When Adam learns that Aron has joined the war and left for camp, he has a massive stroke. Cal, immediately remorseful, is eager to help him any way he can. Abra (Julie Harris), Aron’s fiancée, understands the torture Cal has been going through and privately pleads with Adam to let Cal help him recuperate. Adam does so much to Abra’s relief and Cal’s delighted surprise.
This was James Dean’s first major movie role and he was perfect for it. Elia Kazan wanted Dean for the part specifically. “Jimmy was it. He was vengeful. He had a sense of aloneness. He was suspicious. He let you into a private club that had only a few members.” With a perfect balance between torture and pleasure, you can’t help but love Dean’s Cal. As someone who has read East of Eden, I did not have the compassion for the book version of Cal as I did for Dean’s version. I think all viewers could agree, we love him when he’s good and we understand and forgive him when he’s bad. When Adam whispers that he wants only Cal to take care of him, it’s such a heart-warming moment. We want it for Cal as much as he does.
Imagine if it was the two of them as brothers!
Other great dysfuctional relationships between parent(s) and their child that I have seen:
The Subject Was Roses
Tonight on TCM!The Wrong Man (1956) A musician is mistaken for a vicious thief, with devastating results. Cast: Henry Fonda, Vera Miles, Anthony Quayle. Dir: Alfred Hitchcock.