Martin Scorsese introduces this cinematic retelling of the Cain and Abel story, based on the novel by John Steinbeck, and directed with verve and passion by Elia Kazan. The emotionally charged tale of "good brother, bad brother," with both siblings vying for their father's love and approval, takes place on a lettuce farm outside Salinas, California just before World War I. Julie Harris, Raymond Massey, Jo Van Fleet, Richard Davalos and Lois Smith also star in the film that made James Dean a national sensation. His quicksilver performance as the bad brother Cal Trask is raw, intense, and alive -- full of psychological revelations. Like Marlon Brando, Dean was a force of nature; like Brando, he revolutionized American acting. But it was Kazan who helped them both unlock their great gifts. The son of an immigrant Greek rug merchant who went on to become one of the most influential directors in Broadway and Hollywood history, Kazan is credited with redefining American acting on the screen. The way he handled contemporary themes, fought for independent productions, and wrote his own work set a standard for personal creativity. This screening of East of Eden kicks off the Actors Studio's tribute to Kazan, its beloved founding father. In the next year, most of his films, from Panic in the Streets to The Arrangement, will be shown in various venues in New York, so that students and young artists can acquaint themselves with the craft and genius of this master director.
Born Elia Kazanjoglous in Constantinople, now Istanbul, Elia Kazan (1909-2003) immigrated to New York City with his family in 1913. A graduate of Williams College, Kazan studied at Yale, acted with the Group Theatre, and cofounded the Actor's Studio, emphasizing the importance for the actor to personalize each role through the prism of his experience. Known as "The Method," it became the hallmark of Kazan's achievements as a theatre and screen director. After attaining enormous success with a string of stage productions now considered classics, Kazan directed the first of his 19 films, 1945's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, for which James Dunn and Peggy Ann Garner gave the first two of what would turn out to be 10 Oscar-winning performances guided by him. Kazan twice won directing Oscars - 1947's Gentleman's Agreement and 1954's On the Waterfront, both of which also won Best Picture. He was awarded a Career Achievement Oscar in 1999.