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I strongly encourage everyone out there to view this brilliant film. Though episodic and with the usual Steinbeck plotting weakness, the courage it took Zanuck, Ford, and Johnson to make this statement is astounding considering it came from Hollywood 1940. It goes from grim to grimmer with an honesty that is almost unbearable. In an age when our shallowest vanities are catered to, from designer coffee to nail salons, the film is a seminal reminder of what was and looks like will be again. One note of humor I appreciated: the head of the immaculate "social engineering camp" was made to resemble FDR. I can't but wonder -- is this the future as well as the past?
John Ford directed some classics, and this might be his best. The
Grapes of Wrath is of course based on John Steinbeck's seminal novel
about the hardships of the Great Depression on Oklahoma sharecroppers
forced to migrate to Californian for menial work. The film paints a
stark picture of perhaps our country's most bleak period. A time when
unemployment was around 25%, dust was choking off normally reliable
farmland, and simply finding enough food to eat could be nearly
impossible.This film was actually made when these kinds of conditions
were still ravaging the United States. It would not be until the end of
WWII that happiness on a large scale would be found once again within
The film itself is skillfully made and acted. Some of the edgier elements of Steinbeck's novel could not be included in a film in 1940, but the audience will still have no trouble understanding the dire circumstances these characters face. This film basically made Henry Fonda a star, and he may have never been better. Fonda stars as Tom Joad. Joad is portrayed in the film's earlier moments as kind of a shiftless and violent type who has just been let out of jail where he had been sent for killing a man. He seems to want to brag about this to a truck driver who gives him a ride out to his family's farm. Once he gets there, he encounters a washed-up preacher named Casey who is played by John Carradine. It seems that since Tom has been away, things have gotten so bad in rural Oklahoma that even preachers are losing faith. Tom Joad then learns that his family, among several others, have been ordered off their farms by either banks or faceless corporations that own them. Tom Joad has to grow up pretty quick after meeting up with his family members, and soon enough they load themselves and their belongings into an old truck and are headed out to California to find work.
The Joads encounter all sorts of hardships and prejudice on their journey, and things are even worse once they arrive in California. It seems that work is harder to find than they were led to believe, and the work there is doesn't pay worth a damn. Anyone who speaks out is likely to get beat over the head with an ax handle and killed. People are starving everywhere, and nobody in authority seems like they care. For a moment, the Joads seem to find a sanctuary in a government-run campground, but by this time, Tom Joad's fate is already pretty much determined. For reasons you will have to see for yourself, Tom Joad knows that he will have to spend the rest of his life on the run. And hopefully, he or his spirit will be able to help the "little guy" whenever he can. His goodbye scene with his mother is poignant, and it will touch even the most stone-hearted members of any audience.
The picture looks great. B/W has never looked this good. Even though some of the sets were obviously sound stages, you won't really mind. Except maybe the scene where Fonda and Carradine are walking up the land to the Joad farm. You can actually hear their voices echo off the walls and ceiling! The film is preachy, but these were desperate times back then. To a guy who is starving and cannot feed his family, socialist dogma must have sounded pretty good. All of the performances ring true, including Jane Darwell as Tom's mother. She won an Oscar, as did director Ford. The film is bleak, but in its final frames there is a definite twinge of optimism. This is key because when the film was made, nobody yet knew of the prosperity yet to come. Pearl Harbor had not even happened. The film definitely scores points for ending with an upbeat theme and showing its faith in the people. Because after all, we the people keep on keepin' on! 10 of 10 stars.
The following comment surmises the Classic book: The Grapes of Wrath by
John Steinbeck, but also pertains to scenes and events from the award
winning 1940 picture.
John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath is a stunningly realistic account of the daunting lifestyles of mid-western and southern farmers, who after having endured the vicissitudes of several consecutive years of drought and the lack of crop growth are compelled to relinquish ownership of their properties and move west for the prospect of a frivolous life, where fruits and vegetables are abundant and where labor is easy and prevalent. The historical significance of this movement is portrayed through the eyes of Steinbeck's memorable fictional characters: Casey, Tom Joad and his family. Having been recently released on parole from prison for the execution of a man, Tom Joad is keen on returning to his family once more. The identity of the man Tom has killed remains undisclosed throughout the book due to the fact that the significance of Tom's atrocity is not of the man he killed, but the reason he killed him. John Steinbeck built his book on characters with dormant animosity. The poor yield of the crops, the famine and pessimism of the future has all amounted to irrational wrath and unconventional violence. On his journey homebound Tom confronts a listless figure with his back against a tree bark and is surprised to discover that the person is none other than Casey, the preacher. Casey enlightens Joad that he is no longer a preacher and has given up a life of piety for the life of a "normal man". Here again, the ingenuity of Steinbeck's plot is witnessed, because the preacher's neglect of God shows that he unequivocally faces the predilections and dilemmas of the common people. He being a pastor does not make him exempt of the impending crisis soon to befall. By the time Tom Joad and Casey have reached Tom's former abode, they perceive that it has been abandoned and has been left to decay and disintegrate in putridity. When Tom asks a fellow farmer as to what has become of his family, he is aware that they have relocated elsewhere and are planning to embark on a tedious exodus west in a few days time. The grapes of wrath are beginning to plant their roots.
Tom and Casey reach Tom's family by nightfall and Tom asks his mother when they were to leave. She replies that they were to leave tomorrow morning. He then inquires whether or not they would have left, had he still been in prison. Tom's mother (alluded to as Ma) assures him that they would have dispatched an epistle. Now Steinbeck addresses the dire earnestness of the situation, by showing that Tom's family would have went west, whether he was in prison or not. When Tom's capricious grandpa adamantly rejects to moving west with the rest of the family he is knocked unconscious and sprawled upon the tarpaulin, which furthermore shows the vital importance of the move west. Soon after their departure, Grandpa falls ill and later succumbs to his sickness. He is given a banal burial, and the family along with Casey moves on, showing that even death would not intervene with the necessity of a better life out west. Later in the story when Tom's grandmother falls ill, the truck stops in front a checkpoint and an officer peruses about the items and occupants on board. Tom's mother ardently refuses for the mandatory checking, claiming that there are no liquids on board and that they have an ailing woman who is in need of critical medical attention. The officer permits them through out of maudlinness and when the rest of the family realizes that the grandmother is deceased they ask why she never informed them. She replies that she was scared the guards wouldn't let them through if they had known it was so, and once again we are blatantly witnessed to the importance of the migration west.
From thence forth the family is labeled as "Okies", not pertaining to the place of their birth, but a bias slur, generalizing them as simpletons who have neither food nor work, and ramp about the country pleading for undeserved privileges and necessities.
Goaded on by the lack of food and substantial work, the Joads reach California. Pa says something along the lines of "It will all be better once we get to California." and Tom replies that "We are already in California", signifying that life for them in the Midwest would be no different from life in California. Acres upon acres of plentiful fruits and vegetables which were not of their possession, but of the possession of the affluent, avaricious landowners were a mere ploy in the eyes of the Okies. They were there, redolent, serene and glistening, mocking the "Okies" for having come all that way merely to perceive something they would never have the ability to obtain. The grapes sagged on the branches of the Californian bushes. Troubles sagged on the hearts of the Okies and the wrath intensified into pure rage. The grapes of wrath had sewn their stalks in the hearts of the Okies.
Envy and spite instills within the former preacher Casey, to audaciously strike a cop who arrives to intentionally conjure trouble out of his own initial contempt. Casey is sent to prison and the family resumes in search of work and solace. Solace is found when the family reaches a stable government camp, where not only are hot baths and commodious tents bourgeois accessories but the affable people accentuate the atmosphere. The realization that life in the government camp is ephemeral goads the Joads onwards once more and Steinbeck idyllically portrays his use of deception by making his readers believe that a glorious life is prevalent when in all actuality it is not (he uses this style in Of Mice and Men as well).
As subjective as it may seem, I cannot avoid making the comment this
film was a bit boring. Painful to watch. There's a strain that the
narrative builds over the watcher, the pressures of an incredibly tough
and depressing series of life events, where a viewer may be left
thinking: "well I don't have an issue with dramas or tough films, but
why focus on such difficult and common life events ?" It's one of these
things about historical movies - a particular event having occurred
doesn't necessarily make for a great film plot or story to tell.
The incredibly rough Great Depression years were awful and all, sure, but to make 2 hours plus of film based on the Steinbeck novel... this is like an American Emile Zola, an American Germinal. That monotonous old naturalism/realism narrative of exploring the misery of the working class... why, out of everything else there is to write about or make a film about... You'd ask yourself why an author would focus all his energy on something so bleak and real, there's such a lack of fantasy, the story telling is just totally flat and linear. What, we're barely given 30 seconds of poetry at the end from Fonda and then a speech from the mother in that last scene, but 2hrs10 for that ?...
Good film. Tough to watch. 6.5/10.
Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) has recently been released from prison and
returns to his family home to discover that his family have been kicked
off their land as it has been bought out by greedy developers. Joad and
his family head to California to start a new life, but this journey
proves to have more hazards and pitfalls than they could ever have
The Grapes Of Wrath is a film adaptation based on the John Steinbeck novel. I'll start by saying that I haven't read the book, but I can safely say that the 'cinematic' version of the book fell well below my expectations....
For starters the film takes an immensely long time to get going (one could actually argue as to whether it ever gets going). The problem is that the first half is awfully slow and dull with very little happening to drive the narrative forward. To me, The Grapes Of The Wrath came across as a character-driven film but when the film is filled with uninteresting and poorly developed characters it became very hard for me to remain interested or give a damn about anything that happens to them on their journey to California.
The second half of the film is slightly better (in the sense that it has a bit more urgency about it). Although the better pacing made the second half more tolerable than the first half I still felt that the whole film had a superficial feel to it - we get to see glimpses of the suffering and pain that has been bestowed upon the family, but it's never really examined in much depth and this resulted in a film that just never seemed to take advantage of all of its potential.
The cast are all OK and whilst Fonda wasn't particularly brilliant here I appreciated that he tried to give the film some emotional weight (which again probably would have worked better if both the narrative and character dynamics had been stronger and more interesting).
So yes I didn't like this film but will say that this was more down to the slow-paced first half, poor characterisation and the missed potential in fleshing the story out and making it more interesting.
*** 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.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
What a great film. During High School I read the book, but this film
caught my interest so much more.
The Great Depression took a toll on so many parts of the nation. Many businesses and factories saw a drop in production, weather conditions weren't the best and many farmers in the mid-western states suffered with droughts. As you watch the film you understand how greedy banks were and what they put farmers through. To me, the banks showed no sympathy or compassion towards individuals during the depression. So many families were forced to give up their land and uproot loved ones, so they could travel west in hopes of a better future.
This was a very dramatic film. The casting was good. I didn't know that this was another film directed by John Ford.
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.
The Grapes of Wrath is one of the two films I can thank for my love of
classic movies. When I was a kid I had enjoyed a few older films.
Mostly stuff like The Wizard of Oz and It's a Wonderful Life that I had
been weaned on from an early age. But, like most kids, I was far more
into the movies of my time. I viewed most older movies, especially
black & white ones, with a degree of contempt. However, that changed
when I was fourteen. That summer I checked out two older movies on VHS
from my local library. I had heard a lot about one of these movies
being called "the greatest movie of all time" and the other I knew was
based on a book that fourteen year-old me just wasn't about to
voluntarily read (although I did read it years later). So I took them
both home and watched them back to back, glued to the screen the whole
time. The two films were Citizen Kane and The Grapes of Wrath and I was
in love with classic movies from that point on. Interestingly enough,
both films had legendary cinematographer Gregg Toland working on them.
The Grapes of Wrath is a beautiful, haunting masterpiece from director John Ford, who deservedly won an Oscar. Nunnally Johnson's script brings John Steinbeck's novel to life but gives it a more optimistic finish. The cast is extraordinary, with Henry Fonda and Jane Darwell giving exemplary performances. It's a classic film in every sense of the word. To say I recommend it wouldn't be strong enough. This is just one of those films you HAVE to see.
The Grapes of Wrath I believed that the picture was flat because of how the content was choreographed by John Ford. The negative element was that most of the sequences didn't have a strong substance. The black and white footage aggravated the situation; the reason was that the storyline was crumbling like breadcrumbs. As a consequence I lost fascination in the plot. Because of the terrible director the landscapes were matt with the colour. If it was Hitchcock motion picture the Black and White and the directing wouldn't of been an issue. In my opinion the soundtrack was rushing to the drains because of the instruments that were playing worthless chords. But on the other hand some of the camera angles captured quality moments for an example; far distance and sky view. The phycological element in the content was underneath the surface as John Ford's purpose. A few scenes of cinematography were impressive. I give John Ford's motion picture a 2 ½ /10
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