East of Eden

Since it was Barry Williams’ birthday yesterday, one of the television channels showed “Growing Up Brady” along with Barry’s appearance on Celebrity Bowling. The day was also the 60th anniversary of James Dean’s death. I watched “East of Eden” in the middle of the night and thought it was a good movie, although I’d say that the acting had flaws. I didn’t quite believe in Julie Harris. She seemed like too much of an older woman, too mature to be wavering between a good boy and his rebellious brother. Have I ever heard of a girl named Abra outside this movie? What I always think about when I see this movie is Cal telling his brother that he doesn’t know their father. This is during the failure of the lettuce venture. Cal shouldn’t have been surprised that his father wouldn’t accept the money, based on his criticism of the bean idea earlier. Cal seems like a typical young person who doesn’t listen, at least in this instance. I kept wondering whether he had a better way of going between Salinas and Monterey. In fact, I wondered how he and Aron got to Monterey on that fateful night. I liked Jo Van Fleet in this performance, although I’ll remember her more for “Cool Hand Luke.” I questioned why Kate would stick around a place like Monterey. It seemed like she would hit a big city. It didn’t bother me that much that the movie excludes so much of the content of the novel. I don’t think I’d want to watch a seven-hour movie with these characters. I thought the idea of transferring a Biblical story to the California coast wasn’t the best idea. I tried to imagine John Steinbeck writing other such stories, like Noah or David and Goliath. I never knew that there was an overture. The running time is only 115 minutes, so I didn’t see why it was there, unless it was to elevate the status of the picture. I don’t remember seeing a current release in my lifetime that had an overture. Much of James Dean’s screen time is interesting and exciting. He is maybe too reminiscent of Marlon Brando at times, but he makes most of the other actors seem stiff and unnatural. I think his youth hurts his performance in certain moments. When he pushed the ice blocks down the ramp or hit people, I thought Cal was a jackass. I thought that if he had real character, he’s stop whimpering about his father’s love. I wondered if Kate and Aron had any words behind that closed door. Was it enough to drive Aron to join the war? The bit with the breaking of the train window made me think that he really drove his head into the window hard, and maybe the glass was thin. I kept thinking that he would slice his neck on the broken glass. The history of technology was different in this movie from reality because refrigeration was already being used in 1917. I still like watching movies like this and “On the Waterfront.” I thought Elia Kazan was a very good director, although I’ll always remember Amy Madigan scowling at him during the Oscars one year. Some of the shots in the widescreen in this picture were pretty inspired. This was the only one of James Dean’s big three movies to be released while he was still alive. Raymond Massey would die in 1983, Jo Van Fleet in 1996, Elia Kazan in 2003, and Julie Harris in 2013. I would rather watch John Ford’s “The Grapes of Wrath” again than this movie, partly because of Henry Fonda. It’s usually not a difficult choice when it’s between glorious black and white and widescreen color. Of James Dean’s movies, I think I enjoyed “Rebel Without a Cause” most. Some things about it, like the observatory and Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo, made it stay in my mind throughout the years. I think that the magic of movies started to fade for me during the 80s. One of the last movies that made a deep impression on me was “Amadeus,” although a few years later there was John Huston’s “The Dead.” The Ferris wheel scene in “East of Eden” made me think of “The Third Man.” I could have pictured someone like Paul Newman in the movie. I think he would have done a good job, too. I think of the fields when I see “East of Eden,” the flowers and the crops. I also have to think of soggy lettuce, like in the sandwiches my mother used to make for me. In the middle of the night I heard that the A’s had won their game against the Angels, with Barry Zito pitching better than he did on Saturday. The Angels made a lot of errors to let that game slip away so that they fell behind the Astros in the standings. I wanted to get around to seeing “The Martian” this weekend. I want to know what makes Matt Damon think that he can survive on Mars. Some of the people who died on October 1 include Jan Mabuse (1532), Walter Alston (1984), E.B. White (1985), and Richard Avedon (2004). Today is a birthday for Mark McGwire (52), Randy Quaid (65), Stella Stevens (77), Julie Andrews (80), and Jimmy Carter (91). According to the Brandon Brooks Rewind radio segment for October 1, Disney World in Florida opened in 1971. In 1982, the Peter O’Toole comedy “My Favorite Year” was released.

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