Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan



I never much cared for James Dean. Though he did a lot of TV in the early days, he only made three movies. I thought Rebel Without a Cause was ludicrous. I wasn’t much taken with East of Eden. Dean’s agonizing, his mannered and phony-looking screen presence … hell, just about everything about him irritated me. It’s no different here, in this sprawling Edna Ferber opus that I finally got around to seeing. It runs almost three and a half hours. Dean plays Jett Rink, a poor boy who strikes it rich and spends all his time trying to get revenge on the Benedict family, whose wealth comes from old cattle money and exploiting the Mexican peons worse than their livestock. Rock Hudson never impressed me much, either, and aside from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, neither did Elizabeth Taylor. This is all about TEXAS!! but it’s not my Texas. I grew up on the Gulf Coast, almost in Louisiana, and the barren flatness of West Texas is as foreign to me as another country. Carroll Baker is the sort-of-slutty youngest daughter of the Benedict clan, and Dennis Hopper is the dedicated son who defies his father and becomes a doctor, treating the Mexican laborers and going so far as to marry one and bear a little brown child. The way he and his wife are treated for this is scandalous, totally believable, sick-making … and yet I kept wondering, why is he so surprised when these racist Texans insult his wife and child? He can’t be so stupid as to think they are going to be accepted, can he? I mean, he grew up in Texas, too.