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The Grapes of Wrath More at IMDbPro »

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202 out of 220 people found the following review useful:

My experience of living the movie, its so true to life

10/10
Author: gene-mcdaniel from United States
28 November 2005

This movie is so real..at least to this person, who lived these things that happened in the movie. I will tell a short version of my personal life to let you know how it affected me from my own experience of growing up in the Thirties

I think their must have been more then one car because ours was full of stuff in the back seat, clear up almost to the roof. Frankie, Bill and me (my brothers) all was on top of the stuff in the back seat, had to stay lying down was not enough room to set up. What I remember most about the trip was it was awful hot when we went through Arizona and we had not much water, the water we had was in a canvas bag, hooked to the front bumper to help keep it cool. We did not get much because dad was saving it for the car when the car got to hot. Mom told us to suck on pebbles, and we did. It was a bad time every where. No jobs or anyway to make any money.

We were going to California because their was suppose to be some picking work their, after we got to California we saw miles of potatoes all loose piled up high my guess would be about six feet high, they had put lime or something that looked like lime it was a white powder to keep people from taking them to eat.

We found a place to pick plums that they used to make prunes and we lived in a Quonset hut made of corrugated metal setting on a concrete slab. The public toilets were near were we stayed, Joe and his wife (Family friends)had their own Hut…this was the time that dad & Joe would sell tickets for people to watch them box each other in a ring at the recreation hall on the property. Also they joined a baseball team and played baseball, dad played left field. We got to watch them play for free.

Seems like Frankie and I played together a lot don't think Bill did because he was still a baby his self, Doris and Dorothy (my sisters) was still crawling so Bill could not have been very old at that time. Frank & I would go pick up plums off the ground and we would bring them home, Doris and Dorothy would set in the box and eat them. You can guess what they would look like when mom and dad got home, their was no air condition back then so they would take a hose and squirt water on the tin Quonset hut to try and cool it off some, I know when we went west we looked like those grapes of wrath folks in the movie.

That area was the first time I ever saw a frog walk, it was to hot for them to hop, when they tried to hop their bellies would touch the ground ( gravel) and would burn them, any way that's what we thought at that time. I saw the movie of Grapes of wrath a long time ago, and I remember it so well, I cried most of the time it was on because it reminded me of the hard time we all had back then, I was born in Oklahoma and it was just a terrible time in the late thirties I would love to see the movie again, its to me a history of my family, I am 71 1/2 years old now and still remember it very clearly.

Gene McDaniel

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93 out of 108 people found the following review useful:

John Ford's stark portrayal of a poor family in the depression remains one of the most moving films in history.

10/10
Author: Michael DeZubiria (wppispam2013@gmail.com) from Luoyang, China
13 February 2001

The Grapes of Wrath is the story of the Joad family, who are run off of their land in Oklahoma because of drought and poverty. I think that one of the most striking elements of this movie is the black and white cinematography. Obviously, there wasn't a lot of variation on this particular subject in 1940, but especially today, the lack of color enhances the feelings of poverty and desperation and emptiness due to the family's loss of their home. In this way, because it would not be nearly as noticeable in 1940 as it is today, this time-enhanced effect of the black and white film stock has allowed for the film's impact to actually grow with time.

Henry Fonda plays the part of Tom Joad, a young member of the family who is released from prison at the beginning of the film, only to find that his family has been driven from their home and is staying at his uncle's house until they can figure out what to do about their sudden homelessness. It is by pure coincidence that Tom was released early on good behavior, otherwise he may very well never have seen his family again. He finds them in a state of near desperation, as they begin more and more to realize the predicament that they are in. Their trek across half of the country, on their way to California to assume jobs that they've heard about, provides for a substantial portion of the plot and is extremely well-structured.

The family encounters every hardship imaginable on this journey, from family members dying to their struggle to feed themselves to their rickety old truck constantly breaking down. They run into disillusioned people who claim that they've been to California and there are really no jobs there, at least not nearly as many as there are people going to look for them. They are periodically and derogatorily referred to as `Okies,' a term which places them in a broad category of poor folks driven from there homes in middle America who are traveling to the coast to get jobs that aren't there. There is so much doubt and hardship presented that it is never really certain whether they really will find jobs. The audience is never able to assume a happy ending, because there is so much contrary foreshadowing throughout the film.

The struggles do not abate once the family reaches California and takes up shaky residence in residential areas that would be more accurately referred to as shanty towns, and the rest of the film is dominated by the family's efforts to survive in a new and unfamiliar place, while working for wages that are barely sufficient to prevent starvation. Ma Joad spends the majority of the film stressing the importance of keeping the family together, seeing it as the only thing that they really had left, but this is eventually set aside in favor of each member of the family not only surviving but also flourishing, which provides for one of the many powerful messages that the film delivers.

The Grapes of Wrath is not exactly an edge of your seat film, but it is a shockingly realistic portrayal of the suffering that so many people and families experienced during the Great Depression. The performances are flawless, and the experience is not only powerful and moving but also educational. It's no secret that most people do not watch movies to learn, but there comes a point, at least once in a great while, when a person should watch a film that requires a little mental thought processing, and in such cases, The Grapes of Wrath is an excellent choice.

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69 out of 83 people found the following review useful:

A marvellous production of Steinbeck's epic.

10/10
Author: Neil Dennis (neildennis@hotmail.com) from London, England
5 January 1999

Henry Fonda's portrayal of Tom Joad captures perfectly the humanity and compassion of the Steinbeck character, an ex-con who breaks his parole conditions by joining his family in their epic journey across the southern US to a "better life" in California.

This is not the usual Hollywood fare. Tragedy and betrayal beset the Joad family from the outset. But it is nonetheless an uplifting movie. Spirit, compassion and tenderness mark them out. Fonda's role is particularly understated, and we see, as in Steinbeck's masterly epic, the maternally robust figure of Ma holding the family together.

The performances all round are wonderful, and Ford's direction and sense of space under the big sky of the Midwest is breathtaking.

This film is now largely a testament to the time in which it was set, but like the war movies that were soon to follow, a story that needed telling lest we forget.

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54 out of 64 people found the following review useful:

Economic Dislocation

10/10
Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
1 October 2006

John Ford's film of John Steinbeck's novel has deservedly a classic film mirroring the views of both men and the times the book was written and filmed. Ford won his second Oscar for Best Director and Jane Darwell was the Best Supporting Actress of 1940.

For most of America the Depression started with the stock market crash of 1929. But for the farmers it really began at the end of World War I. Those were good years for agriculture, the war in Europe was a boom for agriculture. But when farm prices dropped after the Armistice, a whole lot of family farms went belly up. Lots of people left the farms for the big city and industry jobs. The Depression years unhappily coincided with some of the worst drought ever seen in America.

This is what many families like the Joads were facing in 1939 when the book was written. The banks had foreclosed on land that had withered to dust in any event. Folks like the Joads picked up and moved elsewhere, like California on a rumor of prosperity and jobs.

America was still changing from an agricultural to an industrial society back then. That causes a lot of trouble for people unskilled in any industrial job training. As a country we're going through something similar today in many areas. We're moving from an industrial to an information based economy. Industry jobs are being lost to other nations and older and poorer workers are suffering for it. It's progress I guess, but it takes its toll.

Some factory worker who has lost his job for any number of reasons can identify to some degree with the Joads, especially if they've lost a home they owned. For the Joads it was worse because they made their living off the land for many generations, identifying with it in a way that industrial workers could not.

Henry Fonda got his first Oscar nomination for Tom Joad. To get the part which he knew he was so right for, he signed a studio contract with 20th Century Fox. That caused him many problems later on, but those are stories for another film review.

Tom Joad is a midwest country kid, a whole lot like Fonda himself. Part of the story of The Grapes of Wrath is Tom himself trying to figure out why these economic forces are crushing him and his family and the way of life he's known. In the end when he leaves the Joad family and hits the open road, he's not got all the answers, but he's asking the questions. Tom hasn't figured it out, but a lot of people with many letters after their names haven't either. He only knows that he's got to get in the fight for economic justice.

Jane Darwell was in films from the earliest silent films to Mary Poppins in 1965. This became her career part and the mother role of all time. She's what holds the Joad family together in good times and bad. That's what moms do and get little recognition for it. Except in this case by the Motion Picture Academy.

John Carradine has his career part in this also. Another John Ford favorite, Carradine plays Casy the defrocked preacher who as he tells it disgraced himself with a female parishioner. After that preaching the gospel didn't seem quite right. When Fonda meets Carradine after Fonda's been released from prison, Carradine is asking a lot of questions about what is man's place in the metaphysical scheme of things. He's developing what we would now call situational ethics. Carradine's questions are on a higher plane, but he certainly inspires Fonda to ask for some answers himself.

The Grapes of Wrath illustrates that at least government can give first aid in a crisis. After being in privately run agricultural camps where they're treated like less than dirt, the Joads happen upon a camp run by the Department of Agriculture where at least they're treated like humans. As it turns out, the Secretary of Agriculture was one Henry A. Wallace who was running for Vice President that year with Franklin D. Roosevelt. I'll bet any number of people saw The Grapes of Wrath and saw a message of support for FDR and the New Deal.

Given some of the problems of the American economy today, The Grapes of Wrath though it appears dated isn't really all that much a relic of our past. It's both a timeless book and a timeless classic film.

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47 out of 56 people found the following review useful:

Not the Book, But Beautiful in Its Own Right

9/10
Author: evanston_dad from United States
10 February 2006

It's difficult on a first viewing of "The Grapes of Wrath" not to be somewhat disappointed with it. So much of Steinbeck's beautiful novel is left out of the film, and it's hard to see his story and characters wedged into the "gee whizz" style of film-making so prevalent at the time. But once you get beyond a comparison of the movie to the book, you begin to realize that John Ford created a beautiful piece of work of his own, and the film inspires a great deal of admiration, and deserves credit for its gutsiness at tackling a story that wouldn't have gone down smoothly with film executives at the time.

Of course the most controversial parts of the book are left out (like its final image, for example), but Ford still managed to work around the constraints forced upon him to fashion a hard-biting film. Henry Fonda is perfect casting for Tom Joad--never have his otherworldly eyes been used to greater effect. And Jane Darwell is pitch-perfect as Ma Joad--she captures the tough-as-nails dignity that the character has in the novel. The whole movie is lit by expert cinematographer Gregg Toland, who uses shadow and reflection to cast a ghostly pall over everything. Indeed, much of what Ford wasn't able to include in the film as words he communicates instead through images, and isn't that what a good book-to-film adaptation should do? One of those films that feels ahead of its time.

Grade: A

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52 out of 69 people found the following review useful:

A Triumph in Record Time

10/10
Author: RHKLWK
18 May 2002

They say that you should wait 20 or 30 years before attempting to capture an historical event on film. That is why it was remarkable that Oliver Stone was able to capture the "feel" of Viet Nam (in "Platoon") so soon (13 years) after America's withdrawal. Usually, an honest perspective takes more time to develop.

But, when you consider that John Steinbeck and John Ford needed less than ten years to bring the 1932 "dust bowl" to life, you really have to admire their magnificent achievement.

Of course, in 1940, Ford could not film much of the graphic squalor described in the novel. For example, the film cannot show a starving hobo suckling at the breast of a young Rose of Sharon, who has milk to spare following the death of her baby. But, far from degradation, Rose of Sharon's gesture is a reflection of the goodness that resides within her, and that quality is well illustrated in the character development seen on the screen. Tom Joad may be an ex-con, but he is a good man.

One of the commentaries (below) uses this film to rant about the exploitation in today's society. That completely misses the point. Ford, who was as conservative as anyone in Hollywood, even more conservative than John Wayne, used this movie to show that Man can triumph, despite the natural and human barriers that are put in his way.

This is ultimately a movie about hope and the human spirit.

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38 out of 49 people found the following review useful:

A compelling story of a family trying to survive the hardship of great depression era.

10/10
Author: ali ilyas (mianaliilyas786@hotmail.com) from Lahore, Pakistan
4 April 2006

One of the best movies Hollywood ever produced and yes it's true that "The Grapes of Wrath" is one of those movies which don't loose their lust in many years. Released in 1940 and till now this movie is as fresh as it can be. John Ford directorial version of John Steinbeck's finest work really worth a watch.As from the release of the book "Grapes of Wrath" has been seiged with controversies as the book was banned in many states but the book is great proponent of hardship. This movie mesmerizes you from the start as the characters are indulged with true humanitarian instincts, you won't feel any thing irrelevant.Henry Fonda is very much compelling in the role of young Todd and Jane Darwell won best supporting actress in magnificent portrayal of Mama Todd. All the other cast was fine and convincing in their roles .John Ford won another best director award from this and its no doubt the best deserving from his other achievements .In the end it's a treat and you wont be able to forget its impact for a long time.

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20 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

A masterpiece...

10/10
Author: José Luis Rivera Mendoza (jluis1984) from Mexico
4 May 2007

During most of the decade of the 30s, the United States lived under the shroud of the Great Depression, a decade of unemployment and high poverty that would changed the face of the country forever. While the entire country suffered the effects of the Depression, the inhabitants of the prairie lands had to face an extra difficulty: the Dust Bowl. The Dust Bowl was a terrible ecological disaster that destroyed many farms in the area of the Great Plains, and forced people to migrate looking for better working conditions. The difficulties and social problems that those migrants had to endure in this sad chapter of history became the inspiration for John Steinbeck's novel, "The Grapes of Wrath", a book that quickly became a classic due to its powerful depiction of the era. Soon after it's release, plans for a film adaptation began to be made, and the man who would bring the novel to the screen would be none other than John Ford.

In "The Grapes of Wrath", Henry Fonda plays Tom Joad, a young man recently paroled from prison who is traveling to his family home in Oklahoma. When he arrives, he discovers that the farm is deserted and the only person he can find is Jim Casy (John Carradine), the former preacher of his community. Together they decide to go to the house of Tom's uncle John (Frank Darien) looking for the Joads, and it's there where they find them packing their belongings as they get ready to move. The Joads explain Tom that the bank has foreclosed their farm, and that they are moving to California looking for work and a better life. While he is not supposed to leave the state by the conditions of his parole, Tom decides to join his family and convinces Jim to go with them in the long and arduous trip to California. However, things won't be as easy as they thought they would.

Adapted to the screen by Nunnally Johnson, "The Grapes of Wrath" takes on the spirit of John Steinbeck's novel and delivers a harsh, crude and very realistic portrayal of poverty during the Dust Bowl. Despite not being an exactly faithful adaptation of the novel (changes were done due to censorship), the movie remains true to that powerful and very human essence that the novel had, and it could be said that Johnson distilled the themes of the novel and made an unabashed story free of any political compromises. While this kind of stories often suffer literary embellishments, "The Grapes of Wrath" avoids stereotypes and shows humanity as it is, with all their vices and virtues. It is the excellent development of the main characters what gives that very human touch to the story, as it really shows a real understanding not only of Steinbeck's novel, but also of the real social situations that inspired the book.

In 1939, John Ford was in one of the best periods of his career, having directed "Stagecoach", "Young Mr. Lincoln" and "Drums Along the Mohawk" in less than 12 months. "The Grapes of Wrath" would also be shot the same year, being the culminating work of that extraordinary series of masterpieces. While Ford was better known for his legendary westerns and larger-than-life heroes, "The Grapes of Wrath" was in many levels a very personal movie for him, so he basically took Steinbeck's novel and completely made the story his own. Framed by Gregg Toland's wonderful cinematography, Ford brings to life the Joads' story in a way that mixes his own style with a focus so realistic that almost feels like a documentary. Without excessive sentimentalism, Ford tells in this movie a very human tale of survival, so universal that could easily be related to any group of people migrating due to poverty.

While Ford and Toland deserve a lot of the credit, the movie wouldn't be the same without the extraordinary performances of the cast. Leading the cast is Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, delivering one of his best works of acting in his portrayal of the young man. Considering his performance in Ford's "Young Mr. Lincoln", one could say that Fonda's career reached legendary status under Ford's direction. While Fonda's work is worthy of praise, two actors actually manage to overshadow him in this movie: Jane Darwell and John Carradine. As the idealist preacher Jim Casy, Carradine makes a terrific job in what's probably the story's most interesting character, completely embodying Casy's persona in an atypical role for him. Like Carradine, Jane Darwell makes a wonderful job (probably her finest) as Ma Joad, and without a doubt she truly deserved that Academy award she received for her performance.

As written above, the movie has several considerable differences with the novel (specially the second half), so fans expecting a complete translation of the book will be a bit disappointed. However, Johnson and Ford did a wonderful job in the adaptation than while considerably different beasts, both the movie and the novel carry the same spirit and the message that Steinbeck tried to give in his book. Interestingly, producer Darryl F. Zanuck also saw the film as a personal project and certainly his involvement helped the movie to get away from censorship as most as possible. While the film has indeed some flaws (most famously the sudden and unexplained disappearance of a minor character), it's hard to diminish its value due to them, as the beauty of its craft is so big that they can be easily dismissed.

With a haunting atmosphere, a beautiful visual composition, and superb performances by his actors, Ford created one of the first masterpieces of the 40s and one of the finest American movies ever made. While already a celebrated director by the time of its release, this movie consolidated Ford as a master of his craft. Despite their differences, John Ford's "The Grapes of Wrath" truly carries the spirit of Steinbeck's novel, as well as the ghost of Tom Joad. 10/10

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27 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

The First Great Film of a Great Decade for the Cinema.

Author: tfrizzell from United States
8 June 2002

"The Grapes of Wrath" was a huge novel so it only made sense to turn it into a feature motion picture. The result is one of the greatest films ever produced. Oscar-nominee Henry Fonda, his mother Jane Darwell (Oscar-winning) and their family have had it in the Dust Bowl. Thus they decide to leave the midwest of our nation's Great Depression and go to California. The film is an intensely dramatic affair that is first-rate in all cinematic departments. John Ford won his second Best Director Oscar with this movie and the landscape of the late-1920s and early-1930s has never been captured more fully. Excellent film-making. 5 stars out of 5.

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18 out of 23 people found the following review useful:

Fine Cast & Production

Author: Snow Leopard from Ohio
26 October 2004

This classic adaptation of "The Grapes of Wrath" features a fine cast as well as a skillful production headed by director John Ford. Henry Fonda and Jane Darwell are well-remembered for their roles, which are among the defining roles in their careers. The only limitations that it has come from the original novel, with its heartfelt but sometimes contrived story.

Besides Fonda and Darwell, the supporting cast features plenty of good supporting players, including Charley Grapewin and John Carradine. All of them make their characters come alive believably. They also fit together well and complement one another's performances, which accentuates the themes involved in the struggles of the Joad family.

For all that the Steinbeck novel is so revered, and for all that his story is an often compelling depiction of its characters, with whom many in the era could identify, it would have been better if it had not been so heavy-handed. Even given that the times were bad, more balance in the characters outside of the family, and in the Joads' experiences, would have made it an even better story. Certainly, this is barely even noticeable when compared with the stories in many present-day movies and novels, which often dispense with any attempts at plausibility.

And that does not stop this adaptation from being a worthwhile and often moving film. Ford clearly appreciated the potential in the material, and he and the cast work together to make each character count, and to give meaning to each scene.

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