James Dean (Rebel Without a Cause, Giant) is EAST OF EDEN's Cal, the seeming ne'er-do-well son of Salinas vegetable rancher Adam (Raymond Massey). It's 1917, the eve of America's entry into World War I, and Adam is a pillar of the community, Bible-reading, decent, and unbendingly correct. His other son Aron (Richard Davalos) is much like him -- a well-behaved good student, in love with Abra (Julie Harris), a "good girl" who is looking forward to marriage. The brothers are set against each other in temperament and character and even their names echo Cain and Abel of the Bible. Cal acts out, desperate for his father's love, always coming up short. The boys have been told their mother (Jo Van Fleet) left when they were small and since died, but Cal finds her nearby in bustling Monterey, the successful businesswoman running a saloon, real estate, and prostitution empire. Cal immediately labels her "bad," seeing her character as the explanation for the badness he has been taught to see in himself. When he learns that she ran away from the stifling correctness of her loveless husband, he relates. For Aron's sake, he keeps her existence a secret. When Cal's father loses money betting on the early frozen foods business, Cal sets out to earn money through hard work to restore his father's loss, a feat made possible by America's entry into the war. Aron grows more depressed about the killing overseas and alienates his girlfriend. She admits to Cal that she too feels unloved and wonders if Aron actually cares for her or just wants to control her. When Cal presents his father with his hard-earned cash, instead of expressing gratitude for Cal's generous and caring gesture, Adam rejects it as war profiteering, tainted money he will never accept. Aron sides with the father and admits lifelong frustration with his brother. Aware that nothing he can do will earn his father's love, Cal angrily drags Aron to meet their mother, an encounter that sends Aron into a frenzy of drinking and fighting. He enlists and chugs off on a troop train. Adam tries to stop him but suffers a stroke just as Cal make plans to leave forever. Abra forces Cal to try to reconcile with his paralyzed father "before it's too late," and although the ending is ambiguous, Cal seems at peace.