Following Up With the Movie Version

Last night I followed through on a promise I made to myself about the book “East of Eden.”  I watched the movie to see how accurately Hollywood followed Steinbeck’s work. My grade is a B+. The movie followed the book story quite well. Except for eliminating a central character Lee, adding too much strength to the Sheriff, and changing the ending to shorten the film, the movie told the story well.

The original work is six hundred pages long. I wondered where the movie would start while I was reading. When I finished, I surmised that the script could only cover the last two hundred pages, and that is exactly what happened.

I remember seeing coming attractions for the film which touted James Dean as a powerful new actor. It’s taken  me over fifty years to finally watch the film. James Dean was magnificent in the role of Caleb Trask, a moody young kid who needed answers about his life. His twin brother (not identical) seemed to have it all together, but in the end, the moody kid endures life, and survives the answers he uncovers. His brother, could not deal with the same answers, and loses it He joins the army to fight WWI and dies in action.

I give this film five stars, although a little late. If you haven’t seen it yet, find a copy in the library or rent one and watch. You won’t be sorry.

During the movie I set a new goal, i.e. why not read Dean’s biography, and watch all of his films? The DVD I borrowed from the library came with a second disk, it had Dean’s biography. I enjoyed it as much as I did the film. Dean only made three films before he died, and now I’ve seen two of them. I saw “Rebel without a Cause,” a couple of times. The last film is “Giant.”

The only pleasure missing from this viewing was the company of my grand-daughter Dana. I know we would have had a great time discussing the story and the characters. Oh well.

What Does it Mean?

What does it  mean when you finally do something that has been on your to-do list for fifty years?

Earlier this summer, I spoke with my granddaughter and asked what she was going to do with her summer. She is an avid reader. She announced her intention to read all the books on her school recommended reading list.

“What are some of the books?” I asked

She rattled off several that didn’t register but then struck a chord with “East of Eden.” I am a John Steinbeck fan and have always intended to read that book. I never did, until now.

Why I put it off so long, I cannot answer, but the wait was worth it. Steinbeck has a beautiful style of writing. His characters are so real, I feel I know them personally. He describes the  locales in such a way as to see, smell, and hear the surroundings.

In the early chapters of the book, I kept thinking this sounds like something I have read before. The people and places were so familiar. As the pages rolled by I realized that I had not read this particular story before, but I had read several other Steinbeck stories. All of them take place in the same valley  near Salinas, California. He had to have borrowed some of the same characters for his novel.

East Of Eden is a complicated story that spans three generations of families, and it would take me the same six hundred pages to tell it. I love the period the story is from, i.e. 1875-1925. Life was hard then, but so much purer, yet so much more decadent at the same time. Steinbeck’s depiction of the era is historically accurate. His characters fall into the categories of good and evil. He describes how evilness is a trait a person is born with just as he might be born with a physical defect. Why not a defect in the brain that makes one inherently evil?

Thank you Dana for triggering me to read this book. Now, I am anxious to see the movie. In my mind, I have determined which generation I would have made the movie about. The movie will be higher on my to-do list, and not take fifty years to get to. I wish we could watch it together.

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