East Of Eden (Two Disc Special Edition) [DVD] 
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Elia Kazan's classic adaptation of Steinbeck's novel, set in a small farming valley in California in 1917. Two brothers rival for the love of their stern, overbearing, widowed father (Raymond Massey). However, when Cal (James Dean), the rejected 'rebel' son, discovers that his mother (Jo Van Fleet) is not dead but running a nearby brothel, he decides to tell his brother (Richard Davalos). This spiteful decision soon leads to the destruction of his relationship with his brother, who in a drunken frenzy runs off to enlist in an army unit being shipped overseas to the battlefields of France. Unable to bear the loss of his favourite son, Cal's pacifist father breaks down completely. The film was nominated for four Oscars with Van Fleet winning for Best Actress in a Supporting Role. Kazan also won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Drama and Dean was posthumously given a Golden Globe Special Achievement Award for Best Dramatic Actor.
Based on John Steinbeck's novel and directed by Elia Kazan, East of Eden is the first of three major films that make up James Dean's movie legacy. The 24-year-old idol-to-be plays Cal, a wayward Salinas Valley youth who vies for the affection of his hardened father (Raymond Massey) with his favored brother Aron (Richard Davalos). Playing off the haunting sensitivity of Julie Harris, Dean's performance earned one of the film's four Academy Award nominations.* Among the movie's stellar performances, Jo Van Fleet won the Oscar as Best Supporting Actress.
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Top Customer Reviews
It has been (hard to believe) 52 years since this film first appeared, in the same year during which Rebel Without a Cause was also released. Both feature James Dean. I have often wondered to what extent his unique and abundant talents as an actor would have developed, had he not perished in a car accident immediately after the filming of Giant had been completed. Of course, we will never know. His was a compelling presence in each of only three films and especially so in East of Eden in the role of Cal Trask.
The basic story is derived from the Biblical account of Cain and Abel. Adam Trask (Raymond Massey) has two sons, both of whom he presumably loves. However, he favors Aron (Dick Davalos) because he (unlike Cal) never says or does anything to irritate him. Aron is "the good son," complete with a girlfriend Abra (Julie Harris) whom his father obviously adores. Of course, Cal feels resentment toward both his father and brother. He desperately wants his father's love. (Later in the film, he even tries to buy it with profits he earns from investments enriched by World War One.) Under Elia Kazan's brilliant direction, tensions build relentlessly to what seems certain to be a tragic conclusion. Feeling rejected by his father, Cal seeks out his mother who left her husband and sons years ago. Kate Trask (Jo Van Fleet) now owns and manages a brothel in another town nearby and has become wealthy.Read more ›
Of the two, 'Eden' is the more conventional, with Dean as the mixed-up son of straight-laced Raymond Massey but it is of course 'Rebel' that confirmed Dean's status as teenage icon (even though he was already 24 years old). With this movie he became a symbol of teenage rebellion that millions could identify with in the mid-fifties - the decade which virtually 'invented' the teenager.
At the time, Dean was dismissed as 'another dirty shirt tail actor from New York' by Hedda Hopper - as so often, completely out of touch with what young moviegoers wanted - and it is difficult to know what would have become of the actor had he lived. His final movie, 'Giant' was a sprawling, Hollywood-heavy epic far away from the youthful, dynamic energy of 'Rebel Without a Cause'.
Nevertheless, watching these performances almost fifty years later, James Dean may not have been the greatest movie actor there ever was, but these two movies remind us exactly why he remains a legend bigger than many 'better' actors.
The blu-ray is stellar. The picture quality is grade A, as is the audio. And here are the exras:
Commentary with Richard Schickel.
Forever James Dean: Documentary.
East of Eden: Art in Search of Life: Documentary.
3/9/55 NYC Premiere.
I urge you to see this film, but try to put to the back of your mind Dean's fate and the myth that surrounds him-it is enjoyable as a piece of A-star quality acting that could teach actors around today a lot.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A classic film that lives up to the expectations. Great story line, well acted without being cheesy. Builds up nicely.Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
James Dean in his first major film and probably his best. Hasn't dated as Rebel Without a Cause has done. Read morePublished 3 months ago by valerie bines
I was intrigued to see this film as it featured James Dean in his first film and also I am aware of Steinbecks other novels ie Mice and men and grapes of wrath. Read morePublished 6 months ago by JOHN of Loughton