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The Essentials - May 2011
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East of Eden,East of Eden

Trivia & Fun Facts About EAST OF EDEN

Wednesday January, 16 2019 at 08:00 PM

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The critical and popular buzz for East of Eden, and especially Dean, was high before its release. In January 1955, two months prior to the opening, Look magazine included the young actor in its list of people predicted to become stars, saying he would be "the most dynamic discovery since Marlon Brando." The following month, Vogue mentioned him in a column called "The Next Successes," describing him as "thin, intense, with such strong projection that he is always noticed." The same month, Louella Parsons wrote in Cosmopolitan: "It is what Dean projects on the screen that makes him my pick among the new actors for stardom in 1955. He is a great young actor. I predict a long and brilliant career." Parsons did, however, note that Dean had arrived sloppily dressed and two hours late for their interview and admonished him to drop the "Brando bit."

Kazan was satisfied with the final cut of East of Eden, but the studio insisted on a preview. The balcony of the theater, he later said, was full of "kids," and he was stunned by the response. The moment Dean appeared on screen, the audience went crazy. "The moment he came on the screen, they began to screech, they began to holler and yell," he said. "Every move he made...it was a landslide." Kazan just thought, "Geez, is he that good?" It occurred to him that even though the movie was set around World War I, Dean had struck a chord with the youth of the 1950s. "It was the way kids felt toward their fathers at the time," he said. Kazan made no changes to the picture (although he never liked previews and insisted he wouldn't have made any changes regardless of the response).

East of Eden premiered on March 9, 1955, at New York's Astor Theater. The premiere was a $150-per-ticket benefit for the Actor's Studio, and some famous students and alumni served as ushers and ticket takers, including Eva Marie Saint and Marilyn Monroe. Dean did not show up for the televised premiere, which angered Warner Brothers.

Upon its release, East of Eden pulled in $5 million dollars at the U.S. box office alone, and Warners was swamped with requests for photos of Dean. At nearly $6 million overall, it was the tenth highest-grossing film of the year.

Elia Kazan had deep personal connections to East of Eden. He felt it was about his own difficult relationship with his stern and disapproving father. He later said it proved to be prophetic because a few years later, right before his father died, the two became friendly for the first time in Kazan's life, just as Cal and Adam do while Adam is dying.

Kazan thought the scene where Cal convinces Aron to go see his mother was the film's biggest lie, not only because he didn't believe Aron would agree to go but also because it would have taken them much longer to do that than the story indicates. "But there's a basic truth about scenes like that," Kazan told interviewer Jeff Young. "If an audience wants to see something, they'll forgive you a lot, but that was a false thing."

"I thought it was a good picture, though not my favorite." - Elia Kazan, Kazan: The Master Director Discusses His Films by Jeff Young (Newmarket Press, 2000)

"I had another great performance from Jo Van Fleet. People have forgotten about Jo Van Fleet now, she's neglected. But she was a great actress." - Elia Kazan

"Raymond Massey's performance is very stiff, very unyielding, very moralistic, very stern. But that was Ray. He was in life a stiff." - Elia Kazan

According to Julie Harris, James Dean was interested in filmmaking and would most likely have become a director had he lived.

Columnist Hedda Hopper led a campaign for Dean to receive a posthumous Honorary Academy Award.

After his death, Dean's fans frequently wrote Jim Backus, the actor who played his father in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) asking for personal recollections, and Dean's grandparents said they averaged 30 mourners a week visiting their home in Fairmount, Indiana.

James Dean's former teacher Adeline Brookshire said that when she saw the film, she felt that Dean and the character he portrayed were one: "his funny little laugh that ripples with the slightest provocation, his quick, jerky walks and actions, his sudden change from frivolity to gloom...."

Julie Harris has made many film and television appearances, but her most notable work has always been on stage. She is the most honored performer in Tony Award history with ten nominations and five wins, including Best Actress awards for I Am a Camera (a non-musical version of the story told in Cabaret, 1972), The Lark, Forty Carats, The Last of Mrs. Lincoln, and as Emily Dickinson in The Belle of Amherst. She was given a Lifetime Achievement Tony Award in 2002. Harris has also been nominated 11 times for Emmy Awards and won three of those.

Canadian-born Raymond Massey began acting in 1929 with more than 50 films to his credit. He also worked frequently on television, including a stint on the hit drama series Dr. Kildare as the wise Dr. Gillespie. He played Abraham Lincoln four times both in movies and on television, and again in the stage production of Abe Lincoln in Illinois. The 1940 film version of that play earned him an Academy Award nomination. Two of Massey's children, Daniel and Anna, followed him into acting and appeared in a number of films, primarily in England.

East of Eden was the film debut of Richard Davalos (Aron), although he had appeared previously on television. Because he had the far less showy and less central role of the "good" brother and did not get the same star build-up prior to the picture's release, Davalos was generally overlooked by audiences and critics. His subsequent film roles were less important, although he has continued to appear in movies and on television. His other film roles include I Died a Thousand Times (1955), a remake of High Sierra (1941); Cool Hand Luke (1967); and Something Wicked This Way Comes (1983). He is the grandfather of Alexa Davalos, who played Andromeda in Clash of the Titans (2010). Davalos won the Theatre World Award for his performance in Arthur Miller's A Memory of Two Mondays and A View from the Bridge, a double bill that opened on Broadway the night before James Dean's death.

East of Eden was also the feature film debut for Jo Van Fleet. She had made several prior television appearances and had a successful stage career when Kazan tapped her for the role of Kate. Just before filming East of Eden, she won the Best Supporting Actress Tony Award for her performance in The Trip to Bountiful with Lillian Gish.

Folk singer Burl Ives started his film career playing a singing cowboy inSmoky (1946). He won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in The Big Country (1958), released the same year as his most famous role as Big Daddy in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958). Ives had created that part on Broadway in 1955 under Elia Kazan's direction shortly after completing East of Eden.

East of Eden gave many artists their starts. It was also the first film role for Lois Smith, who has made close to 50 films so far and dozens of television appearances, including a guest spot on Dr. Kildare with Raymond Massey and recently as the grandmother on HBO's hit vampire series True Blood. She won a National Society of Film Critics Supporting Actress Award for her role in Five Easy Pieces (1970) as Jack Nicholson's sister.

Timothy Carey, who plays Joe, the bouncer at Kate's brothel, later played a preacher in the 1981 television mini-series version of the story. Carey was a unique character actor whose distinctive looks and erratic performance style often got him cast as psychos and heavies. His mumbling acting in this film so incensed Kazan that the director physically attacked him on the set and later redubbed all his dialogue with another actor.

East of Eden was the first film score written by Leonard Rosenman, a serious composer who was recommended for the job by his good friend James Dean. He also wrote the music for Dean's next movie, Rebel Without a Cause, and had a busy career until his death in 2008. He received four Academy Award nominations for his scores, and won for Bound for Glory (1976) and Barry Lyndon (1975). He also won Emmys for the scores of the television movies Sybil (1976) and Friendly Fire (1979). He also composed the music for September 30, 1955 (1977), about a young student who goes into a tragic tailspin when his idol, James Dean, dies.

The nurse in the final scenes of East of Eden is played by Barbara Baxley, who is probably best remembered for her role as Pearl in Robert Altman's Nashville (1975). This was her feature film debut.

Memorable Quotes from EAST OF EDEN

OPENING TITLE CARD: 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.

CAL (James Dean): Any law against following around the town, uh, madam, whatever you call it?

ADAM (Raymond Massey): I'm at my rope's end with that boy. I don't understand him, I never have.

ABRA (Julie Harris): Why is he so alone all the time?
ARON (Richard Davalos): He wants to be.
ABRA: No one wants to be alone.

ABRA: When he looks at you, sort of like an animal. I don't know, he scares me.

ADAM: You have no repentance. You're bad, through and through bad!
CAL: You're right. I am bad. I knew that for a long time

ADAM: You can make of yourself anything you want. It's up to you. A man has a choice. That's where he's different from an animal.

CAL: (to his mother) Will you let me talk to you?

CAL: (referring to his mother) She ain't no good, and I ain't no good. I knew there was a reason.

SHERIFF (Burl Ives): After she left him, he died. He walked around but he died.
CAL: He must've done something to hurt her.

KATE (Jo Van Fleet): Your father. He's the purest man there is, isn't he? He thought he had me all tied up with his purity. Now I give you five thousand dollars, the money I made, to save him his purity--hnnh! If you don't think that's funny, you better not go to college.

CAL: Someday he's gonna know who his real son is.

ADAM: I sign my name and boys go out and some die and some live helpless without arms and legs. Not one will come back untorn. Do you think I could take a profit from that? I don't want the money, Cal, I couldn't take it.

CAL: You keep on forgiving just like you did with Mom, but you never loved me and you never loved her. You never loved anybody.

CAL: Mother, this is your son, Aron. Aron is everything that's good, mother. Aron, say hello to your mother.

ADAM: Where is Aron?
CAL: I don't know. I'm not my brother's keeper.

ABRA: Excuse me, Mr. Trask, for daring to speak to you this way, but it's awful not to be loved. It's the worst thing in the world. ... It makes you mean, and violent, and cruel. And that's the way Cal has always felt, all his life. I know you didn't mean it to be that way, but it's true. You never gave him your love. You never asked for his. You never asked him for one thing. ... You have to give him some sign that you love him or else he'll never be a man. He'll just keep on feeling guilty and alone unless you release him. Please help him. I love Cal, Mr. Trask, and I want him to be whole and strong, and you're the only one who can do it.

CAL: Man has a choice, and it's choice that makes him a man.

Compiled by Rob Nixon

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