Set during the American Civil War (in 1863) to the end of World War I (in 1918), the TV mini-series 'East Of Eden' attracted 34% share of the audience on the opening night back in February 1981. Part II attracted 42% share of the audience (28.1% ratings; about 21.9 million households were counted watching). And part III attracted 37% share of the audience (26.4% ratings; roughly 20.5 million households with TV sets were watching). 

Filmed on location over 4 months in Salinas Valley, California and with Savannah, Georgia substituting for Connecticut, Barney Rosenzweig told the press, "We had to time it to be in Salinas when it was green. I wanted to contrast that lush look with the gray New England look. It was tougher to make than it should have been. It cost $11.2 million, which is more than it should have. The business has changed. It didn't help either that the cost of silver quadrupled, sending the cost of film stock sky high." 

Born in 1937, Barney Rosenzweig first read John Steinbeck's book in 1952. "It was probably the first important piece of American literature I read," he recounted. "I ran to the movie when it came out in 1955 and I hated what they did. It's a classic story of sibling rivalry, but they changed it into a period 'Rebel Without A Cause'. What horrified me even more was that this movie would stand forever as 'East Of Eden'. 

"It didn't occur to me at 15 that there was such a thing as a remake – and a mini-series was unheard of then." At 43 years of age when 'East Of Eden' originally went on air in 1981, Barney Rosenzweig acknowledged, "It took me a long time to get it made. As I worked on it I found that other people were also pitching 'East Of Eden' to the networks. But it was always a remake of the James Dean movie. I wanted to do the whole book. It never occurred to me to remake the movie. 

"This is an entirely new film. The story is basically that of Cain and Abel. I had Lloyd Bridges read the entire story from the Bible. It sets up that sibling rivalry, and then it carries over into the next generation in a different way. The essence of 'East Of Eden' is 'thou mayest triumph over evil,' not 'thou shall triumph over evil.' James Dean as Cal in the movie had a feeling of guilt. He was haunted by 'bad blood.' He had his mother's blood, people told him. It gets him down. 

"But in the Bible the Hebrew word used is 'timshel.' It means 'thou mayest.' It gives the gift of free will to man. It was God's gift to Cain. That's what the book and the movie are all about – timshel." The 8 hours adaptation of John Steinbeck's novel recounted 3 generations of an American family from New England. Jane Seymour played Cathy, the one woman at the chilling centerpiece of their saga. 

In an interview with 'Gannett News Service' and 'Detroit Free Press', Jane Seymour made known, "In seeing the rough cuts of the programs, I literally couldn't recognize myself. I was shocked, to say the least, by my complete transformation into the character of Cathy. She is such a mixture of different characters and people in one that she gave me a wide range in which to play. The way I play her, she is very animalistic. Her instincts are very much like those of an animal. She is literally like a cat. 

"She is plotting, cunning, ruthless. She’ll kill when someone gets in her way. As a woman, she is a catalyst. She drives men to do strange things that change their lives. She comes into their lives and nothing is ever the same again. It is the best role I've ever come across in any medium (at the time). The minute I read the script for the first 2 hours, I knew I wanted this part. I instantly started reading the book and then saw the 1955 motion picture. I didn't want to do a repeat. I discovered that the film was based on only the last 100 pages. There is no duplication in the first 5 hours on television. 

"I also researched the journal Steinbeck kept while writing the book. This script adapted the book in such a way that she became human. You could understand why she did some of the things she did. I was fortunate. I had access to the journal John Steinbeck kept while he was writing the book so I could see where he was coming from and how he was affected by the woman. The character he wrote was rather two-dimensional in the novel, entirely evil and a total monster.

"The way I play her, she has many different dimensions. If I succeed, the audience will identify with some parts of her character. Every day I read whatever passages I was filming. I steeped myself in anything Steinbeckian I could find. In 'East Of Eden' I devised a particular accent for Cathy. Part of the time she's soft-spoken, almost Bostonian. The rest of the time she speaks standard American, which is what all actresses try to learn."

Cathy Ames, Jane Seymour related, "At 15 she seduces a school teacher and drives him to suicide, she burns her parents to death, she runs off to become a prostitute, becomes a mistress, knifes the man, marries, seduces her husband’s brother on the wedding night, tries to abort a pregnancy, shoots her husband, walks out on him and his twin sons, becomes a madam. 

"Cathy is a very complex, a very disturbed woman. I hope no one in the world is as horrifying – she's truly a monster – but we all have the same evil thoughts. In 'East Of Eden', Cathy starts out seeming an innocent young girl, but she’s actually evil. She uses her attributes to get people to do what she wants. By the end she's a very bitter old lady crippled by arthritis – paranoid, quite mad. She's unable to go out. She lives in a gray room, a coffin." 

After giving birth to twins, Cathy abandoned her children, "She was so filled with hate that it became something tangible. She has no control over her destiny to be a mother. She feels out of control of her life, and anger for the man she married." As an actress, "From the moment I arrive on a set, I become someone different. I become that person and play off what I feel as that person on the set. Actors are delicate creatures. Good actors are good actors because their feelings are so close to the surface. It is hard for them to switch off their feelings during the playing of a role."

In interviews with Dan Doran and Mabel Hill, Barney Rosenzweig reported, "The project for me began in the early '70s, when I learned that Warner Bros. no longer owned the rights to the Steinbeck novel. I had always loved the book, and began to put together a concept for a limited series – a series with a beginning, a middle and an end. No one was very interested at the time. I pulled back for a couple of years until ABC put on a program called the 'QB VII' (in 1974), which was a great success.

"I went to a network with the idea of doing 'East Of Eden' as the same kind of film, but they didn't want to remake a classic film even though the 1955 film covered only 20% of the book. It was discouraging. Then, finally, in 1977, ABC said 'yes' and 3 years later (in 1980) my dream became a reality." After he bought the film rights to 'East Of Eden' from the Steinbeck estate, Barney Rosenzweig initially approached NBC.

"I thought I had some pull there because I'd produced the 'Daniel Boone' series for them (1964-1970), which has been a big hit. I pitched it to the executive in charge of movies and he said, 'We don't want to remake a classic.' I said it wasn't a remake, but he wouldn't buy it. Two or 3 years went by and I went back to NBC. They'd just announced 'From Here To Eternity'. That was an example of a mini-series from the whole book after a movie had taken only part of it. But I was too late. They didn't want to do another. So I took it to ABC and they accepted it."

Richard Shapiro of 'Dynasty' wrote the screenplay, "Doing this script had advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is obviously that you have a good story to work with. The disadvantage, frankly, is that this is 'John Steinbeck's East Of Eden' adapted by that guy whose name flickered briefly across the screen. It didn’t bother me particularly in this case because, when I was young, I always wanted to grow up to be John Steinbeck. This is the next best thing for the moment.

"I was originally given 6 hours for the project, which expanded to 7 and then to 8 and could have gone more. Had I even more time, though, I would still have elected to cut it off and not use certain material. Novels are not screenplays. They are not self-contained and they are not structured in the same way. There were parts of the book which simply didn’t or shouldn’t have lent themselves to the kind of story we were going for. Steinbeck is different from most writers in that he’s more visual, much more dramatic, even melodramatic. This story particularly is a treasure trove of dramatic incidents. Actually, this story is more than good drama. It’s high melodrama. There are many wonderful things for a writer to work with."

Barney Rosenzweig reminded, "The message is the lack of communication between the generations. The sins of the father are repeated by the sons. In reading the screenplay and watching the film, what affects me the most are those scenes in which I realize that if the characters would just talk to one another or listen to each other, that their lives could be changed. Actually, the theme of the book can be translated into one word – timshel – but the audience will have to watch 8 hours to understand the meaning of that word."

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