“I believe a strong woman may be stronger than a man, particularly if she happens to have love in her heart. I guess a loving woman is indestructible": James Dean's Copy of East of Eden
East of Eden.
Item Number: 71051
New York: The Viking Press, 1952.
First edition, first issue of Steinbeck’s epic and moving story of a modern Cain and Abel. Octavo, original cloth. The actor James Dean’s copy with his signature to the front free endpaper, who starred in the film bearing the same name. Before filming began, Kazan sent Dean off to Palm Springs to gain some weight and get some sun so that he looked like a “real” farm boy. Dean hated getting a tan, having his hair cut, and drinking a pint of cream a day to put on pounds. When they first arrived in Los Angeles to begin production, Kazan accompanied Dean to visit his estranged father, who was living there at the time. He witnessed first hand how badly the father treated Dean and how much the boy wanted to please him. As he got to know Dean better, Kazan saw how this relationship had instilled in him a great deal of anger because of frustrated love, the key to the character of Cal. “It was the most apt piece of casting I’ve ever done in my life.” Kazan denied rumours that he didn’t like Dean: “You can’t not like a guy with that much pain in him….You know how a dog will be mean and snarl at you, then you pat him, and he’s all over you with affection? That’s the way Dean was.” Kazan did intervene sternly, however, when Dean started to feel his power as a hotly emerging star and treated crew members disrespectfully. When Kazan introduced Dean to Steinbeck, the author exclaimed that he was the perfect choice for Cal Trask. Steinbeck himself enjoyed the final film very much. Shooting in the fairly new CinemaScope process proved to be a challenge for Kazan, but he was lucky to have a good working relationship with longtime Warner Brothers cinematographer Ted D. McCord. The studio camera department gave him instructions up front to keep the camera at least six feet from the actors, which rankled Kazan. So he and McCord made some tests to see how close they could push in. It caused the side edges of the screen to appear a bit curved, but Kazan decided to use that distortion for dramatic expression. McCord suggested that, as long as they were distorting anyway, they should tip the camera angle in certain shots. This technique was used a few times, most prominently in the tense dinner table scene in which Cal and his father fight over the boy’s antagonistic reading of Bible passages. Kazan was proud of his use of CinemaScope to get what he thought was the best shot in the film, the train pulling away with all the lettuce on it. In the carefully calibrated shot, the train disappears behind the railroad station and then reappears much smaller, going off toward the distant mountains. “It’s a perfect shot because it shows that their hope is going off,” he said. “It’s sentimental and still emotional.” Kazan also liked the shot of Cal and Abra after his father’s rejection, standing behind the willow tree, audible but with only their feet showing. Kazan noted that Dean’s tension and shyness always manifested itself physically, so he allowed the actor to use contorted, awkward postures to convey the character. “It was almost psychotic. He was exactly like the people you see in insane asylums.” It was Dean’s idea to do the little running dance in the bean field, and Kazan said he kissed him for that valuable contribution. He also noted that the far more contained Brando would never have been able to do a scene like that, “but Dean was actually like a kid.” Davalos said the most difficult scene for him was when Dean as Cal hits him after an argument. Dean didn’t really hit him, of course, but the emotions felt so real Davalos believed Dean really did hate him. He left the set after the take and cried “for about four hours” until Harris had to calm him down. Several cast members reported that Dean’s emotions overtook him so strongly he would frequently cry. Kazan usually just let those moments pass before resuming shooting, but he did leave one of Dean’s breakdowns in—the scene in which Cal is crushed by his father’s rejection of the money he earned for him. Dean would provoke Raymond Massey off-camera so that the elder actor would hate him and he could get into character easier. Kazan did nothing to dispel the tension between the two, as it was so right for their characters in the film. In the scene where Adam refuses to accept Cal’s money, the script called for Cal to turn away in anger from his father. It was Dean’s instinct to embrace him instead. This came as a surprise to Massey, who could think of nothing to do but say, “Cal! Cal!” in response. The conflict between James Dean and Raymond Massey came to a boiling point in the scene where Cal angers his father because of the way he reads from the Bible. Elia Kazan, who found Massey to be a rather rigid and unemotional “stiff” off screen and on, wasn’t happy with the way it was going, so he took Dean aside and whispered some suggestions. Dean came back and read the Old Testament passages interlaced with the most offensive curses and crude sexual expressions. Massey became incensed, storming off the set and threatening to call his lawyers. But before the outburst, Kazan was able to capture the heightened anger he was going for. Despite the annoyances and difficulties he faced making East of Eden, Massey called the role of Adam Trask one of the best parts he ever had on screen and one of the few three-dimensional characters he played in movies. Even though he appreciated the tension that came through on the screen, Elia Kazan later said he didn’t do justice to the character of Adam by hiring Raymond Massey, who he said “had only one color.” On the last day of shooting, Harris went to Dean’s trailer to say goodbye because she was not sure she would attend the wrap party. She found Dean crying because the production was over. She said: “It was so moving. It was his first picture [sic], it meant so much, and now it was over.” Some rubbing and wear, an excellent example in a very good dust jacket. Jacket design by Elmer Hader. From the library of a Palm Beach collection, by way of Dean. A unique example.
"A novel planned on the grandest possible scale...One of those occasions when a writer has aimed high and then summoned every ounce of energy, talent, seriousness, and passion of which he was capable...It is an entirely interesting and impressive book" (The New York Herald Tribune).