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During the school year my teachers showed us the Grapes of Wrath about 5 times within a week! And of course a bunch of 13 year olds are going to get tired of it. But not me. I think Henry Fonda was a great actor. He played Tom Joad great. Seeing The Grapes of Wrath made me want to see more of his movies. This is a really good movie.
growing up in oklahoma in the 1930s just rt 66 i saw a lot of cars and trucks just like movie. we had a farm so we had food to eat, the joads were a good subject of the problems of the 1930s. it should be required viewing for todays i want it all world.
It's a classic. Henry Fonda is at his best and so is John Ford. They work very well together and show us what a great movie is all about. The movie is great, even if it have no special effects and a not so punching story. It's all about the acting and the way it goes trough your heart. It's a very poignant movie.
The Grapes of Wrath was the very best film of John Ford's long and
career. He was one of the top directors Hollywood has had. Henry Fonda
one of the all-time best acting performances as Tom Joad, a role that made
him a big star.
This movie is an amazing accomplishment, probably my favorite movie ever. The story, the acting, Ford's direction all flawless. The Grapes of Wrath would have to be considered among the very best films ever made.
John Ford's brilliant depiction of American life in the West during the Great Depression is a rare example of the movie being as good as the book ( "The Great Gatsby" and " A Tale of Two Cities" are among the few others), and that's saying something. Author Steinbeck always attempted to be a contributing part to movie adaptations of his work, and apparently was satisfied with Ford's rendition.
Often cited as a prime example of 'The Great American Novel', John
Stienbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" was hailed more for tackling
unpalatable political truths at a time when the nation as a whole would
rather have buried its head in the sand, than for its literary merits,
though they are many. In filming the book in 1940 producer Darryl F
Zanuck and director John Ford pulled no punches; even seventy years on
this extraordinary film still has the power to shock as American moves
ever closer to the possibility of recession: it is just as relevant
today as it ever was.
It's about the Great Depression, essentially about the Oakies forced off their land, initially by nature itself, thereafter by the banks which took over their share-holdings, and about their migration to California. It's a bleak, harrowing film with no real happy ending. Speeches by Tom Joad and his mother about 'how he'll be there when ever there is a fight so hungry people can eat' or about how 'they can't lick us 'cause we're the people' may have the whiff of optimism but 'not licking us' isn't quite the same as putting bread on the table. Consequently, the film's success has largely been critical and while Ford and Jane Darwell won Oscars the film itself was overlooked in favour of "Rebecca", (an oversight rectified the following year when Ford's far inferior "How Green Was My Valley" won Best Picture).
In the hands of a lesser director it is unlikely the film would have been quite so grim. It's certainly not flawless; there is a penchant for Fordian sentimentality and the characters of Grandpa and Grandma never rise above caricature, but it's still remarkably faithful to Stienbeck's original and thanks, in the main, to Gregg Toland's superb black and white cinematography a good deal of it has the look of a documentary.
It is also very well acted. John Qualen's Muley is a beautifully etched study in despair and John Carradine has one of his best roles as 'The Preacher' who finds himself in the unlikely role of a union leader. At the centre, of course, are two great performances. Henry Fonda brings his gangly, liberal integrity to the part of Tom Joad which fits him like a glove while Darwell's stoic, Mother Courge of a Ma Joad rises above the sentimentality and the penchant for caricature into the realms of the truly tragic.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For a motion-picture made in 1940, this one gets the depression
probably more on-target than I have seen in any American work (Bound
for Glory might be a short bit behind). This is due to two factors, one
a little more obvious than the other. Steinbeck's book (still, sadly,
unread by me, though other works like the Pearl are amazing on their
own) is called the definitive account of the poverty-stricken
mid-American experience in the depression, and it probably is. It
allows for a very literary sensibility to form about such an American
family like the Joads, who are the kind of folk that you'd think, if
there wasn't immediate cynicism to be had with the like, politicians
would be addressing first and foremost in speeches as the 'working man'
and 'American family'. Sadly ironic then that the film had controversy
for depicting some of California as corrupt, and that years later there
would be charges on John Ford and Steinbeck of being
un-American/communist for their respective work. Steibeck knew what he
was doing, that's the short of it.
The second part is that Ford and David O. Selznick had such faith and dedication to the material in making it so straightforward that none of the possible melodramatic fat would be noticeable. This is so pure a work of American familial drama that any sense of sentimentality seems to be stripped away (as opposed to sentiment, there is a difference, as also noted by Scorsese re: Paths of Glory). Considering the cast, such as stars Henry Fonda and John Carradine- plus the quietly scene-stealing performance of Jane Darwell- it almost has the feel here and there of (pre) neo-realism, at least as far as Hollywood could take it. There's such a matter-of-factness to the turns that are taken with the Joads on their journey across the southwest to California- the bulldozers, Tom coming home after killing a man, the deaths of grandpa and grandma (the latter just in time to see California), and the subsequent trials and tribulations of working on near slave wages, that it builds the drama unexpectedly. You want the Joads to keep on going because they've earned the emotional investment honestly.
Only towards the very end, perhaps, does a tinge of the alleged communist &/or socialist stuff leak in, but it's not without some reason. By the time Tom Joad (Fonda) has gone through what's happened, his eyes have grown more empathetic than ever for those around him. His final speech, however full of the low-key gusto that calls out for attention, is effective because of what it means for the character, not even so much for the society at large. What's preceded this spirit for the working man has been very simple, the kind of style that many fans of the movies love Ford's work. It's a road movie essentially, and the story keeps on moving along to point after point that hits home what the Joads, and for that matter other families who've ventured out to California, have to deal with. And while there are some scenes where Ford and his DP Greg Toland move the story along in some stylistic flourishes (i.e. the montage of signs and roads, and the bulldozers in the flashback), the script doesn't allot for any time to take any more breathing room than necessary.
And as far as an adaptation- even without reading the book- it's quite wonderful, particularly where one can see that a scene or a moment that probably had profundity in the wording is given an equal amount of emotional weight by what isn't said (the example I'd give is before the Joads leave Oklahoma, the night before, as Ma is in the house by herself, the somber accordion music in the background, as she looks at old pieces of memories and throwing them bit by bit into the fire- all around it's a masterful scene). And on top of there being a sense of truth in the source to screen (with, of course, the necessary cuts and omissions for 1940 production code standards), the performances are golden. Fonda was rarely better, exemplifying all that was good naturally to him as a persona into his character (this and 12 Angry Men his quintessential socially conscious 'Average-joe' performances); Darwell, as mentioned, takes up the screen in her role of a career; Carradine skates between being truly dramatic and campy, and comes off as, simply, intense.
It's a gripping saga, and it may even surprise those who are expecting it to be an 'old-fashioned' tale of dust-bowl suffering during the depression. It is actually old-fashioned, in the most honorable way a picture from the period can be. A++
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
At first glance John Ford, a life-long conservative Republican, might seem an odd choice to direct the film of one of the most famous social protest novels in American history. The assignment was a success because Ford approached the novel more from the viewpoint of its human drama than its ideology. There simply isn't a more beautiful black and white film in the American canon. Gregg Toland's cinematography is exquisite; it's no wonder he went on to shoot "Citizen Kane" and "The Best Years of Our Lives." Except for the fact that it uses well-known stars instead of non-professional actors, "The Grapes of Wrath" has in embryonic form all the stylistic hallmarks of Italian neorealism. Henry Fonda gives the performance of his life as Tom Joad, and Jane Darwell won a well-deserved Oscar for her portrayal of Ma Joad, the eternally stoic earth mother who keeps the family together in the face of insurmountable odds. My favorite character, though, is the renegade preacher, Jim Casy, played by John Carradine at the height of his acting career before his eventual slide into grade-Z horror and exploitation movies. The film's depiction of the persecution and oppression the Oakies faced in their epic trek to California is especially relevant in connection with the plight of undocumented workers in present-day America.
...Well, as starkly realistic as Hollywood could get in the 1940's.
Ford's adaptation of Steinbeck's amazing social novel is terrific. The atmosphere of the source material is brilliantly maintained. The thing that impressed me most was that the film wasn't glossed over in the Hollywood studio-style. Yes, there are some omissions in the plot to comply with the Hayes Code, but it's still very dark and realistic. The hungry children rummaging through the waste piles for a sliver of food is shockingly compelling, as are the machines sent out to destroy the farmer's houses, crushing them easily as the onlookers watch in disbelief. It feels authentic.
Henry Fonda is perfectly cast as Tom Joad, the hero of the tale. Fonda's underplaying and sense of the 'everyman' suit his character perfectly. The supporting cast are terrific, and they are not glossed-over, either. Jane Darwell appears to have just jumped off the pages of Steinbeck's epic as Ma Joad. So many families made the journey from the Mid-West to California, the land of supposed 'milk and honey' (which the Joad's find out is not true), but the Joad's struggle feels very personal to us.
Very depressing in content- I had to watch this film in portions simply because it overwhelmed my emotions so completely. But the Great Depression was an awful event in America's history, and it's portrayed so accurately here. Students should watch this at school to realize how lucky they've got it now, and how dangerous it would be to fall into a recession once again (it would be different now, but still have the same effect on morale). This is draining to watch, but ultimately uplifting. Ford's direction is always convincing; Steinbeck's great work is in fine hands. The black-and-white photography emphasises the bleakness and realism.
Evicted from there land in Oklahoma, victimized by the double whammy of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, the Joad family loads up their dilapidated truck and makes the journey to California, joining thousands of others in the westward migration, seeking work as pickers in the California groves. John Ford doesn't let us forget what it's like to be destitute as the film details the belittling attitudes they endure at every stop along the way, eating away at whatever pride they have left. And when the torturous journey claims the life of Noah Joad (Frank Sully), the eldest of the family, his haunting and memorable burial along the side of the road provides one of the film's most riveting scenes. Clear social and economic distinctions, police brutality, Red baiting, blatant injustice, and the glimmer of hope offered by the New Deal are all mixed up to make this epic saga of an American family.
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