Re: DVD Talk review of 'TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection (A Streetcar Named Des
I didn't write that the scene itself is "grotesque," but that Dean's character becomes a grotesque. Here's the paragraph:
"East of Eden works best, though, in its scenes between Dean and Harris, as they work out their initial attraction and come to fall in love with each other. In those scenes, Kazan finds his rhythm perfectly (as he would in similar, but darker, scenes in Splendor in the Grass), with the luminous Harris and the subdued Dean becoming a touching portrait of young, searching lovers. When Dean is modified and "gentled" by the intuitive, empathetic Harris (who's a dream here), he seems to come close to the hype that has since submerged his actual on-screen talents and created this seemingly untouchable iconic status as one of the "greatest actors of the 20th century." Regardless of where you might fall on that particular rating, there's no denying that when Dean is quiet and expressive and responding to an actor that's equally giving, he projects a sensitivity and an openness that's quite powerful. It's only when Dean is imitating Brando (a fair judgment held then by everyone who knew the two actors) that his overacting borders on the unfortunately misguided and broad. Dean's confrontation scene with his father, when he gives him the bean money only to have it rejected as war profiteering, starts off well, but then degenerates into cheap, actorly tricks, until Dean is reduced to a grotesque, whimpering and crying for his father. That scene has never played as anything other than gimmicky to me - a feeling I was shocked to see echoed by critic Richard Schickel, who contributes a commentary track to this film (I rarely agree with Schickel, but since we're in-tune with this particular scene...). Those kind of broad moments, moments which must have impressed the teens who never got to see those kind of showy, easy, emotional pyrotechnics coming from teens in previous mainstream films, continue to fuel the Dean legacy, which is a shame when they overshadow the quieter moments where Dean truly did excel."
I think that's a little more layered and qualified an assessment of Dean from me than you're suggesting.
Online Film Critics Society Member (but not for long...)