Filmsite Movie 

East of Eden (1955)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

Cal's Vain Attempt to Talk to His Mother in Kate's Place:

In a dramatic scene, Cal returned that evening by train a second time to Monterey, and boldly snuck into the house where he had thrown rocks earlier in the day. The structure was marked by a round light cover with the capital letter K for Kate's Place - it was obviously a place of iniquity - a combination saloon and gambling house.

As bar-maid Anne served customers, other loose women smoked and played cards (gambling) with clients, while honky-tonk music played in the background. When Anne recognized Cal at the bar after he had ordered himself a beer, she warned him: "You'd better get out of here....You're the one who followed Kate around this morning....You're just a kid, ain't ya?" She cautioned him about his bad behavior - throwing stones and drinking beer - and again cautioned when Joe approached: "You don't want to get yourself hurt." He asked about the treatment she was receiving from her mistress/boss: "Is she nice?...She doesn't treat you rough or anything, does she?...Isn't there anything nice about her at all?"

When Cal kept insisting on speaking to 'Kate,' Anne at first was frightened about being fired: "Look, kid, please don't start any trouble...This is a tough place. I can't lose this job. I'm not very good at it, anyway....If I step out of line, Kate will throw me out on my ear." After more of Cal's persistence, she led him to Kate's back office door located in a narrow dark hallway. He entered her office (and living quarters) and saw her sleeping (in a drugged or drunken stupor?) in an easy chair - the first thing he noticed was her arthritic hands.

He knelt in front of his mother and asked softly: "Will you let me talk to you? Please. I gotta talk to you" - but she refused to talk to him. She angrily responded by yelling out for Joe and Tex (Harry Cording) to come to her rescue and throw him out, as she shielded and covered her face with her arm: "Get out of here...Call the Sheriff! Get him out!...Get him out of here!" As Cal struggled with her two strong bouncers in the hallway, he continued to ask Kate (who again peered at him through her doorway) with a desperate tone: "I want to talk to you! Please, talk to me! Talk to me, please! Mother!" [Note: In the recent previous scene, he had begged similarly: "Talk to me, Father!"]

Background About Cal's Mother - From Sheriff Sam:

In Sheriff Sam's (Burl Ives) office, a beaten-up Cal inquired about his crime: "Is there any law against a guy trying to see his own mother?" Cal was able to confirm with the Sheriff the rumors that he had heard in a bar from a 'no-good' drifter named Rabbit, a former Trask ranch worker, who had told him the truth about his mother. The kindly Sheriff was an old family friend of the Trasks from long ago in their "ranch days." He confessed he had a fearful premonition that Cal might one day find out about his mother: "I was afraid when you moved here last year that you might find out something about Kate." Kate was indeed a successful brothel madam in Monterey - the proprietor of a profitable whorehouse, although Adam was unaware that she now lived nearby.

The Sheriff rummaged in a desk drawer and showed Cal a wedding photograph of his parents - as a newly-wed couple. Cal justified to himself why he had suspected that his mother was an evil person, and how he had inherited badness from his sinful mother and his biased, hateful father:

"I knew it. I knew it was true... 'Cause she ain't no good and I ain't no good. I knew there was a reason why I wasn't (good). I hate her. And I hate him, too."

After the Sheriff drove Cal to his home and they parked outfront, Cal's curiosity caused him to ask more about his parents - how they met, where she came from, and why they married. Sam described more of their background from years past, including that she had shot Adam before walking out on him and abandoning the family - the scar on the shoulder of Cal's father wasn't an old wound from the Indian campaigns:

"Nobody ever knew where she come from, really. There were a lot of drifters in those days....You have no idea how pretty she was, Cal. Young and full of spirit. And your father hadn't been off the ranch much, you know. He's not a worldly man....It wasn't in him to hurt her. After she left him, he died. He walked around, but he died....He gave her everything that any woman could ask for. You see, your father has more kindness and more conscience than any man that I've ever known. He's a good man, Cal. Don't sell him short, boy."

Cal's Lunch with Abra In a Salinas Valley Lettuce Field:

In the next scene, Cal was inventively helping field workers with an improvised coal chute to quickly unload a horse-drawn wagon of produce from the lettuce field onto a long table, to then efficiently prepare and load up boxes of lettuce so they could be transported - by refrigerated train cars nearby marked SALINAS VALLEY LETTUCE - to marketplaces around the country. Shortly later, Cal's father was questioned by coal-men on a wagon who were complaining that someone had just swiped their coal chute. Adam blamed it on general "lawlessness" and the "war in Europe." Cal received credit from his father for "working so well" and helping to streamline the process of packing lettuce boxes with an "ingenious" solution - but Adam had failed to notice the purloined chute.

Cal volunteered to take Aron his lunch basket that was brought by Abra, and then walked over to a table next to the lettuce fields to open his own lunch box and eat by himself. He harshly ordered young Mexican field worker Lydia (Lydia Guerrero), who was interested in him, to sit at a distance away. Abra joined him and wondered whether Cal would show interest to the woman if she wasn't there: "Would you be eating with her if I weren't here?...Girls follow you around, don't they?" Cal lied by claiming that he had never seen the woman before - causing both of them to chuckle at his obvious deception.

Then, Abra talked about a time when she had angered her own dad by throwing a $3,000 dollar diamond ring into a river. She said things were smoothed over when she forgave him: "And it's been all right ever since." Cal was astounded that she would forgive someone for something she did wrong. Cal asked for an egg in Aron's lunch basket - a symbol of fertility and a sign of the emerging growth of their relationship.

She confided about her own troubled family relationships, in order to share her issues, and to bond and become closer to Cal. Her suggestion to forgive was hinting that Cal should also forgive his own short-sighted Dad to bring them closer together and find peace (however - she admitted that she no longer loved her father like she did when she was younger, and didn't care for her stepmother):

"You see, I thought he didn't love me. That made me feel awful. Girls love their fathers terribly....My mother died when I was thirteen, and Dad got married again soon after that...When Dad got married again, it made me sick. I just hated everybody. I used to sit and just glare at people, or I wouldn't even answer when they spoke to me...I was that way for months. I just hated everybody. And I thought nobody in the world loved me. And it was awful. And then I found this ring that Dad gave my new mother, so I took it and threw it in the river....Dad punished me. Not badly, I guess. But I felt he shouldn't have punished me at all. I felt he should have loved me more because I did it. But he didn't. Isn't it funny? I'm grown-up now, but I-I still understand kids better than I do grownups....I'm very grown- up. More so than Dad, because I forgave him for not understanding. And the minute I forgave him in my mind, I felt better. Now we get along fine. We love each other. Not like we did when I was 13, but enough so we can live together till I get married. He's just my father now. Nothing to rave about. I still don't like her much, but then, she's a woman."

Cal abruptly sat up and seemed conflicted by Abra's secret confessional - but it was clear that she had an unexplainable bond with Cal due to her own difficulties with her father. She noticed the jealous Mexican girl Lydia, glaring at them from afar, who had contemptuously tossed away her apple. Abra advised Cal to clarify things with her - to explain that they weren't a serious couple: "My, that girl just hates me, doesn't she? You better tell her I'm your brother's girl." However, Cal countered with: "I don't have to explain anything to anybody." As Abra left, after announcing: "I'll go now and leave the field to her," she gently smoothed out Cal's mussed up hair.

As Aron rode up for his lunch, he yelled to his father that he thought that Cal's "rigged up" device looked like a coal chute - prompting Adam to realize it was stolen. He frowned and then harshly scolded Cal: "What makes you think you just have the right to come and take something like this? You probably lost those men their jobs. Now, you take it back." And then he recommended that Aron have a chute made of wood to replace it and "save a lot of time." Cal again felt snubbed and disapproved, although he continued to work hard to please his father, to support the hoped-for success of the venture's revolutionary effort (to ship lettuce to faraway markets), and to draw attention to his good-intentions.

A striking camera view observed the refrigerated train cars pulling away from the Southwest Freight Station (with a celebratory band playing), hauled by a steam locomotive, as Adam looked on optimistically - it was carrying away with it all his hopes and dreams.

The Loss of Adam's Lettuce Crop and Fortune:

At a Salinas Automobile Mechanic shop run by knowledgeable Roy Turner (Lonny Chapman) who had been to "the automobile school in Chicago," investment friend Will Hamilton was prompting Adam - now that he had "revolutionized the entire vegetable market" - to consider purchasing a brand-new Ford automobile. Mechanic Roy explained the principles of the internal combustion engine that powered the transmission of the vehicle via its pistons, connecting rods and crankshaft, to rotate the rear wheels. His main pupil Adam was also shown how to operate the car, to turn on the ignition, open the choke, and properly rotate the crank. Everyone was forced to repeat the procedure set to a cheer: "Spark up, gas down. Switch to bat. Crank to compression, thumb down."

Adam was called aside by Sheriff Sam, who reported serious news - the train had been delayed by a "big snow slide" that blocked passage of the cars about 100 miles out. Water from melting ice was seen running out of the freight cars (with the lettuce crop in boxes), causing the produce to heat up and rot. Adam seemed to accept the fateful news calmly and objectively: "Well, it's still a good idea. Cold can preserve things. Someday, somebody'll prove it." He even judged himself as over-presumptuous for thinking it would work: "Guess we bit off more lettuce than we could chew." Aron was surprised that his father didn't seem hurt, but Cal was more perceptive and sensed his father was overwhelmingly disappointed ("You don't understand him").

Immediately, Cal went to speak to Will Hamilton about an idea he had to salvage the loss, but was asked to wait until his YMCA gym-fitness class finished. Men in town were getting into shape to prepare for the war in Europe. Impatient, Cal activated a fire-alarm bell to clear the room, and then spoke to Will (as he showered in the gym's locker room) about the reason for his enthusiastic urgency - he had thought up a reasoned plan to make money during the war with a bean crop, to restore his father's finances:

"You see, I gotta make some money...Remember, you said that if you wanna make money, you oughta raise beans? Now, the way I figure it, it's like you said. The country's gonna get into war, isn't it?...War's good for business...Well, see, that's why I wanna go into beans. See, I gotta get enough money to give my father back what he lost....I gotta."

Will called Cal "crazy" - and stated the obvious: "Don't you know that you gotta have money in order to make money?" Cal reassured him about obtaining funds, but after he asked how much was needed, Cal was stunned by the figure: $5,000 dollars. Will realized how desirous Cal was to help his father, but he also had to be realistic about how difficult it would be to acquire the start-up money. When Cal was offered a "little share" if he could chip in $100 dollars, he excitedly objected and insisted that he would only go it alone:

"I don't want a little share, I want the whole thing....Aron ain't got nothin' to do with this. This is my deal. I'll get the $5,000."

If Cal could secretly "borrow" $5,000 dollars, Will recommended a farmer with over 800 acres under cultivation, who would probably agree to a guaranteed 5 cents/pound deal if they gave him a seed loan to plant beans. Additional bean acreage could be contracted from numerous farmers in the region. Will expected to take advantage of an upward pricing trend for beans that would occur if the country went to war - and he promised: "We could sell all the dry beans that we can find at 10 cents a pound or more." Cal was eager to begin the venture but realized the enormous challenge.

Cal's Revelatory Meeting With His Bordello Mother Kate: To Request Investment Funding

Cal made a second visit to his estranged mother in Monterey, to speak to her, and found her in a dark maroon outfit walking on a deserted road in view of the ocean. She slowly walked ahead of him, then turned and asked as they walked in tandem: "What does Cal stand for?" and "What's your brother's name?" Cal replied that they both had Biblical names: Caleb and Aron, and that Aron was the "good" son: (Cal: "He's good. I'm more like you"). She responded with a humorous, knowing laugh. Cal declined to talk about his father Adam. Kate admitted that during Cal's other two visits, she had no idea who he was: "I didn't know who you were when you were here before...Aren't you afraid to come around here again?" Cal matter-of-factly explained the reason for his visit - he was mostly there for the purpose of obtaining funds of $5,000. She looked him up and down, in stony silence.

She invited him into her back office and living area, and complimented him on his looks: "You got your father's eyes. That's all I can see of him. You're a nice looking boy." As she spoke, she stood in front of a large mirror - framing and doubling their identities and bringing their two reflections together. She recollected the past - and Adam's penchant for Biblical names: "I was very beautiful once....Caleb and Aron. Your father still thinks he's living in the Bible, huh?" She learned that Cal was going to school in Salinas, and afterwards would not return to the ranch - something she completely identified with: "You take after me. Makes me mad just to think about a ranch."

Cal described more about his financial request - to go into business (with Will Hamilton) by investing the money in a risky scheme - a new bean crop. It was a gamble - based upon the idea of more profitable conditions IF war broke out. He also vowed to aid his father ("I wanna make enough to pay him back") who had lost all he had in a costly scheme to refrigerate lettuce. Of course, he was also exploitatively attempting to 'buy' his father's love. When she reacted with disbelief about his bold ask: "You got a lot of nerve coming to me," Cal turned entrepreneurial - he promised it would be a "good business venture" and he would pay her back - with interest. She knew that he had once told Sam that he wanted her "run out of town" - because it would ruin their reputations if either Aron or his father found out about her. She asked if the $5,000 was a form of "blackmail," but promised not to tarnish them: "Anyway, I'm not gonna hurt your precious father or your brother...there's no reason to think that they ever will find out about me. We don't exactly move in the same circles." (Aron thought she was dead and Adam believed she was back East.)

However, Cal first wanted to know what had split up his parents: "How come you did it?...Shot my father?...How come you ran away from all of us? How come you shot him? Ran away and did all that kind of stuff?" She divulged her past disastrous marriage to Adam, and why she had abandoned her husband and the family:

"I shot him because he tried to stop me. I could have killed him if I'd wanted to, but I didn't. I just wanted him to let me go!....Because he tried to hold me. He wanted to tie me down. He wanted to keep me on a stinkin' little ranch away from everybody. Keep me all to himself. Well, nobody holds me....Love? He wanted to own me. He wanted to bring me up like a snot-nosed kid and tell me what to do. Well, nobody tells me what to do. Always so right himself. Knowing everything. Reading the Bible at me."

She realized that her words and opinions resonated with Cal (who was grinning) and that he shared her sensical, perceptive nature:

"Maybe you know what I'm talking about, huh? Always so right himself?...Maybe like you said out there, maybe you are more like me. Huh? Yeah, you got sense. Maybe you don't fall for that slop any more than I do. Maybe you know what people are really like. What they want."

And then she bragged about and praised her own successful brothel business - and the town's male hypocrites: "I've got the toughest house on the coast, and the finest clientele. Yeah, half the stinking city hall go there. They sneak in at night and I walk in this front door in the daytime, see. And I built it up from nothing." She considered how ironic it was that she was writing a check for $5,000 dollars to Cal, to restore her estranged husband's finances and save his purity!:

"Now you want $5,000 of my money to go into business to pay your father back what he lost. You know, that's funny.... No, but it's funny just the same. Your father. He's the purest man there is, isn't he? He thought he had me all tied up with his purity. And now I give you $5,000 of the money that I made to save him his purity. If you don't think that's funny, you'd better not go to college."

Looked upon as a "likable kid" by Kate, Cal received the $5,000 dollar funding to invest in a profitable bean crop with Will Hamilton, whom she considered "a good business man." Although Cal wanted to linger longer, she ordered him out: "I'm running a business."

The Effects of The War in Europe:

The Salinas Sentinel newspaper headlines declared: "WAR WITH GERMANY." During a patriotic parade with a marching brass band, townspeople celebrated the US' decision to enter the "Great War" in April of 1917 with its allies (Britain, France, and Russia) to fight against the Germans in Europe. Spectators who supportively watched the procession caused distress to anti-war pacifist Aron, as Abra (dressed in a nurse's uniform) worried about him and comforted him. Cal ran alongside Will riding in one of the open vehicles holding city officials and gleefully yelled out: "Every day in every way, we're getting richer and richer." Comments from the townsfolk reflected their naivete about how quickly the war would be won:

  • "Kaiser - All we have to do is call his bluff. He'll come to heel like a dog."
  • City Official (Lester Dorr) : "We'll be over there to clean up this mess for those foreigners in a couple of weeks."

Cal was playing pranks while dodging in and out of the crowds - he helped a black boy cross the parade route, then came up to Abra and Aron and teasingly offered her a stick of black licorice. He confidently declared to Aron: "Your own Woodrow Wilson said you gotta make the country safe for democracy." But Aron was firm about not supporting the war effort, or serving in the military - he was a conscientious objector: "Nothing'll ever make me go. Nothing. I just don't believe it's right."

A few months later, headlines had begun to reflect the reality of the horrors of war: "GERMANS TAKE 120,000 PRISONERS IN FALL DRIVE - Allies Rush Aid." Telegrams reported thousands of casualties, including deaths among the local boys. Many became discouraged: "It's gonna be a long war," and some frustrated citizens took out their anger at a German-born storekeeper, respected shoemaker Gustav Albrecht (Harold Gordon), by throwing rocks at his shop windows and yelling slurs: "Go back where you came from, German! Go on home, German!"

In a discussion with his father and Albrecht in the backyard of the Trask house in Salinas, Aron became even more anxious about the town's hostility: "This is just the start." The storekeeper was fearful of the increasingly disastrous effects of negative propaganda and bigotry when his national allegiance was being doubted:

"That rock through the window is just the beginning. The German people don't want this war. And the stories they tell of what the Germans are doing, it simply is not true. Not the good ones."

Serving on the town's draft board, Adam contemplated a retreat back to the ranch ("War seems to be city people's business somehow. Farmers. What's a farmer got to do with war?"), and he also expressed concern over his dwindling finances after his "great fiasco." Secretly optimistic about his bean crop, Cal spoke up to encourage him: "Let's not worry about money, Dad."

In the next scene, Cal was reclining on the dirt between rows of sprouting beans growing in one of his cultivated fields - he was expectant about his crop with Swiss-Italian farmer Rantani (Nick Dennis): "Ain't this some sight?...Yeah boy, some beans!" With an improvised dance, he ran exuberantly through the rows, prompting the amused Rantani to call him "crazy."

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