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20th Century Fox and John Ford brought John Steinbeck's classic novel
to the screen and created a perfect movie.
Henry Fonda gives one of the truly great performances of any actor in the history of the movies and becomes Tom Joad. Fonda's performances conveyed Integrity and never more appropriate than in this film. I must also praise to high heaven the work of one of Hollywood's fabled character actresses Jane Darwell. Ms. Darwell conveys more emotion in some scenes than some actresses in a lifetime. Desperation, Loneliness, Futility, Darwell encompasses all the great values that make a Mother. Jane Darwell is Mother Courageous. Fonda and Darwell's parting scene is one of the most achingly memorable scenes in film History, if one cannot share their feelings one has to be made of stone. My only critique of the film is its ending.I would have preferred one more to the book than one that the great legendary John Ford delivered.
It is rare when the movie is as good as the novel from which it is adapted, but sometimes the stars align in just the right way and a masterpiece is created. That's this movie. John Ford is remembered for his westerns, but this is his finest work, by far, and he's not alone here. Watching Henry Fonda telling Jane Darwell "I'll be there," gives me goosebumps every time. One of the best actors this country ever produced, this performance is his absolute best in a career filled with memorable performances. Which brings me to John Carradine, the superb character actor. The subtlety of his characterization is so deft, you forget that you're watching a movie. You owe it to yourself to see the finest representation of a soon forgotten art of telling a story in black and white, literally. See this movie. You won't be disappointed!
For the adaptation of John Steinbeck's classic novel, the obvious
choice for director was probably not John Ford, who was at that time
best known for historical dramas. However, if the setting was not
typical John Ford then its themes of family relationships, community
spirit and social outcasts persevering in the face of all adversity
certainly were. It was also a task which members of Ford's stock
company of actors Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine and John
Qualen were more than suited to.
Considering it is a contemporary drama shot in black-and-white, the images in Grapes of Wrath are startling, from the opening shot of a distant Henry Fonda approaching a crossroads to Jane Darwell's close-up monologue with which the films closes. The director of photography was Greg Toland, one of the best in the business at the time. Combined with Ford's effortless talent for shot composition the results are among the finest images in black-and-white cinema.
Ford knows exactly when to edit and when to move the camera, usually for maximum emotional impact. In a scene where Ma Joad is burning some personal possessions in preparation to leave the farm, he cuts to a dirty mirror reflection of her. It's hard to explain how but it works perfectly. He also makes far more use of close-ups than is his norm, building up a greater level of intimacy and bringing the emotions to the fore. This occasionally makes the lengthy patches of dialogue seem a little corny, but this is often a problem with motion pictures adapted from novels which few directors have managed to get round successfully.
John Carradine performs in what was probably the best role of his life as the preacher Casey. He's cast completely against type (he usually played sinister villains), but he makes the role his own, creating a character who appears simple on the surface, but is full of down-to-earth wisdom and humanity underneath. There's also a small yet memorable appearance from another Ford regular, John Qualen, who gives a spirited performance as the farmer Muley. In what are some of the best scenes in the film he vents his anger and frustration at being turfed off his land, eventually breaking down until he's nothing but a ghost of his former self.
Despite Ford winning Best Director at the Academy Awards for Grapes of Wrath (one of only two Oscars it received), it's probably more a classic borne out of group effort than the vision of one man. For a start, the plot is sourced from a great novel, itself brilliantly adapted by Nunally Johnson. That is combined with a great cast of actors and of course Greg Toland's cinematography. Ford definitely felt more at home when making a western. Having said that, he was never someone to do a sloppy job, and I'm by no means suggesting his Oscar wasn't deserved, but that's not what makes this a memorable picture.
I was surprised at the depiction of brutality and misery in this great classic.Even more surprised that the director was John Ford.This must be his greatest film.Henry Fonda has gotten much credit for his portrayal of Tom Joad through the years and although he is marvelous, I think he has been better in some of his later films. One of the cinema's greatest supporting performances belongs to Jane Darwell as Ma Joad.She's simply magnificent and deserved the Oscar she got for her portrayal.There are some really harrowing scenes that show the misery of poverty and exploitation by the wealthy class.The stark photography by Gregg Toland underline the bleakness of existence in the great depression.One of the best movies I have seen,both thought-provoking and emotional.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is one of the most watchable old films I've ever seen, right up
with "Citizen Kane" and "12 Angry Men." Direction, Photography, and
acting all shine. The story is a little weak, as there's simply no way
to provide all the rich characterization and settings that Steinbeck
does in his novel. Because of that, the movie felt a little jumpy to
me, but all in all it is one of the best adaptations I have seen. Of
course, the ending is inadvisedly changed, but I don't think it's
reasonable to expect a Hollywood film from the 40s to end with a
stillborn baby and a woman breastfeeding a grown man, no matter how
symbolic the imagery is meant to be.
I have two complaints relating to discrepancies between the book and the movie. The first, as other reviewers have mentioned, is the total lack of explanation involving the disappearance of brother Noah. This left me very confused: in one scene, he is bathing with them in the river, and 2 scenes later they are down to "4 men." This strikes me as either an editing or scriptwriting problem, and one of the only flaws I noticed in the film. The other problem I had, which is strictly personal of course, is that Fonda's "Tom Joad" came across as more confrontational than he seemed in the book. This is evident in the first scene with the trucker, and later on the porch at the $.50 campsite. My vision of Tom Joad after reading the book was a more softspoken man, not as likely to confront someone directly but certainly not willing to back down once disrespected. Let me be clear in saying that I still think his performance was fantastic.
All in all, I would have liked to have seen maybe 20-30 minutes more of character development or plot points (from the novel) added, but that is just coming from someone who was blown away by the book, so take it for what it's worth.
I would also like to address those who object to the movie on political grounds, saying it's pro-communism, or that it's an exaggerated account of the Dust Bowl. It's well-known that Steinbeck was a Socialist bordering on Communist for at least this period of his life, so it makes sense that he would write a book lambasting unfettered capitalism and progress. Whether you are socialist or capitalist is really beside the point on an IMDb forum. I wouldn't even be surprised if he exaggerated events to further his point. But I maintain that none of these facts, if true, detracts from his theme of disadvantaged people maintaining hope and preserving their dignity in the face of injustice.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I had heard that 'The Grapes of Wrath' is a good movie. I watched it
and I found it indeed is. It's a very well cast, written and directed
film by John Ford. The movie is about a family from Oklahoma migrated
to California to find work during the great depression. I don't know
why we call it 'Great' depression rather than calling it 'worst'
depression or 'Devil' depression. I think humans are romantic about
misery and so all the brutes or incident which brought misery are
called 'Great' like Alexander the devil, Napoleon the devil and Devil
Depression of America (1929). I'm sure by the next century Hitler will
also be termed as 'Great' as by then probably western anti-communist
agenda would have subsided and people will find greatness in Hitler's
policies. Anyways. Henry Fonda- a Criminal by circumstances comes back
from jail on parole to his home during American economic depression
only to find his land is grabbed by capitalism and his family has moved
to his uncle's farm. He meets them there and as his uncle's farm is
also doomed they have no choice but to move towards the west to find
work. In rest of the film the whole family keeps moving from one place
to the other looking for work. The film has some very moving scenes
especially the one where family stops at a restaurant to buy bread. The
closeness of the family members, their relationship with each other is
shown beautifully. At one point I was really compelled to think they
are better off as at least they are together but from the next scene
onwards the family starts breaking into pieces. Staying away from the
family members is a curse of capitalism and this movie has depicted it
in a very formal way. People are just lost on the way. Husband leaves
his wife for a job. Uncle takes a dive into the water and asks others
to move on as he wants to live close to a river. How things become
direction less in a money oriented society is very well done here. Jane
Darwell as Ma Joad steals the show. Henry Fonda has never said a word
differently in any of his film so no point in discussing what he does
This is not a movie where you look for a story. Each and every scene is an anecdote for the people who have seen or have gone through the similar misery. It is a lesson for the future generation that the international conflict of 1914-1919 and 1939-1945 are no separate incidents. American, British and French postwar policies created global depression which resulted in unemployment and bringing communists in to power in Italy and Germany. The Great depression was a result of the First World War and a reason for the Second World War.
I must admit that when characters in the film picked up the mud and called it 'my land' I did not confuse it with 'the land we confiscated from Red Indians'. I'm sure Americans found the whole 'my land' thing very moving but I have read history carefully and could not forget that the same thing happened just a hundred years back and persecuted was a persecutor then. This movie came out in 1940-the Second World War had already started by then. America was still in shambles as Great FDR of Great America had still not looted Great Churchill of Great Britain in the name of help and became a Great American President. It seems movie won two well deserved Oscars for the director and best supporting actress. This movie was a big hit and Henry Fonda became a superstar overnight. The legend goes he reluctantly signed a seven years contract with universal just because of this movie. A must watch.
I first saw this movie in 1950 at the age of nine and it never meant much to me except make me sad. Later around twenty I saw it again but this time it filled me anger and rage. My life and outlook changed because of books and movies like this. The exploitation of the poor and working classes, man's inhumanity to man. History repeats itself, this time not in California but in China. We buy the cheap goods but forget the slave labor conditions that the peasants of these third world countries work under. Sorry I digress. The production of this movie was marvelous the acting earthy and with depth of emotion. It is tragic but it is real and people have an aversion to this reality because it interferes with the comfort zone. Then comes apathy and that equals complicity.
If you're not familiar with the Production Code Administration during
the time of this film, The Grapes of Wrath may lose a lot of its hidden
meanings. John Ford and cinematographer Gregg Toland wanted this film
to have a documentary feel (hence the type of shots used), and for the
most part, it accurately displays the realities of the depression.
However certain additions to the movie that separate it from the book,
including a totally different ending that neither Ford or Toland wanted
to add give the movie a contradictory feeling to it (thanks to the
The harsh struggles of the Joads throws the viewer into a world of desperation, mistreatment, and death. Anyone that saw this during it's original must have been moved, as for today's generation, it's hard to imagine the kind of destitution and difficulties the families of the depression endured. And as the viewer begins to sympathize with the Joad's situation, Ford throws a curve with how Tom Joad acts during a meeting with an lost friend.
While it's clear this movie had a political message in mind, the restrictions of the PCA almost ruin the ending, giving almost an opposite message that Ford had.
Technically, Toland is at his usual greatness, putting together shots that make the film appear so real that the viewer wants to step out of their seat and into the scene. While watching The Grapes of Wrath, it's easy for the viewer to forget the advantages of the life we live now and to step into the depression and feel the pain of the main characters.
I am in awe of this movie. As I continue to watch it, I am reminded of
the hardships our ancestors have had to face and how they have
suffered. I am reminded that life has not always been as easy as we
have it now but with hard work, the willingness to give of ourselves,
and the love of FAMILY, is what will continue to keep us from returning
to these hardships.
I must admit, I only recognize Mr. Fonda, However the acting and portrayals of each character are done wonderfully. I recommend this movie to everyone who needs to be reminded of how fortunate we are in this day and age.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
[MIGHT CONTAIN A SPOILER OR TWO]
I recently watched this movie and I found I liked
Henry Fonda was good as Tom Joad. Jane Darwell was good as Ma
Charley Grapewin was good as Grandpa. Everyone was good!
Although I thought the movie just wasn't as good as the book. But I always say, "The book is better when it's made into a movie." When you watch the movie, you can see things better. And the
movie ended differently than the book. I think we all know what happened at the end of the book: Rose of Sharon's baby was born, but it sadly never had a chance. I suppose that wasn't in the movie because it would be too dramatic and the film is dramatic enough. You could kind of get a view into the workings of the Joads' troubles. The whole country was in the Great Depression, but I don't see what was so great about it. Also, it wasn't Hoover's fault! It was Coolidge! Candy only cost a nickel. Today we say "only a penny". But back in the '30s, that was alot of money. A guy would be lucky to have that ammount back then. And the cars didn't have any of them newfangled things we have today (CD players, TVs, seat recliners, A/C). So I'd say those days were better than today, except for
the Depression. Anyway, about the movie. I hated those cops and deputies who kept picking on the Joads and when they arrested Casy. Those were tough times! In conclusion, I do wish the movie had ended the way the book had, and that Henry Fonda had gotten the Academy Award instead.
Also, Henry hosted a shotty All in the Family special where they showed clips from the show. It was shotty because Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton "would perform the theme song live"! Except they did it really fast. What a disrespect! But anyway, read the book or watch the movie, or do both!! You'll be glad you did. --
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