. I don't think that would have made the movie too long in itself.
James Dean had the largest role, as Cal, and was the male lead. And, yes, he was a new young and hot star of the time. All of the acting is excellent, including Dean's. But, I think the very best performances in this movie were by Julie Harris as Abra, Jo Van Fleet as Kate, and Raymond Massey as Adam. Richard Davalos, as Aron, wasn't far behind; and Van Fleet's performance was most deserving of the Oscar she won.
James Dean made one more film after this – "Giant," which came out in October 1956. He wasn't alive to see it, because he was killed in a highway accident on Sept. 30, 1955. He had just finished filming for "Giant." That was just five months after "East of Eden" hit theaters. It's interesting to note that the site of Dean's accident was a few miles east of Paso Robles, California. That's at the southern end of the Salinas Valley of Steinbeck's "East of Eden."
Those interested in Steinbeck should enjoy a visit to the National Steinbeck Center. It's a marvelous museum in downtown Salinas, CA.
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