Tuesday, May 22, 2007


"East of Eden" was the recent opening feature of weekly Saturday Night movies hosted by Martin Sheen on one of my favored viewing PBS television stations, KCET-TV channel 28 in the Los Angeles area. I remember seeing the movie many years ago with James Dean in his very first starring role. I thoroughly enjoyed that movie adaptation of John Steinbeck's novel.

Jo Van Fleet in her role won an Oscar as Supporting Actress portraying an unorthodox character pivotal in the lives of the family in this story.  [Up date 3/7/13 to John Steinbeck biography at "Nobelprize.org" replacing the original link that discontinued publishing, another that requested removal.] 

Richard "Dick" Davalos created a significant contrasting character role as one of the two brothers with Dean in this classic Cain and Abel story, with an especially memorable action scene by Davalos that resulted in devastating personal consequences for their father, portrayed by Raymond Massey.

The youthful Julie Harris demonstrated her versatile acting skills caring lovingly for each of these family members as she partially compensated for needs resulting from her own family situation.

I rarely enjoy watching movies more than once because they seldom ever re-create the same feeling and reaction for me as the first time I saw them, but I did rather enjoy seeing this one again. Perhaps if I was in the movie business, and wanting to analyze various aspects of the production I would view it forty or fifty times as I've heard some directors say they've done with movies to tease out specific threads for analyzing various aspects of the whole production.
Having made plans to watch this movie, I then decided a special indulgent bring-in menu for the evening was in order. The restaurant considered my Italian salad, spaghetti with marinara sauce, two large meatballs and garlic bread a take-out order, but it was bring-in for me. Also, before the movie started, there’s nothing like throwing a little laundry in the washer to create a sense of doing something constructive while indulging in self-gratification. I accomplished a lot that night, even had half of my bring-in order left over as I just can’t eat that much at dinner.

I decided to add a couple of DVD rentals to my viewing plans, including "The Queen" starring Helen Mirren in her Oscar winning role. This actress has been a favorite of mine from years ago when she first appeared on the U.S.A. PBS television viewing screen resulting in my awareness of her in "Prime Suspect." She's one of those few individuals who populate the world of acting that stimulate me to view whatever they appear in, because I can be pretty sure the role they play will be well acted as likely the whole production will be, too. I was not disappointed. I found myself wondering how closely the character she created paralleled the person she portrayed? We only know our own perceptions from outside Queen Elizabeth's world, so I wonder what the real Queen would say about the approximation of the character Queen to the real Queen's reality during that time surrounding the death of Princess Diana?

The other movie I selected to watch was "The Night Listener" starring Robin Williams, creating the character of Armistead Maupin. Given the fact that this psychological thriller was based on Maupin's real life experience, as written about in his best-selling novel, with some dramatic license reportedly taken, the story became even more fascinating.
In the special features section of the DVD I was intrigued by some of Maupin's observations about the world in which we live today and how we frequently find ourselves in virtual relationships. He talked about how we "...have constructs about the other person that are often more about what we need than what that person actually is and we fool each other by mutual consent in order to get what we want." Interesting thought for those of us in the blogosphere.

As I thought of psychological thriller movies (some, I learned are actually considered horror films, a genre that I generally avoid,) one that I've enjoyed viewing over the years, "Night of the Hunter" came to mind, starring Robert Mitchum. Roger Ebert's review superbly describes this outstanding movie. That's the story where the villain has the words "love" and "hate" on the opposite knuckles of each hand. You may see almost 10 minutes of YouTube's video of "The Riverboat Scene" here:

I did not think the remake a few years ago remotely compared to the suspense of the original movie. My imagination responding to my own thought creation usually expands exponentially on created tension, anxiety, suspense. These are the factors that I experience as being most effective in movies such as these. I find that usually the effort to inject realism with graphic visual actions incorporating blood and gore does little toward enhancing the quality or overall effect of the scene. These added visuals become much less effective, even distracting for me, than what my own thoughts conjure. Regrettably, movie makers didn't listen to Betty Jo Tucker at "Reel Talk" as she lists a number of classic movies that Hollywood should never try to remake, including "Night of the Hunter."
I recall watching a movie a few years ago that was a remake but can't recall the title.  There was such a protracted over-long scene with the villain constantly resurfacing in the water again and again and again, when we were supposed to think he must surely be dead by now, that the ending gave a bad name to even melodrama. That ending surely made a joke of that remake for me, becoming all too anti-climatic, as the writer, director, producer or film editor just didn't seem to know when to stop. This was a river/water ending of another thriller/horror movie I saw some time ago that was too much of a bad film sequence which was disappointing to me. 

Fortunately, the movies I viewed in this marathon were entertaining, even provided some interesting ideas about which to think.

Writing about this experience stimulated some additional thoughts, reference to "Psycho," that will be posted later in: TV Days Memories and Glass Ceilings for Women.


  1. I remember East of Eden from yearsago; I love everythng James Daen was in. I share your enthusiasm for The Queen, but I wondered how true the portrayal of Prince Philip was. I will try to find the movie about Maupin, since he is from Raleigh, and I know some of his family members, it should be interesting.

  2. I saw that "EAST OF EDEN" was on the other night, but for some reason I did not watch it...You know I wrote a post about Dick Davalos some time ago...maybe six weeks or so, because his Grandaughter was guest starring on a TV show...This is one talented family!!!
    I too LOVED Queen....Another stellar performance by the stunning Helen Mirren...!
    And you might be interested in this book called: "HEAVEN & HELL TO PLAY WITH...The filming of 'The Night Of The Hunter. It was written by a very lovely and talented man named Preston Neal Jones....a fascinating book about this movie and all the principal people involved in it's creation. I met Preston back in 2002 when we revived "SPPON RIVER" ay Theatre West. He absolutely LOVED the show and came back more than once to see it, and he sent me the book...It is published by www.limelightbooks.com...it is a really great read for anyone interested in this movie, or, in fact, in the history of any great film and the difficulties the creators encounter in this gruelingly hard hard process.

    I must look for that other film with Robin Williams...I love Maupin's writing....Thanks for this very rich post, my dear.

  3. Night of the Hunter is one of my favourite movies of all times! When you think that it was directed by Charles Laughton who also happened to be a brillian actor and according to the Movie database only directed two films, The Man on the Eiffel Tower, a thriller that I'm going to look up, because I've never seen it and Night of the Hunter, one is sorry he didn't do more!

  4. Kenju: Hadn't realized Maupin was from your city. Interesting that you know some of his family.

    OldOldLady: I recall now reading your fascinating post where you talked about the "East of Eden" movie and Richard Davalos. What you wrote must have unconsciously stayed with me when I viewed the movie again. Others interested should visit your blog at: http://sitteninthehills64.blogspot.com/
    -- the March 17, 2007 post in your archives "the davalos dynasty."

    Preston Neal Jones and his book sound interesting. Also would like to read more about SPOON RIVER with which I know you were so intimately involved.

    Claude: Yes, I, too, was attracted by the fact Charles Laughton directed the film since mostly we think of him as an actor. Be interesting to see the other movie he directed.

  5. Interesting on The Night Listener. I will look for it as it does indeed relate to some of my own thinking. I have read articles by Maupin but this book doesn't sound familiar but sound like something which I would like to look at more deeply.