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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
(part of 30 essays I'm writing on what I consider the 30 greatest films
of all time. They are written in no particular order)
The film begins quietly. The time: The Depression. The setting: The Dust Bowl. The screen is filled with empty space, lonely and windy, as the camera keeps its distance from all of the characters. A man convinces a truck driver to give him a ride, even though his boss doesn't permit it. Finally we see their faces up close. The hitchhiker is Tom Joad (Henry Fonda). Some way to their destination Joad tells him he just got out of jail. The truck driver gets nervous. Joad says "Bet your just dying to know what I was in for, well I'll tell you." It's his stop. As he gets off, he yells behind him "Homicide!" He got into a fight with a man when they were both drunk, and the other pulled a knife, and Joad killed him.
This is how we are introduced to "The Grapes of Wrath," a dark, lyrical and beautiful film that seems light years ahead of its time. An outspokenly socialist film, one may be surprised to find out the director, John Ford, was a republican capitalist. He did leave more of the incendiary parts from the book out, and toned down much of the original books anger, but there is still much of the same work here. The film is sad and gripping in the way it handles scenes like the one where they bury the grandfather on the way to California. His wife wants to buried with him, but they have to continue. Hundreds of miles away in California, the grandmother dies and they bury her. The sadness in this scene is underplayed, without too much weeping or excessive Hollywood-like tragedy, and it works. Death has become something these people are used to. But the depression destroys them in the way it separates them. Separation is something they are not used to, because they have lived in the same place for generations and generations.
The Grapes of Wrath follows the Joads, who are kicked off their land and whose homes are destroyed like everyone else's, to make way for a huge field that will profit a wealthy landowner. Some refuse to leave. One man hides out it the fields, his family gone to California, not accepting he has to leave the land that was fought for and built by his great great grandfathers. When Joad encounters him, he is a little insane.
The Joads, like many other families, get fliers advertising work for farmers in California. So the 9 of them and Casy the ex preacher (played brilliantly by John Carradine) pile into one truck which they worry could break down any minute. On the way there, they are warned at a camp from a man who received the same flier, and says they gave out twice as many fliers as they needed men, the work was taken, and if you did get it they would put you under inhuman conditions. They head on anyway and arriving they find he is more or less right. Once in, they are not allowed out, and are guarded by armed guards who tell them they will shoot them if they leave the house when its not work time. Joad escapes and finds Casy trying to organize a union. For doing so, he is shot by cops as he stands surrounded, with his hands raised. Joad helps the whole family escape.
The next time they are incredibly lucky and are taken in by an FDR lookalike who treats them benevolently and kindly, and offers good pay. Just when it seems everything is going to turn out, Tom Joad's past catches up with him and he has to run away, alone. He bids farewell to Ma Joad (Jane Darwell, who won an Oscar for best supporting actress):
I'll be all around in the dark - I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look - wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beating' up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready, and when the people are eating' the stuff they raise and living' in the houses they build - I'll be there, too.
So will we, Tom. So will we.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Good adaptation of Steinbeck's superb novel. The Joad family were
farmers in Oklahoma (referred to as Okies) during the "Dust Bowl" years
when drought caused a lot of farmers to lose everything.
There are promised work in California and pack up their dilapidated truck with their family including the grandmother (I wonder if the idea for The Beverly Hillbillies came from this) and have a grueling trip there. When they arrive they are treated like "slaves," not even paid enough to buy food.
This was probably Fonda's best role as the noble Tom Joad. John Carridine is also excellent in a supporting role.
This film is historical and an important statement on how corruption lead to the formation of unions and workers rights!
Lots of comments here about "Henry Fonda's best" and "John Ford's best". I'd like to give my personal Best Supporting Actor Award to Charley Grapewin for capturing the senile, exhausted, stubborn, pathetic (in the true sense of the word) William James 'Grampa' Joad to perfection. When I saw the film I kept having to convince myself I was watching a performance, that this was acting. Superb!
I think it is most ironic that independent filmmakers claim to despise "the Hollywood" film in favor of making "personal cinema" when one looks at the films of perhaps the most Hollywood sytem ingrained and yet stunningly personal films of John Ford.His films hold up because they display his personal love of character, land, place (there is a difference), time, honor, tradition and ritual. The Grapes of Wrath is one of his finest pictures. His obsessions and political leanings come to life in Steinbeck's haunting and searing narrative.I agree with many of the other IMDB reviewers, there is much in this film that is pure leftist propaganda and that Reifenstahl and Eisenstien's influence can be seen. This is certainly true in the masked stormtrooper bulldozer montage. But propaganda, like the very medium of film itself, operates on pure emotion. This film is loaded with one emotional image after another. The photography of Gregg Toland matches the best of Life magazine in its immediacy and realism, while at the same time dramatically recapturing the best of German Expressionism. There are so many frames that could stand as works of photographic art. The look of the film stands proudly next to the work of Benton, Hopper, O'Keefe, Capa, and Bourke-White as examples of American visual art.The cast is uniformly honest, sincere and utterly real in thier inhabitation of character. John Carradine, Russell Simpson, Jane Darwell, John Qualen and the great Charley Grapewin all give performances that are on the level with anything ever produced from a Actor's Studio graduate.Enough can not be possibly said about Henry Fonda's performance as Tom Joad. Simply put it is one of the finest characterizations ever captured on film. He was not just an American pop culture icon, he was a fine dramatic artist.The script captures much of the best of Steinbeck's novel with fantastically illuminating and human quotes. It preaches to be sure, but never at the expense of the narrative. This is a lesson so many "serious" film makers have yet to learn.The film has not dated in terms of its impact on the heart. Grapes of Wrath is about a specific time and place in American History yes, but it is also about what it means to be a human being. In that sense, it transcends nationalism and is fine work of World Literature. It is on equal with Citizen Kane as one of the finest films ever made. A 10 out of 10.
This is an extremely sentimental and worthwhile film that fans of
Hollywood's Golden Age should see at least once. While I don't think
it's director John Ford's best film (I preferred HOW GREEN WAS MY
VALLEY, THE QUIET MAN and FORT APACHE), it is superb and well-crafted.
Some of the acting (in particular Jane Darwell as "Ma") was terrific
and very realistic, while occasionally it was a bit over the top (John
Carradine as "the Preacher"). And the story itself was excellent and
well-constructed--making an emotional and heart-felt appeal for justice
and a more Socialist nation in response to the poverty of the Great
Depression. You can't help but be sucked into the pitiful yet somehow
hopeful lives of the Joad family. While some of the facts were
definitely exaggerated in order to make this point (making it a
one-dimensional fight between good and evil), the overall message of
upheaval and loss was important and potent.
I am a history teacher and so naturally I gravitate to films like THE GRAPES OF WRATH. It is an amazingly powerful film that is extremely touching and lovingly made--though historically, some of the film is pretty much fiction. While most web sites I checked praised the book, one presents a thoughtful and documented analysis of the actual Okie experience and compares it to the book and movie--coming up with many ways in which THE GRAPES OF WRATH isn't a totally accurate portrait of the times. Some examples cited were the general success the "Okies" had when they arrived in California, that the exodus to California from most of America PRE-DATED the Dust Bowl years and the Dust Bowl itself had very little actual impact on Oklahoma (though it DID affect Kansas and some other states considerably). This isn't to say that the film is completely fiction or it was a bad book or that Steinbeck was a Communist, but that Steinbeck wasn't always careful in his research and seemed to stretch facts to make his social and political statement. See for yourself--it makes interesting reading at: http://www.newcriterion.com/archive/20/jun02/steinbeck.htm
Even though good books rarely ever turn into good movies, the Grapes of Wrath sheds such a belief with beauty and charm. Granted, the acting may have been hokie in some parts, but the message is clear: the world is full of haves and have-nots. This is easily one of the few `old' movies I could watch on a regular basis. Even after all of the suffering the Joad family goes through, the clinging hand of hope still firmly hangs on. Certainly one of the best films ever made.
I was not around at that time in history but I have heard all kinds of stories of people loosing their homes and going to California, my Grandparents did them selves. I love this movie because of that fact. I can see some of my uncles being like Tom Joad, standing up for a principle. Jane Darwel's character reminded me of my own grandmother. This is another great example of story telling.
Wow! I don't know how to truly describe this masterpiece. It is one of those truly timeless films that will stay with you forever. Story of a family - the Joad family - trying to make it during the Depression. I don't really want to say anything to give anything away because this movie is just THAT GOOD. Henry Fonda - a personal hero of mine - plays Tom Joad and his performance should have garnered him a Best Actor Oscar. The cinematography and locations in film is all beautiful to the eye. I know this review is saying much other than the plot, but I am telling whoever reads this to PLEASE SEE IT. If you love classic films and good perfect movies in general, you will not want to miss this. I really need to read John Steinback's book.
This movie is a powerful film. It focuses on a families journey to California in search of work during the great depression era. The movie gives an inside look at the horrible living conditions these people had to deal with. Henry Fonda gives a truly powerful performance as the ex Prisoner Tom Joad who reunites with his family to accompany them on their journey to California. This is a classic movie that won 2 awards in the 1940 Academy awards. Any film buff should watch this. It is definitely one of the best movies of all time without a doubt. Even if the plot doesn't interest you, it is still worth seeing for henry Fondas powerful. performance.
At two hours length this film is an epic journey of boredom for the
viewer. In its favour, we do get to see a couple of the really annoying
characters die. Hooray! The film scores some points for that.
Henry Fonda and John Carradine are the only good things about this film. Carradine seems to be in all the good scenes of which there are only a few. The story concerns a migrating family looking for work and the biases and injustices that they encounter. I don't like reading books I find it boring - but I would recommend reading this book over the watching the film. Nothing happens! The whole first hour could be completely edited out. A bit of promise pops up in the 2nd half of the story before it reverts to being preachy and sentimental. Yawn.
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