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Based on John Steinbeck's Pulitzer prize winning novel of the same
name, about the mid-west proletariat struggle during the great
depression of the 1930's, John Ford's adaptation to film is a sweeping
and emotional drama, displaying the problems entailed when a family are
forced to move west in the search for work. Tom Joad (Henry Fonda), is
travelling back to his homestead after five years in prison for
manslaughter. On arriving back he discovers that his family have been
evicted from the family farm due to a corporate take overs, and banks
foreclosing on the land. So the only option is to travel to California,
as they had been presented with a flier advertising picking work.
We follow the family through series hardship across the breadth of the USA. Deaths occur, and the working part of the family are mistreated and abused by ruthless business's, who have seized the opportunity to take advantage of the mass exodus of farm workers, making the "pilgrimage" from east to west. The film is an indictment of the times. Many families would have had to make this journey, mainly due to the greed of financial institutions (sound familiar?).
The film is majestically shot in beautiful black and white. The fact that it was filmed in studios does not seem to make the journey any less real. The film ends with Ma Joad (Jane Darwell) making a statement for the entire proletariat population: "We'll go on forever, cause we are the people". A bold statement, that could be used today. The working classes will always be here, and will always be needed. The people are the most important functioning body in the world. What the film shows historically, socially and politically, is that all moments of history (that is each moment there is failure or change) are in a perpetually cyclical motion - therefore, history perpetually repeats itself.
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.
Henry Fonda should have received the Best Actor Academy Award for Grapes of Wrath. He was outstanding. Instead they waited until late in his life and gave it to him for On Golden Pond. What was the academy thinking? Grapes of Wrath was one of the best movies I have ever seen. It shows just how bad the depression years were. It makes you think about how lucky we are to have as much as we have when they were deprived of what little they had. They did the same thing with John Wayne and Paul Newman. Skipped over them all of their lives and finally gave them Oscars for True Grit and The Color of Money. Sympathy Oscars don't cut it. Great performances should be honored as such and not overlooked. I realize that everyone cannot receive an Oscar. I love the People's Choice Awards. That means something. At least the people, who buy the tickets, get to vote for their favorites. Maybe the "academy" should take a lesson from the regular folks. At least we are fair with our voting.
Wow...this movie is just WOW !! I've been wanting to see it for such a long
time but I never got the chance. Now, I finally did and it even goes beyond
my highest expectations... I was prepared to see some class-A drama but
everything what this family goes through is even worse than I thought. This
famous movie milestone goes about the Joad family. They have to leave
everything they own in Oklahoma behind. Them and several other poor families
are attracted by California because there is supposed to be work and a place
to live. The long trip is filled with misery and when they finally get in
California, it seems that they've been deceived once more. There's almost no
food and 8 hungry mouths to fill.
It's impossible not to get touched by the Joad family. All the characters are so sad but at the same time so brave. They don't give up and keep fighting...you just have to encourage them while watching this film. The Grapes of Wrath really makes you feel happy you live in this era and in this part of the world. You know stories like this really happened in the old days and they still do in some parts of the world. This kind of film is excellent to make you realize you have nothing to complain about.
The dramatic highlights in this motion picture are countless : The flashbacks about how families are driven away from their homes, the grandfather's "funeral" , the mother and son conversation near the end... All these scenes and several other ones are indicators of great drama and brilliant cinema. The Grapes of Wrath received several prices and nominations and it deserved every single one of them. Every element in it is flawless. Henry Fonda's portrayal of Tom Joad is one of the most intriguing characters ever shown of the screen. He's absolutely brilliant.
The highest possible recommendation isn't yet high enough to describe The Grapes of Wrath...If you ever have the chance: SEE IT !
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
If you have never seen John Ford's classic film The Grapes of Wrath it's highly recommended that you do so at least once in your lifetime. The Grapes of Wrath is more than just a good old fashioned movie; it's a lesson in American history. Many of us have probably heard a grandparent or older family member talk of "The Dust Bowl" days, "The Depression Era" and of banks foreclosing on farms during the 1930's. Director John Ford brilliantly captures all this in The Grapes of Wrath as it follows one Oklahoma family through all these hardships as they migrate from their foreclosed farm to California in hopes of finding work in a depressed economy. Superb acting by Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell and John Carradine bring raw emotion to a well written script based on the novel by John Steinbeck. Both the novel and the movie were extremely controversial during their initial period of release. The novel was actually banned in several states because of its true depiction of the life of strife that many families encountered while living in migrant worker camps in California. This is a great must see movie for the whole family.
John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath" undoubtedly ranks among the greatest works of American realist literature. It stands as a testament of the Great Depression era where tenant farmers of the dust bowls suffer under drought, then are brutally dispossessed and driven from their Oklahoma homes, forced to find their luck elsewhere. In the end all they have is themselves, as the trip to find the blessed land California demands a heavy toll, is accompanied by tragedies and setbacks and the outlook is bleak in the face of the greed that exploits honest workers to make a buck. John Ford tries the impossible - to go for an authentic rendition of the multilayered, detail packed, all around magnificently written Steinbeck material, and definitely succeeds in delivering an indispensable heart-wrenching film portraying the never ending struggle of the Joads. Any direct comparison between book and film however is moot, enjoy both for what they are. On board in this road movie of the existential kind are Henry Fonda as an ex-convict, John Carradine as a disillusioned preacher and the Oscar winning Jane Darwell as Ma Joad, all first-rate acting with strong support of an array of bit players who help the crude reality take shape. Highly recommendable! There are downsides, though. For one the two hours of screen time can barely correspond to the epic proportions of the novel. However, the entry is still much more complete than Kazan's adaption of Steinbeck's other epic drama "East of Eden", starring Jimmy Dean, which only shows a fraction of the story. The one real liability however is the diluted ending which was tucked on as a concession to the mass audience while Steinbeck's epic hits you with full force. Well, if you want the real thing, read the book. With the film you get a pretty good taste of it.
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
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