2014 TCM Classic Film Festival
“Of what a girl did-what a boy did-of ecstasy and revenge . . . ”
I finally got around to seeing East of Eden (1955) in its entirety. I’d seen clips over the years and bits on TV. It seemed too weepy for my taste, but it was inevitable I’d see it, eventually. With a new restoration screening at the festival, the time seemed right though it meant I had to miss the Charlton Heston stamp ceremony (Stop doing that, TCM!)
I have no idea what the original WarnerColor looked like, but I can’t imagine it looking any better than the new DCP. Directed by Elia Kazan, Ted McCord filmed in CinemaScope showcasing Northern California locations. Leonard Rosenman, a friend of Dean who also did the music for Rebel Without a Cause (1955), composed the dynamic orchestral score. The doomed actor was in good hands, all around. His character, Cal, is a close cousin to Rebel‘s Jim Stark, heavy on sensitivity with the brooding good looks young women adore. Like Jim, Cal proves himself a man but it takes him longer because he had farther to travel. When we first meet him, he seems stuck in childhood, possibly somewhere on the autism spectrum by today’s measure.
Adapted from John Steinbeck’s novel, the story is allegorical to a limited degree, hence the “Eden” reference. Like Caine and Abel, Cal and his brother Aron (Richard Davalos) compete for the love of their father, Adam (Raymond Massey). Adam loves both but Cal baffles him. Diverging from Genesis, the brothers are fond of each other until Abra (Julie Harris) comes between them. Jo Van Fleet won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as Kate, Cal and Aron’s estranged mother.