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If you've not read the book, this film would put you off (unfairly- it's a great book)
on 24 March 2013
As other reviewers have commented, this is just a small part of the actual book - and that part is tweaked and utterly altered to its detriment.
James Dean (Cal) absolutely carries the movie; but from the very opening we are well aware he's going to get it together with his brother's girl, Abra. In the book the idea doesn't really crop up till the end. And no viewer could have any feeling for goody-goody brother Aron nor the irritating Abra - Steinbeck gives a depth and understanding to his characters.
The boys' mother Kate, who abandoned them to be a brothel mistress, is a hugely darker person than is shown here. I appreciate that 50s censorship meant mention couldn't be made of what went on in her house of ill repute; but neither do we hear anything of her past - she was 'just a drifter' whom Adam Trask fell for. What about her setting the parental home on fire; her poisoning the former madame ?
Of course it's a long book and I understand it needed 'pruning'. Perhaps Lee, the faithful Chinese retainer, who features massively in the book, wouldn't translate to well to film. But when the actual events and personalities are so re-written, I can't really say it bears much relation to the book. On its own merits alone, I found it a rather stilted effort - with the exception of the excellent James Dean.