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This hyped classic has a number of problems seldom acknowledged by
reviewers and serious film historians. Only the first 45 minutes or so
take place in Oklahoma. Well over half the plot is set either on the
road or in California. This is a curious plot structure for a film
Very few of the Oklahoma scenes were actually filmed in Oklahoma. Indeed, the Joad farmstead and surrounding landscape look nothing at all like Oklahoma; these scenes were all filmed in California. In point of fact, John Steinbeck was born and raised in California. His novel is based on second-hand information, distorted even more by a Hollywood cinema machine interested only in money.
Viewers have come to assume, implicitly, that Steinbeck's book is factual. It is not. The story is fiction. The Joad clan is fictional. Their journey to California is fictional. The specific worker camps are fictional. The only elements of the film that are based on truth are the era setting and the struggles that most people from the Great Plains endured during the 1930s. That part is real.
There was genuine hardship and suffering. But it's a mistake to assume that everyone who migrated to California during that period were as destitute as the Joads. I personally have ancestors who lived in Oklahoma in that era; some moved; some stayed in Oklahoma, but none were indigent. The Joad's decrepit car is a symbol of the film's visual misrepresentation, in addition to the fake Oklahoma landscape.
The exaggerated impoverishment of script characters results from a Hollywood establishment eager to send a political message about social class inequity, a way to manipulate viewer perceptions. But the downside to that manipulation is that it has had a profoundly negative effect on Oklahoma and other Great Plains states in the subsequent sixty years. The resulting cultural bias against these dust bowl states has caused damage that far surpasses the damage done by nature and the economy. Such is the power of Hollywood and the gullibility of viewers to trust filmmakers.
That said, the film's B&W cinematography is quite good. The story is rendered mournfully bleak, largely as a result of Gregg Toland's use of wide-angle lenses and dim lighting. The song "Red River Valley" is ideal for the locale and era. I also like the absence of actors' makeup, which adds a subtle touch of realism. Casting is acceptable and so is acting, except for the two most elderly of the Joads (Grandpa and Grandma), who overact dreadfully. Their portrayal of old people is insulting.
I consider "The Grapes Of Wrath" a Hollywood sacred cow, critically untouchable. But Steinbeck and Hollywood combined to do far more damage to the dust bowl states than the hardships that actually occurred. The cultural residue this film has left has been most unfortunate.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Grapes of Wrath really had a great message to get across to America. This movie is full of political and social meaning. Its a very emotion packed film taking place during the depression in the 1930's. THis movie is till very much relevant to this day in its economic message to a struggling country. This film touches your heart and you truly feel for the poor farmers. This movie had great cultural significance but is not aesthetically pleasing. The acting and dialog are shaky and do not keep you interested. I would find myself straying off because some of the rants seemed irrelevant. The whole film has a gloomy feel to it.
Forget the politics behind the stories of Steinbeck or the politics of
films of Ford. What truly lies at the center of this classic American
film is not a socialistic message but rather a universal message; one
that says that all people suffer in one way or another and it is the
defiance and resistance that separates us from anyone else and our
ability to choose not to take this lying down.
The story is well-known: the Joad family is forced off their Oklahoma farm along with thousands of other Dust Bowl victims and decide to move to California in search of jobs and wages. Along the way they encounter kindness, hatred, peace and anger. There are times when the tribulations they face in California are more difficult than trying to survive in the Midwest, but push on they do led by the recently-paroled Tom, played quietly and most effectively by the great Henry Fonda. Jane Darwell won an Oscar for her role as the mother who also does her best to try and keep the fit together despite serious situations that could force them apart. Every other role is well-cast and adds a rich realistic tone to this movie that only makes you feel even more for these people who are just trying to get by each day, hoping for some sort of break or providence as a sign.
I can see how this was such a politically-charged story but I don't think Ford intended that to be the priority of the film. Rather, I think it can all be summed up in the words of the two gas attendants early in the film. One says he thinks Okies have no feelings because no human would live like they do. Really, he was complimenting them as they believed the same way and this whole movie is about them attempting to rise above that which they were previously part of and become part of something better or at least more substantial. All this because they're the people.
The Grapes of Wrath is one of those great American classics that
manages to get on most of the big lists. With that in mind, I was
expecting a minor let-down because of all the great things I'd heard
about it. Yesterday I had one of those rare experiences watching a film
where all of my expectations were met and exceeded.
I found myself mesmerized by the people in the story; I wanted them to succeed. The Grapes of Wrath is a depressing film, which I knew coming in, but I was surprised by the little instances within the film where kindness was shown. In a film peopled by crooked cops and harsh times, it was refreshing to see these acts of kindness and integrity.
The lighting in the film was also superb. In the opening scene where Tom is in his old house at night it really looks like it's at night. And in another scene, where he has a candle at night, it looks real. I know The Grapes of Wrath is the text-book example of natural lighting, but there's a reason for that. :) And without spoiling anything, I love how the film ended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The Grapes of Wrath is a touching movie of poverty and how the Great Depression had an impact on families. Families had land taken away from them even though it was owned for over 50 years. Companies came in and took the land from families leaving them with no where to live. They struggled to feed their children. They had no choice but to leave their land and find a new home. Some traveled all the way across the country to find a new home. Lives were lost along the way due to illness or sickness. The darkness of the film gives you the realization of how depressing those times were. How some homes were occupied by 20 plus family members all trying to survive. The way that individuals had to suffer to get to a free land of living was gloomy situation. The part when the kids were all playing in the dumpster and then fighting to get soup was real touching and portrayed the struggle of families trying to feed their children. People lived in tents and they got used to the struggle of survival. People just wanted to work and provide for his family and they worked for pennies just to feed their children. This movie helped me to realize the little things that we take for granted today. How land could be lifted up from under people and they were left with nowhere to go. Families that stick together can get through anything.
Maybe not the most thrilling movie ever made, but it's hard not to get
caught up in it. You just can't help but to feel for the plight of the
main characters, and follow them intently as they continuously journey
onward searching for hope and prosperity. In a rather grim fashion, the
characters are forced to confront disappointment, and ultimately
persecution and hardship at every turn.
This classic John Steinbeck story is perhaps as relevant now as it was back in the 30s; it serves to criticize the ideals of the American dream, and it proves quite effective as it documents the migration of displaced farmers and workers across the nation. The story is a journey that pushes the characters to extremes, and provides a fairly hellish view of the dustbowl in general. It's driven by a constant pattern, in which the characters come close to finding what they're looking for, and then having it snatched away from them. It's pretty bleak, but the characters remain endearing, especially with their endless conviction and motivation.
On film, the story is immortalized with excellent photography and editing. The acting is swell: Henry Fonda, John Carradine, and heck, just about everybody inhabit their characters quite well. The writing is superb. This production is loaded with good, real-looking sets, props, costumes, and locales. The music used is fitting.
Recommended! 4.5/5 (Entertainment: Good | Story: Perfect | Film: Very Good)
John Ford's 1940 classic, based on the novel of the same name by John
Steinbeck, is a great story showing the hardships farmers went through
during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, heading for the promise land of
California, but not without some trouble along the way.
I really enjoyed the performances (especially Henry Fonda's role as Tod, making him one of my favorite actors), the music was helpful in setting the mood, and the gritty cinematography made it look almost like a horror film since it dealt with human hardships. I'm glad that Mr. Ford won the Best Director Oscar, as well as the actress Jane Darwell, who played Mrs. Joed (she was the bird woman from Disney's Mary Poppins), receiving an Oscar too.
This film truly is a masterpiece, and one of the best films of the 1940s; give it a watch, and you won't be disappointed at all.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
From Oscar winning director John Ford (My Darling Clementine, The Quiet Man, Mister Roberts, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance), based on the book by John Steinbeck, this was a film from the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die that I was really going to try and focus on. Basically Tom Joad (Oscar nominated Henry Fonda) has returned home after serving four years in prison for killing a man, and he is joined on his journey by faithless former preacher Casy (John Carradine), and together they find the farm deserted. Tom finds his family who tell him that they were evicted, and the extended family of eight have to pack their things and set on the road to California, and there they hope to find work. The Grandpa (Charley Grapewin) dies from a stroke along the way on Route 66, and they have no choice but to bury his body on a roadside, and after being warned about the lack of jobs at their destination, Grandma (Zeffie Tilbury) dies also before they reach the border. They soon find a travelling camp populated by children, and a man and the sheriff do come offering the family members work, but with no indication of what the salary is, this man with the sheriff is trouble apparently. The sheriff killed the man, and Tom knocked out the sheriff before getting away, and the rest of the family keep travelling until the find a farm that needs workers, but it is suspicious for being surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. They earn very little money when they accept a job picking pears, and Tom walking around comes across Casy again who is planning a strike with fellow labourers, but then thugs kill Casy and gash Tom. The family move on again and find a US government camp which has much better living conditions, such as toilets and showers, but they are wary of thugs coming and need the sheriff to take control. Tom must go away because the sheriff is looking for him, and he leaves his mother, Ma Joad (Oscar winning Jane Darwell), thinking that she won't see him again, but she is hopeful about the future heading for work in the north. Also starring Dorris Bowdon as Rose-of-Sharon 'Rosasharn' Rivers, Russell Simpson as Pa Joad, O.Z. Whitehead as Al and John Qualen as Muley. Fonda is alright as the one who almost leads the family, and Darwell is indeed intriguing as the mother of the family who is tries to keep spirits up. I will be honest, I didn't really pay enough attention to or understand the plot, and I didn't really understand the leading character's heroism, I'd probably only see it the once, but there are some good moments, costumes and landscapes to just about keep you watching, a reasonably worthwhile classic period drama. It was nominated the Oscars for Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Sound and Best Writing, Screenplay. Tom Joad was number 12 on 100 Years, 100 Heroes & Villains, the film was number 21 on 100 Years, 100 Movies, and it was number 7 on 100 Years, 100 Cheers. Very good!
IMDb Top 250: 156
I can't think of too many films that show the hardships of the Depression off the top of my head, but surely The Grapes of Wrath (what an intriguing title) weighs equally to the entirety of all others. Based on a novel I haven't read, 'Grapes' follows the Joad family leaving to find work in California with their recently returned son and finding misery. This is a heavy film, a depression in a Depression.
I was excited by the prospect of seeing a John Ford film, because I associate him with two major things: beautiful cinematography and 'full' films, filled with themes and symbolism. I got the first one: dark, black and white photography, with breathtaking long shots and silhouettes, and faces appearing in darkness. The second was still there, but not as plentifully as his later films. However this is an adaptation, and thus Ford's leeway was quite constricted, plot and theme wise.
A film this bleak, with such a feeling of desperation (the wind sounds are chilling) needs desperate performances, and 'Grapes' delivers. Fantastic acting. Henry Fonda is just- wow. I recently saw The Philadelphia Story, and I can say Fonda's performance is far more deserving than Stewart's Oscar winning role. Tom Joad is hot-tempered yet caring: walking the fine line between cool and volatile. Fonda perfects the role and elevates the entire film with his honest performance. He is backed up by solid support, like Ma Joad and Casy. The Joad family is large, and we don't get to really meet most of them. I'm sure the book fleshes the characters out more, but I can only remember the names of Tom, Ma, Pa, and Roseasharon (?) Joad.
Like All Quiet on the Western Front, 'Grapes' teaches a solid history lesson. We see the 'Okies' plight in the Dustbowl, their trip across the country with everything in one truck, and their subsequent hardships faced in California by people who don't want them stealing jobs they need too. This story is told with good flow and a strong pace- no scene feels rushed, and no scene feels overdone.
Mood is another of The Grapes of Wrath's strength. There's a very post- apocalyptic feeling about it- the scramble to ensure their families survival against everyone else. We see a form of society breakdown, where people can only fend for themselves. The major conflict is hard to describe, as everything goes wrong for the Joads. Nature, other people (but no singular antagonist) and it would even seem God wants the Joads to fail. So when the dance scene comes, it's one of the biggest sighs of relief I've experienced watching films.
The Grapes of Wrath is a really bleak film with a really strong lead. It's a remarkably important film, in league with Gone With the Wind, and should be seen for that reason alone- something numbers cannot tell you. It's a story about the injustices done by the rich fat cats at the expense of the poor, and more personally a story of human resilience: that we can overcome lots, but not everything. It's certainly humbling- things can get better but they can also get worse. 8.3/10
I got my orders, it ain't up to me, I didn't set the price, take it or
leave it. We are confronted with an economic system that suppresses
downwards; nobody is held responsible. It even seems that "nobody"
doesn't even exist.
This is a story about how ordinary citizens, mainly farmers, gets affected by the big depression. We follow the Joad family who out of desperation tries to find a job in California. When they arrive at "the promised land" they quickly find out that life is hard to maintain. The jobs are difficult to find and when they find one the wages are an insult. Throughout the movie there is a constant battle to sustain the basic needs such as food and shelter. Despite this fight and the competition for the jobs the workers shows solidarity with each other but cannot use this to get proper organized even though a few tries (the story could be seen as a predecessor to "In Dubious battle" where the struggle to get the workers organized continuous).
The Joad family are very poor given the circumstances but nonetheless they are looked down upon and stigmatized; being poor equals being subhuman; An Okie. If they ask questions or making a statement in front of a policeman or guard they are threatened to loose their job or getting the label "agitator".
Only in one place do they find themselves at home; in the government camp. It is a society in its own that is a safe heaven. It is built on democratic principles and is looked upon as a threat by the big corporations who actively tries to destroy such. Democracy with it laws that regulates employer/employee relationship is a threat to maximum profit.
The movie is shot in Black and white, the men are lean and the dialogue is very direct and without polite manners. You sense that the farmers doesn't talk this way because of hostility but simply because it is part of their cultural identity. The dialogue is in many cases taken right out of the book. That doesn't make it a lesser movie; it is hard if not to say impossible to compete with Steinbecks sharp pen. It may be a challenge to sense the affection in the Joad family but is there although it is not expressed overtly.
In comparison the movie adaptation has a stronger focus than the more than 500 pages book had and therefore some of the characters didn't unfold enough to be understood properly. The ending is different but I think I understand the choice to let the movie finish off in a more bearable way.
The part of the story where the Joads arrive at a farm full of guards, to harvest peaches scared the hell out of me in the book but not so much in the movie. It felt like the Joads where held in a combined prison/zoo and the choice they had to leave wasn't a real choice; it was a choice between annihilation or accept gruesome and absurd life conditions.
The movie didn't dwell so much. It didn't stay so much with the important details that showed the reason to be desperate. How much can I get for a nickel? How much do I earn when I harvest a basket full of peaches? How much food can I buy for a day's work? Can I save money for the rainy days? Seems like boring details but to me these kind of never ceasing thoughts must have been a large part of being affected by the depression.
Steinbeck writes the story with anger. You sense that he is furious; this is a piece of fiction that was needed, that had to come and thank goodness Steinbeck took it upon himself to put into words what was going on during the depression.
The farmers are the 99% who tries to do what is expected of them. There is a growing sense of who the 1% are and of course you can draw a parallel to the depression of today and the need to organize and criticize the financial system via the "occupy wall street" movement.
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