East of Eden (1955)

114-115 or 117 mins | Drama | 9 April 1955

Director:

Elia Kazan

Writer:

Paul Osborn

Cinematographer:

Ted McCord

Editor:

Owen Marks

Production Designers:

James Basevi, Malcolm Bert

Production Company:

Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
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HISTORY

An overture precedes the film. The opening title card reads: “John Steinbeck’s East of Eden .” The following written prologue appears after the opening credits: “In Northern California, the Santa Lucia Mountains, dark and brooding, stand like a wall between the peaceful agricultural town of Salinas and the rough and tumble fishing port of Monterey, fifteen miles away.”
       As noted in the Var review, only the latter part of John Steinbeck’s six-hundred page novel is depicted in the film. One of the most notable changes from book to script is the deletion of the "Trasks'" philosophical house servant, “Lee,” from the film version. As noted in reviews of both the novel and the film, and as hinted at in the film, the part of the novel depicted in the picture, the relationship between “Cal” and “Aron,” is a reworking of the Biblical story of “Cain and Abel." According to a letter Steinbeck wrote to Elia Kazan and his wife, dated 30 Jul 1951, the title was inspired by Genesis 4:16, which says that Cain went to "dwell in the land of Nod to the east of Eden."
       A scene of historical interest shows the character “Roy,” a graduate of the “Chicago Auto School,” giving step-by-step directions to the Trasks on how to start the engine of an automobile of that time period. In another scene, men preparing for war do exercises in a gymnasium, accompanied by a piano. “Abra” and Cal’s adventures at the carnival include a walk past distorted or “funhouse” mirrors.
       According to a May 1954 HR news item, director Elia Kazan cast ... More Less

An overture precedes the film. The opening title card reads: “John Steinbeck’s East of Eden .” The following written prologue appears after the opening credits: “In Northern California, the Santa Lucia Mountains, dark and brooding, stand like a wall between the peaceful agricultural town of Salinas and the rough and tumble fishing port of Monterey, fifteen miles away.”
       As noted in the Var review, only the latter part of John Steinbeck’s six-hundred page novel is depicted in the film. One of the most notable changes from book to script is the deletion of the "Trasks'" philosophical house servant, “Lee,” from the film version. As noted in reviews of both the novel and the film, and as hinted at in the film, the part of the novel depicted in the picture, the relationship between “Cal” and “Aron,” is a reworking of the Biblical story of “Cain and Abel." According to a letter Steinbeck wrote to Elia Kazan and his wife, dated 30 Jul 1951, the title was inspired by Genesis 4:16, which says that Cain went to "dwell in the land of Nod to the east of Eden."
       A scene of historical interest shows the character “Roy,” a graduate of the “Chicago Auto School,” giving step-by-step directions to the Trasks on how to start the engine of an automobile of that time period. In another scene, men preparing for war do exercises in a gymnasium, accompanied by a piano. “Abra” and Cal’s adventures at the carnival include a walk past distorted or “funhouse” mirrors.
       According to a May 1954 HR news item, director Elia Kazan cast New York actors James Dean and Julie Harris, known primarily for stage work at the time, then spent two weeks in New York to fill the other roles. Although their appearance in the film has not been confirmed, HR news items add Lidia Guerrero, Jack Henderson and Joe Berry, Jr. to the cast. According to modern sources, Paul Newman was considered for the role of Cal.
       An Oct 1954 HR news item reported that studio music department head Ray Heindorf would be composer and music director of the film, but his contribution to the final film has not been determined. A Jun 1954 HR news item reported that Leonard Rosenman would compose the score for the film and he is the only composer listed in the onscreen credits. According to a Film Music article, Rosenman said that, contrary to the usual procedure in which the score is written and recorded after filming, some of the music was written before the corresponding scenes were shot, in order that “the music is inextractable from the dramatic framework of the whole project.” In one scene, characters Aron and Abra hum one of the musical themes of the film.
       Portions of the film were shot in the Mendocino and Salinas Valley, CA areas, according to May and Jun 1954 HR news items. Although an Apr 1954 HR news item reported that Kazan and his assistant directors scouted the area around Ft. Bragg, NC for location sites, no evidence of shooting in that area has been found. Mar 1955 HR news item reported that the world premiere held at the New York Astor Theatre on 9 Mar 1955, which was also telecast, was a benefit for the Actors Studio, of which Kazan was a co-founder.
       East of Eden marked the film debuts of Richard Davalos and Jo Van Fleet, and the first major film role for Dean, who, in reviews, was compared to Actors' Studio graduate Marlon Brando. Van Fleet received an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of "Kate." Dean was nominated for Best Actor, but lost to Ernest Borgnine’s performance in Marty . East of Eden was also nominated for Kazan’s direction and Paul Osborn’s screenplay, but lost in both categories to Marty ’s Delbert Mann and Paddy Chayefsky, respectively. Bosley Crowther of NYT named East of Eden one of the top twenty films of the 1955. In 1956, the film won a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture—Drama. East of Eden was also a winner at the Cannes Film Festival and, according to an Aug 1955 HR news item, was shown at the Edinburgh Film Festival.
       An Oct 1965 LAHE article reported the CBS network’s plans for a television series based on East of Eden , a project that did not come to fruition. According to an Aug 1967 DV news item, United Artists helped finance a Broadway musical based on the film and held an option to film the musical, to be produced by Mitch Miller and scheduled to open during the 1967-68 season. No other information about this musical has been found. An eight-hour adaptation of the original novel, directed by Harvey Hart and starring Jane Seymour and Timothy Bottoms, was aired as a mini-series on ABC-TV beginning in Feb 1981. Tim Carey, who played the bouncer “Joe” in the 1955 movie, portrayed the preacher in the mini-series. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
American Cinematographer
1 Jan 55
p. 6.
American Cinematographer
Mar 55
p. 149, 169-72.
Box Office
19 Feb 1955.
---
Daily Variety
16 Feb 55
p. 3.
Daily Variety
31 Aug 1967
p. 1,4.
Daily Variety
30 Apr 1981.
---
Film Daily
16 Feb 55
p. 5.
Film Music
May-Jun 1955
p. 3.
Harrison's Reports
19 Feb 1955
p. 30.
Hollywood Reporter
24 Nov 1952
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
22 Apr 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
4 May 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
15 May 1954
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
25 May 1954
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
27 May 1954
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
28 May 1954
p. 12.
Hollywood Reporter
4 Jun 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
11 Jun 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
15 Jun 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jun 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jul 1954
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Aug 1954
p. 8.
Hollywood Reporter
27 Oct 1954
p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter
16 Feb 55
p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter
1 Mar 1955
p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter
7 Mar 1955
p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter
8 Mar 1955
p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter
10 Mar 1955.
---
Hollywood Reporter
25 Aug 1955
p. 2.
Look
5 Apr 1955.
---
Los Angeles Examiner
17 Mar 1955.
---
Los Angeles Herald Express
18 Oct 1965.
---
Los Angeles Times
25 Jan 1955
p. 1, 9.
Los Angeles Times
17 Mar 1955.
---
Motion Picture Herald Product Digest
19 Feb 55
p. 329.
New York Times
10 Mar 55
pp. 32-3.
New York Times
25 Dec 1955
Sec. II, p. 3.
New Yorker
19 Mar 1955.
---
People
14 Apr 1997.
---
Saturday Review
19 Mar 1955.
---
The Fairmount News
7 Apr 1955.
---
Time
21 Mar 1955.
---
Us
3 Feb 1981.
---
Variety
16 Feb 55
p. 6.
Variety
31 Aug 1967
p. 1, 4.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
Edward McNally
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
A Warner Bros.--First National Picture
An Elia Kazan Production
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Dial dir
Asst dir
Asst dir
2d asst dir
3rd asst dir
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
Cam op
Cam asst
Stills
Best boy
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Art dir
FILM EDITOR
Film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Props
Asst props
COSTUMES
Men's ward
Women's ward
MUSIC
SOUND
Boom op
MAKEUP
Makeup artist
Hairdresser
Makeup
PRODUCTION MISC
Scr supv
Casting
Unit mgr
Secy to Mr. Kazan
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col consultant
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the novel East of Eden by John Steinbeck (New York, 1952).
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
John Steinbeck's East of Eden
Release Date:
9 April 1955
Premiere Information:
New York opening: 9 March 1955
Los Angeles opening: 16 March 1955
Production Date:
27 May--early August 1954
Copyright Claimant:
Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.
Copyright Date:
9 April 1955
Copyright Number:
LP6473
Physical Properties:
Sound
RCA Sound System
Color
WarnerColor
Widescreen/ratio
CinemaScope
Lenses/Prints
Technicolor
Duration(in mins):
114-115 or 117
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
17086
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In 1917, rancher Adam Trask has moved from his ranch to the town of Salinas, California with his twin sons, Caleb and Aron, whom he named after Biblical characters. Despite their fondness for each other, the boys are very different in temperament. While Aron is pious and a source of pride for Adam, the troubled Cal behaves erratically. Unable to understand Cal’s restless spirit, Adam is often critical of the boy and fails to praise his hard work and inventiveness. Cal yearns for signs of Adam’s love and respect, but his father’s disapproval provokes him into playing rebellious pranks. Adam believes that his former wife Kate went east after abandoning the family, but has told his sons that their mother died shortly after their birth in order to spare them pain. Aron, therefore, believes his mother is “in heaven.” However, Cal secretly discovers that she is alive and running a brothel in nearby Monterey, and is tormented to think that he is “bad” like her. Adam conceives of an ingenious idea to transport lettuce across the country in railroad cars, preserving the vegetables in ice. However, his experiment fails when the train is delayed by a snow slide and the ice melts, causing him to lose his fortune as well as the lettuce crop. It is Cal, not Aron, who fully senses Adam’s disappointment. To help him, Cal takes advantage of wartime economics by going into business with family friend, Will Hamilton, growing and selling beans at a huge profit. To raise $5,000 to pay for seed, Cal approaches Kate and asks for the money. ... +


In 1917, rancher Adam Trask has moved from his ranch to the town of Salinas, California with his twin sons, Caleb and Aron, whom he named after Biblical characters. Despite their fondness for each other, the boys are very different in temperament. While Aron is pious and a source of pride for Adam, the troubled Cal behaves erratically. Unable to understand Cal’s restless spirit, Adam is often critical of the boy and fails to praise his hard work and inventiveness. Cal yearns for signs of Adam’s love and respect, but his father’s disapproval provokes him into playing rebellious pranks. Adam believes that his former wife Kate went east after abandoning the family, but has told his sons that their mother died shortly after their birth in order to spare them pain. Aron, therefore, believes his mother is “in heaven.” However, Cal secretly discovers that she is alive and running a brothel in nearby Monterey, and is tormented to think that he is “bad” like her. Adam conceives of an ingenious idea to transport lettuce across the country in railroad cars, preserving the vegetables in ice. However, his experiment fails when the train is delayed by a snow slide and the ice melts, causing him to lose his fortune as well as the lettuce crop. It is Cal, not Aron, who fully senses Adam’s disappointment. To help him, Cal takes advantage of wartime economics by going into business with family friend, Will Hamilton, growing and selling beans at a huge profit. To raise $5,000 to pay for seed, Cal approaches Kate and asks for the money. After chatting with him about the family and her business, the dissipated woman finds Cal “a likable kid” and writes him a check. The Salinas townspeople, naïvely believing they will win the war in a few weeks, celebrate the United States’ decision to join the war against the Germans in Europe. During the town's parade, Aron, who is opposed to the war, watches morosely, while Cal plays pranks behind the crowd's back. Later, after hearing news of the thousands of casualties, including some of their own boys, the townspeople take out their frustration by throwing rocks at the shop window of long-respected, German-born storekeeper, Gustav Albrecht, who refuses to believe the propaganda about his former countrymen. Distressed by the hostility, Adam, who is on the draft board, considers retreating back to his ranch. When he expresses anxiety over money, Cal, keeping his bean venture secret, tells him not to worry. At a carnival, Cal abandons his date to rescue Aron’s girl friend Abra from the unwanted attentions of a soldier. Abra, who is both frightened and fascinated by Cal’s sometimes outlandish behavior, senses a bond because of the troubled relationship she has with her own father. While waiting for Aron, Cal and Abra take in the carnival sights together and board the Ferris wheel. There, the curious Abra asks Cal about his many girl friends and wonders if she is good enough for Aron, who projects an image of his idealized mother onto her. Sitting close together, they grow attracted and kiss, but she breaks it off, crying that she loves Aron. Down below, people in their wartime fervor are harassing Albrecht. Seeing Aron try to mediate the dispute, Cal climbs down the rigging of the Ferris wheel to help him. The crowd follows Albrecht home where a fight erupts, but order is restored when the sheriff, Sam, a close friend of Adam who has been sympathetic to Cal, calls the citizens by name and gently sends them to their homes. Afterward, when Abra appears wearing Cal’s coat, Aron jealously accuses Cal of starting the fight and Cal, feeling hurt and betrayed, punches him several times. Later, Abra finds Cal at a saloon, ashamed of himself for hitting Aron so hard. She asks him to confirm that their kiss had no meaning, but Cal is preoccupied with thoughts about Adam’s preference for Aron. For Adam’s birthday, Cal plans a party, during which he plans to present his father with the money he made from selling beans. While Abra helps him decorate and cook the meal, Cal expresses his desire that his gift be better than Aron’s. Adam is touched by Cal’s efforts, but rejects the gift of wrapped money, refusing to profit from the war. Aron, surprises everyone, including Abra, by announcing that he and Abra are engaged, prompting Adam to slight Cal by saying that “this is the best present, the living of a good life.” Broken, Cal cries out in anguish and leaves, followed by Abra, who tries to comfort him. Aron, accusing him of being “mean and vicious,” orders him never to touch her again. Challenging Aron to face reality, Cal persuades his brother to accompany him to Monterey, where he takes him to the brothel and cruelly introduces him to Kate. Shocked to discover that his mother, whom he has idolized, is a hardened, drunken prostitute, Aron goes off alone. Cal returns home, planning to leave town with the money to start a business. When Adam asks about Aron, Cal says, “I’m not my brother’s keeper.” Accusing Adam of not loving him because he is a reminder of Kate, Cal admits he has been jealous of Aron all his life. After claiming he no longer wants Adam’s love, he says to Abra that he does not want “any kind of love anymore,” because it does not “pay off.” Sam arrives, saying that Aron has gotten into drunken fights and has decided to enlist as a soldier. Adam, Cal and Abra go to the station, where Aron has boarded a troop train. However, they never talk to Aron, who, drunk and in shock inside the train, smashes his head through the glass window of the train, laughing as the shattered glass falls on Adam. When Aron's train departs, Adam collapses into Cal’s arms. Back at the house, the doctor tells Cal that Adam has suffered a paralyzing stroke and might not survive the night, then leaves his patient in the care of a self-centered and insensitive nurse. Having lost faith in Cal, Sam recites lines from the Biblical story of Cain and Abel, and suggests that he leave town. After apologizing to his father, Cal begins packing. Alone with Adam, Abra confides in him that she loves Cal and asserts that he will never be a man without the love Adam has unintentionally withheld from him. She begs Adam to ask Cal for something, as a sign that he loves and needs him, before it is too late. Cal, at Abra’s insistence, returns to his father’s room and tells him that he has heeded his words, that “man has a choice and the choice is what makes the man.” With all his strength, Adam asks Cal to fire the annoying nurse and then whispers, “You stay with me. You take care of me.” After kissing Abra, Cal pulls up a chair next to Adam’s bed.
+

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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