East of Eden, one of the first films to be shot in Color Cinemascope, was awarded Best Motion Picture - Drama at the 1956 Golden Globes. Sadly, the Golden Globe for Best Dramatic Actor had to be awarded to James Dean posthumously - the actor died in a car accident, at 25, just a few months before, on that infamous September 30, 1955 (in Cholame, California). Dean didn't have the chance to see East of Eden on the big screen, nor his last movie, Giant, which he had just wrapped at the time of his death. He was only able to see his first film, Rebel Without a Cause (1955).
A realist drama, East of Eden was based on John Steinback's novel and directed by Elia Kazan. Dean was magnetic in the portrayal of troubled Cal Trask, battling for the love of his father (Raymond Massey) with twin brother Aron (Richard Davalos) in Salinas, California, circa 1910. It's a good vs. evil story, more specifically a Cain (Cal) vs. Abel (Aron) allegory.
Dean profoundly identified with his character, and more so with the yearning for his father’s affection. The filming helped – as in a therapeutic session – to win over some of his many demons and get closer to his own father. It was unfortunately too little too late. Director Kazan chose him for the role of Cal over Paul Newman and Marlon Brando after long consideration (they were deemed too old – in their late 20s and early 30s – to play a 21-year old). Kazan loved Dean and yet had some issues about his wild lifestyle: as a matter of fact, the director demanded that Dean would stay, during the shooting of the interiors in the Warner Brothers Studios lot, in a bungalow next to his, in order to keep an eye and close check on his leading man.
Kazan also thought that Dean wasn't destined to have a long career, since the young actor was not only too volatile but lacked proper acting training, therefore relying too much on his instincts. “Furthermore he was interested in becoming a race car driver more than having a steady career in the movies,” said Kazan.