Last summer, I drove by the site of where James Dean passed away in a car crash. It was around 90 degrees out in the hot California desert, but for some reason, it left a huge impact on me. Recently I decided to rent every movie he starred in. These included Giant, Rebel Without a Cause, and East of Eden. For those of you who don’t know who James Dean was, he was a famous actor but only starred in three movies because he crashed his Porsche and was killed on impact. Both Giant and Rebel were certainly good movies, but East of Eden left an impact on me that I don’t usually come across.
Based off of the John Steinbeck novel, East of Eden is about the conflict between two brothers, their morally strict father, and their distant mother. It takes place in the Salinas Valley in California with the agricultural business. As interesting and beautiful as the plot is what really engaged me in this film was Dean’s performance. As one of the originators of method acting along with contemporaries like Marlon Brando he brings an emotionally raw performance as the lead brother. His outburst towards the end of the film had me in awe. None of the performances from anyone seem stilted or phoned in like many movies from the 50’s and that is very much because of Elia Kazan’s brilliant directing skills. He is the reason that so many great actors got their start as Dean, Brando, and even Andy Griffith owe their fame to their roles in his films.
Most movies that I watch tend to leave me satisfied, but don’t give me a reason to come back and watch them again. As East of Eden ended I immediately order a copy of it from Amazon which is something that I have never done with any movie before. If you have two hours to spare and don’t know what to what I would highly recommend watching this cinematic masterpiece.