East of Eden (1955) - Rotten Tomatoes

East of Eden (1955)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

This truncated screen version of John Steinbeck's best-seller was the first starring vehicle for explosive 1950s screen personality James Dean, who plays Cal Trask, the "bad" son of taciturn Salinas valley lettuce farmer Adam Trask (Raymond Massey). Although he means well, Cal can't stay out of trouble, nor is he able to match the esteem in which his father holds his "good" brother Aron (Richard Davalos). Only Aron's girlfriend Abra (Julie Harris) and kindly old sheriff Sam Burl Ives) can see the essential goodness in the troublesome Cal. When Adam invests in a chancy and wholly unsuccessful method of shipping his crops east, his wealth plummets. In an effort to save the business, Cal obtains money from his estranged mother (the proprietor of a whorehouse) and invests it in a risky new bean crop. The gamble pays off (thanks in no small part to the war), but Adam refuses to take the money from Cal, and the resultant quarrel causes Adam to have a stroke. Released the same year as Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden provided Dean with his first Oscar nomination, for Best Actor. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovimore
Rating: PG (for thematic elements and some violence content.)
Genre: Drama, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Paul Osborn
In Theaters:
On DVD: May 31, 2005
Warner Bros. Pictures


James Dean
as Cal Trask
Raymond Massey
as Adam Trask
Dick Davalos
as Aron Trask
Richard Davalos
as Aron Trask
Harold Gordon
as Mr. Albrecht
Nick Dennis
as Rantani
Richard Garrick
as Dr. Edwards
Tex Mooney
as Bartender
Loretta Rush
as Card Dealer
Jonathan Haze
as Piscora's Son
John George
as Photographer
Earle Hodgins
as Shooting Gallery Att...
C. Ramsay Hill
as English Officer
Jack Carr
as Carnival Person
Roger Creed
as Carnival Person
Effie Laird
as Carnival Person
Wheaton Chambers
as Carnival Person
Ed Clark
as Carnival Person
Al Ferguson
as Carnival Person
Franklyn Farnum
as Carnival Person
Rose Plummer
as Carnival Person
Jack Carr
as Carnival Person
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for East of Eden

Critic Reviews for East of Eden

All Critics (36) | Top Critics (6)

John Steinbeck's painful biblical allegory -- Genesis replayed in Monterey, California, circa 1917 -- is more palatable on the screen, thanks to the down-to-earth performances of James Dean as Cal/Cain and Richard Davalos as Aron/Abel.

Full Review… | November 1, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

It's a film of great performances, atmospheric photography, and a sure sense of period and place.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Not only one of Kazan's richest films and Dean's first significant role, it is also arguably the actor's best performance.

Full Review… | December 6, 2005
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

In short, there is energy and intensity but little clarity and emotion in this film. It is like a great, green iceberg: mammoth and imposing but very cold.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Rich historical detail and good visuals make interesting film.

Full Review… | November 28, 2015
Classic Film and Television

Catches fire in the clashes between Dean (as the bad brother) and Raymond Massey as his stiff-necked dad.

Full Review… | April 14, 2014
Total Film

Audience Reviews for East of Eden

The son of a farmer desperately seeks his father's approval.
In this film James Dean looks like he could either violently explode or be disintegrated into a million pieces by a light breeze. His performance is a showcase in vulnerability, which, in a way, is was acting is about - the vulnerability and availability of an actor's emotional truth and interpretation of the character. The story is fine, but by the end of the film, all I can remember is Dean, whose performance is a master class in what acting should be.
Overall, see this film for James Dean.

Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Based on a novel by John Steinbeck, and directed by Elia Kazan, this is the first film in the James Dean Trilogy.

Set in Salinas, California in 1917, this is the story of Cal (Dean) a young wayward man who competes with his brother Aron (Dick Davalos) for the affections of their hardened father Adam (Raymond Massey). It's basically a Cain and Abel type of story, and agriculture plays an important role even. It's not a strict adaptation of that story, but it is the best reference point to use to describe things.

Things are rather dramatic, though they dip into melodrama at times. And, in typical Kazan fashion, there's a lot of subtext, mostly since the imminent entrance of the U.S. into World War i and anti-German sentiment plays a fairly sizable role throughout.

It took me a bit to get interested and involved, but once I tapped into this film's groove, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Like the other two film's Dean did I do think it's overrated to a degree, but it's still pretty solid even then. Of the three, this one's #2 for me behind Rebel Without a Cause.

It's good, but personally I didn't think it was outstanding or anything. The acting is terrific though, and there's some great camerawork, but it just didn't completely seem like my thing. If it were, I'd probably have a somewhat higher opinion of it. Still though, it's getting a really solid recommendation from me.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


A timeless and profoundly touching retelling of the Biblical story of Cain and Abel using the early 20th century California as backdrop. While the visuals and music are wonderful, it is James Dean's performance the most spectacular here, especially in the poignant final scene.

Carlos Magalh„es

Super Reviewer

East of Eden Quotes

– Submitted by Meyer R (4 years ago)
– Submitted by Kate S (4 years ago)

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