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Julie Harris, James Dean, Raymond Massey, Burl Ives, Dick Davalos ... see more see more... , Jo Van Fleet , Albert Dekker , Lois Smith , Harold Gordon , Timothy Carey , Mario Siletti , Lonny Chapman , Nick Dennis , Harry Cording , Jonathan Haze , Frank Mazzola , Barbara Baxley , Richard Davalos

This truncated screen version of John Steinbeck's best-seller was the first starring vehicle for explosive 1950s screen personality James Dean, who plays Cal Trask, the "bad" son of taciturn Salinas v... read more read more...alley lettuce farmer Adam Trask (Raymond Massey). Although he means well, Cal can't stay out of trouble, nor is he able to match the esteem in which his father holds his "good" brother Aron (Richard Davalos). Only Aron's girlfriend Abra (Julie Harris) and kindly old sheriff Sam Burl Ives) can see the essential goodness in the troublesome Cal. When Adam invests in a chancy and wholly unsuccessful method of shipping his crops east, his wealth plummets. In an effort to save the business, Cal obtains money from his estranged mother (the proprietor of a whorehouse) and invests it in a risky new bean crop. The gamble pays off (thanks in no small part to the war), but Adam refuses to take the money from Cal, and the resultant quarrel causes Adam to have a stroke. Released the same year as Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden provided Dean with his first Oscar nomination, for Best Actor. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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91% liked it

22,900 ratings


88% liked it

32 critics

PG, 1 hr. 55 min.

Directed by: Elia Kazan

Release Date: April 10, 1955

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DVD Release Date: May 31, 2005

Stats: 1,459 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (1,459)

  • July 1, 2014
    The son of a farmer desperately seeks his father's approval.
    In this film James Dean looks like he could either violently explode or be disintegrated into a million pieces by a light breeze. His performance is a showcase in vulnerability, which, in a way, is was acting is about ... read more- the vulnerability and availability of an actor's emotional truth and interpretation of the character. The story is fine, but by the end of the film, all I can remember is Dean, whose performance is a master class in what acting should be.
    Overall, see this film for James Dean.
  • November 2, 2012
    Based on a novel by John Steinbeck, and directed by Elia Kazan, this is the first film in the James Dean Trilogy.

    Set in Salinas, California in 1917, this is the story of Cal (Dean) a young wayward man who competes with his brother Aron (Dick Davalos) for the affections of their... read more hardened father Adam (Raymond Massey). It's basically a Cain and Abel type of story, and agriculture plays an important role even. It's not a strict adaptation of that story, but it is the best reference point to use to describe things.

    Things are rather dramatic, though they dip into melodrama at times. And, in typical Kazan fashion, there's a lot of subtext, mostly since the imminent entrance of the U.S. into World War i and anti-German sentiment plays a fairly sizable role throughout.

    It took me a bit to get interested and involved, but once I tapped into this film's groove, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Like the other two film's Dean did I do think it's overrated to a degree, but it's still pretty solid even then. Of the three, this one's #2 for me behind Rebel Without a Cause.

    It's good, but personally I didn't think it was outstanding or anything. The acting is terrific though, and there's some great camerawork, but it just didn't completely seem like my thing. If it were, I'd probably have a somewhat higher opinion of it. Still though, it's getting a really solid recommendation from me.
  • October 12, 2012
    A timeless and profoundly touching retelling of the Biblical story of Cain and Abel using the early 20th century California as backdrop. While the visuals and music are wonderful, it is James Dean's performance the most spectacular here, especially in the poignant final scene.
  • February 8, 2012
    Extraordinarily good version of the second half of the Steinbeck classic novel. Dean is riveting as the conflicted Cal with Julie Harris as Abra matching him every step of the way. Tautly directed by Kazan even in the quieter moments this pulls you right along. Burl Ives makes hi... read mores few small scenes count and Raymond Massey is strong as the misguided and righteous father. The real standout in support is Jo Van Fleet in her Oscar winning role as the cruel Kate, she crafts a fully realized person in just a few short scenes. James Dean was fine in all three of his big screen films but this is his best performance. If you have the chance catch the Jane Seymour miniseries of the entire book, it has its faults but her performance in it is sublime.
  • December 29, 2010
    Was anyone else completely convinced that Dean was 14 year old boy? His mannerisms were always dead perfect. And I must say that this movie actually made me want to read the book! Which I know is a brick of a book.
    Anyway, at first I wasn't all that enthralled in it, Dean played ... read morethe disaffected youth he was so good at doing. Then he started trying to be "good" (a term thrown around a bit too much really) and I was a little more interested. By the time (SPOILER) Aron ruined the birthday party, I was ready for blood to be spilled!! I read that this was a "slice" of the novel so I'm curious to see what was cut.
  • November 10, 2010
    An interesting story, but it feels a bit awkward to me, I don't know why. It could be better.
  • June 23, 2010
    Just a great movie all around, James Dean and Elia Kazan are a match made in heaven. Taking only a slice of Steinbeck's novel, this feels like a very complete and powerful story. I think this is Elia Kazan's biggest and broadest vision, it goes so much further than his other perf... read moreormance based films. James Dean captures a troubled youth like no one else possibly could, it's interesting how similar his life was to Cal. I think it's a vastly under appreciated movie, a classic in the truest sense.
  • November 4, 2009
    James Dean illustrates why he shot to stardom during his astounding short film career as an bonafide Hollywood actor in this 1955 adaptation of John Steinbeck's classic novel directed by Elia Kazan. James Dean stars as Cal,a young man who isn't happy with his lot in life. His pro... read moreblems include competition with his brother(Richard Davalos),for the attention of their father's affection(Raymond Massey),and for the love of a young woman(Julie Harris)and a mother's enstrangement(Jo Van Fleet) during the turmoil and despair at the height of World War I. Greats performances from Burl Ives,and the astounding score from composer Leonard Rosenman make this movie one of the best to come out of the 1950's
  • July 10, 2009
    Better known as the first role for James Dean, East of Eden is laregely forgotten about for anything else. The acting is very good and it's directed by one of the greats, Elia Kazan, but for some reason I just couldn't get into this. It seems overlong just a bit even though it's ... read morejust under 2 hours. This film might take another viewing or two to get into, but I don't even know about that. Dean, though, shows glimpses of what he could've been had he lived longer. The guy was a wonderful actor.
  • May 11, 2009
    I'm a sucker for movies about siblings, this one is a modern version of Cain and Abel.

    Dean plays Cal, the "bad son", and Julie Harris plays Abra, his brothers girlfriend. I fell in love with Harris almost immediately, she has this disarming, natural and naughty way about her. ... read moreYou gotta love that scene where they're lying in that field with yellow flowers, they complement each other perfectly. This was Dean's first movie, and it's not that hard to imagine why his popularity went through the roof after it's release.

    During the making of the film Raymond Massey (Cal's father) and Dean hated each other, during the bible-scene at the table he even whispered obscenities at Massey. Kazan, the director knew this and used it to spark the bad father-son relationship they have in the movie.

    Oh and you gotta love Jo van Fleet, who plays Cal's tough and 'estranged' mother.

Critic Reviews

Dave Kehr
November 1, 2007
Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

John Steinbeck's painful biblical allegory -- Genesis replayed in Monterey, California, circa 1917 -- is more palatable on the screen, thanks to the down-to-earth performances of James Dean as Cal/Cai... Full Review

Geoff Andrew
January 26, 2006
Geoff Andrew, Time Out

It's a film of great performances, atmospheric photography, and a sure sense of period and place. Full Review

Kenneth Turan
December 6, 2005
Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

Not only one of Kazan's richest films and Dean's first significant role, it is also arguably the actor's best performance. Full Review

Bosley Crowther
May 20, 2003
Bosley Crowther, New York Times

In short, there is energy and intensity but little clarity and emotion in this film. It is like a great, green iceberg: mammoth and imposing but very cold. Full Review

Philip Kemp
April 14, 2014
Philip Kemp, Total Film

Catches fire in the clashes between Dean (as the bad brother) and Raymond Massey as his stiff-necked dad. Full Review

Matt Brunson
November 6, 2013
Matt Brunson, Creative Loafing

After testing various performers (including a newcomer named Paul Newman), Kazan went with the unknown Dean, a move that immediately yielded dividends. Full Review

Walter Chaw
May 11, 2011
Walter Chaw, Film Freak Central

a reaction to our plutocracy's values and a further case for Dean as the sainted figure of rebellion that would fuel the generational schism of the '60s. Full Review

Sean Axmaker
January 29, 2009
Sean Axmaker, Turner Classic Movies Online

East of Eden is set in 1917 but [James] Dean feels completely modern and contemporary, a boy not quite comfortable in his body. Full Review

Steve Crum
March 20, 2008
Steve Crum,

Fine James Dean vehicle, one of few that put him into immortality.

Dennis Schwartz
December 2, 2007
Dennis Schwartz, Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Kazan had the bad sense to leave out the best parts from the lengthy book. Full Review

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    • Sam the Sheriff: Burp!
    • Cal Trask: I've been jealous all my life. Jealous, I couldn't even stand it. Tonight, I even tried to buy your love, but now I don't want it anymore. I can't use it anymore. I don't want any kind of love anymore. It doesn't pay off.

East of Eden : Watch Free on TV

East of Eden Trivia

  • James Dean starred in 3 films before he died. They were Rebel Without A Cause, Giant and.....  Answer »
  • James Dean's first motion picture lead was in which film?  Answer »
  • True or False. East of Eden was the only movie of 3 that James Dean starred in to be released while he was alive.  Answer »
  • True or False. James Dean portrayed Aron Trask, the angelic brother of the two in 'East of Eden'?  Answer »

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