Film: East of Eden

Opened: April 10, 1955

Directed by: Elia Kazan

Starring: Julie Harris, James Dean, Raymond Massey, Richard Davalos, Burl Ives, Jo Van Fleet, Lois Smith & Albert Dekker

In his first major film role, James Dean steals the screen as Cal Trask in this adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic novel.

Cal Trask is trying to figure out his place in life as he lives in the shadow of his older brother Aron (Richard Davalos), whose girlfriend Abra (Julie Harris) might be falling for Cal instead. Cal seeks for the attention of his religious father Adam (Raymond Massey) and discovers his deceased mother (Jo Van Fleet) is actually alive.

The film has many religious themes that are explored. Adam is the father of Cal and Aron, whose storyline ultimately becomes a retelling of Cain and Abel. The two start off close but end up rivals. Dean and Davalos have a good connection, but their fallout seems abrupt and not fully developed.

Final say: An intense melodrama. ★★★☆☆

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