East of Eden

Listen to East of Eden on The Next Reel Film Podcast

"Someday, he’s gonna know who his real son is!"

James Dean was the lead in only three films released in 1955 and 1956. He died tragically in a car crash on September 30th, 1955, only ever getting to see one of his three films finished. What he never got to see is how the performances he gave in those three films left an indelible impression on cinema, creating a voice for teenagers of the day and a cult icon for decades since. Join us – Pete Wright and Andy Nelson – as we look back at James Dean’s career, kicking it off with Elia Kazan’s 1955 film East of Eden.

We talk about the adaptation from John Steinbeck’s novel, our thoughts on Steinbeck and this rather loose adaptation, and Kazan’s interpretation of it. We look at what Dean does here in the role of the bad son Cal opposite both Richard Davalos as his good brother Aron and his moralistic father Adam, played by Raymond Massey. We look at what the other performers bring to the table, notably Burl Ives, Julie Harris, Jo Van Fleet and Lois Smith, who is not only the last cast member still alive but also still working regularly. We marvel at the fantastic use of Cinemascope presented here as shot by Ted D. McCord. And we touch on why Kazan and Dean, both men who had problems with their own fathers, found such a connection to this story. 

It’s a film that has its problems but largely is one that we enjoy – and certainly enjoy talking about. So read Steinbeck’s novel, check this out and tune in! The Next Reel – when the movie ends, our conversation begins.

Film Sundries

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Pete WrightJames Dean