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East of Eden (1955)

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Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 4
Fresh: 3 | Rotten: 1

audience

91

liked it
Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 22,889

My Rating

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

PG,

Drama, Classics

Paul Osborn

May 31, 2005

Warner Bros. Pictures

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All Critics (35) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (28) | Rotten (4) | DVD (17)

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.

November 1, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comments (2)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

December 6, 2005 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop 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.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times | Comment (1)
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

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

April 14, 2014 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

After testing various performers (including a newcomer named Paul Newman), Kazan went with the unknown Dean, a move that immediately yielded dividends.

November 6, 2013 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

a reaction to our plutocracy's values and a further case for Dean as the sainted figure of rebellion that would fuel the generational schism of the '60s.

May 11, 2011 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central

East of Eden is set in 1917 but [James] Dean feels completely modern and contemporary, a boy not quite comfortable in his body.

January 29, 2009 Full Review Source: Turner Classic Movies Online
Turner Classic Movies Online

Fine James Dean vehicle, one of few that put him into immortality.

March 20, 2008
Video-Reviewmaster.com

Kazan had the bad sense to leave out the best parts from the lengthy book.

December 2, 2007 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

James Dean's finest performance

February 17, 2006
Atlantic City Weekly

What could be a better way to spend two hours?

December 6, 2005 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

Kazan's Biblical allegory has not held up well, but Dean's performance, for which he was Oscar-nominated posthumously, proves why he became a star after his very first film

July 18, 2005 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

... can be seen as one of the earliest examples of the enshrinement of the unregenerate, semi-nihilistic "attitude" that informed and in part created "rock 'n' roll."

July 17, 2005 Full Review
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

the real reason that this film has any legs at all (and the ONLY reason that Warner Brothers has released the DVD) rests with James Dean

June 29, 2005 Full Review Source: Old School Reviews
Old School Reviews

A classic of its time.

June 22, 2005 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Dean's performance continues to resonant, still evoking today the same anger, anguish, and confusion of growing up that it did half a century ago.

May 30, 2005 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

If you turn the sound down on East of Eden (and, by all means, do), you'll see why Dean is a legend.

May 23, 2005 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

A showcase for Dean's searing, gargantuan, force-of-nature performance.

May 3, 2005 Full Review Source: Lessons of Darkness
Lessons of Darkness

as exciting a drama as you're ever likely to see, and ultimately it's the unforgettable Dean that makes it so

April 21, 2005 Full Review Source: Filmcritic.com
Filmcritic.com

Overwrought, often splendid Kazan version of the Steinbeck novel. The movie's chief distinction is the amazing debut of rebellious, romantic James Dean.

July 30, 2003 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

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.
July 1, 2014
hunterjt13
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.
November 2, 2012
cosmo313
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.
October 12, 2012
blacksheepboy

Super Reviewer

Extraordinarily good version of the second half of the Steinbeck classic novel. Dean is riveting as the conflicted Cal with Julie Harris as Abra matching him every step of the way. Tautly directed by Kazan even in the quieter moments this pulls you right along. Burl Ives makes his few small scenes count and Raymond Massey is strong as the misguided and righteous father. The real standout in support is Jo Van Fleet in her Oscar winning role as the cruel Kate, she crafts a fully realized person in just a few short scenes. James Dean was fine in all three of his big screen films but this is his best performance. If you have the chance catch the Jane Seymour miniseries of the entire book, it has its faults but her performance in it is sublime.
February 8, 2012
jjnxn
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

    1. Sam the Sheriff: Burp!
    – Submitted by Meyer R (2 years ago)
    1. Cal Trask: I've been jealous all my life. Jealous, I couldn't even stand it. Tonight, I even tried to buy your love, but now I don't want it anymore. I can't use it anymore. I don't want any kind of love anymore. It doesn't pay off.
    – Submitted by Kate S (3 years ago)
View all quotes (2)

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Foreign Titles

  • Jenseits von Eden (DE)
  • East of Eden (UK)
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