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Reviews & Ratings for
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The Geometry of Underclass Frontiersmanship in The Grapes of Wrath

Author: Jon Fougner from New Haven, CT
12 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

John Ford's "Grapes of Wrath" captures the salt-of-the-earth Dust Bowl destitution of the Steinbeck novel from which it is adapted. The Joads' trek west is every bit as entrepreneurial as that of the emerging agricultural barons for whom they toil, albeit motivated by survival rather than riches. Position is everything, whether that means fighting to stay or conniving to leave. Ford's cinematography, dialog, and plot bring land to life as another character in the film, animated by the Joads' do-or-die movements across it.

From the opening shot, the terrain is something to be contended with. A high-angle exterior shot of our protagonist Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) walking down the road photographs ground more than half-way up the celluloid. (Perhaps the geometry of this shot influenced that of the crop-duster scene in Hitchcock's "North By Northwest"). Intersecting roads and telephone wires create a rectilinear lattice confining the shot's subject, telegraphing how confined Joad's choice-set will prove. (The store he walks into is called "Cross Roads.") More high horizons— most memorably, a high-contrast night shot of the sheriffs' ominous headlights bearing down on the Joads' old house—further the impression that the distance the Joads must traverse is a wall they must drive through.

If the wealthy typically speak of nouns they own and the healthy, of verbs they do, those tethered to the plane beneath their feet for bare subsistence—the Joads—speak in prepositions. Their life is cartographic. When the Joads can occupy their land, they're "on it," and when they're evicted, they're ordered to "get off" and they're "throwed off." Now, their aim is not stillness, but control of position; seeing Tom, Grandpa exults, "They couldn't keep him in!" "You can't keep a Joad in jail!" The scene evolves into a comedic sketch in which just about everyone asks Tom if he "busted out." The family's watchword is "across": they have got to keep marching *across*, even if the grueling pace costs Grandma her life. Similarly, compass directions—those siblings of prepositions—are ever on the tip of the tongue, furnishing, for instance, a pretense for the family's escape from the farm (they had gotten a job "up north").

Plot developments will confirm our sense that the earth has heft—heft enough to kill (if their jalopy craps out in the desert, as the gas station attendant warns them), or enough to nourish (if its fruits will command five cents a bucket rather than two-and-a-half). Even minor plot details reinforce the primacy of terra firma: when burning family mementos before embarking, Ma Joad (Jane Darwell) spares a souvenir of the Louisiana Purchase. Now *that* was a deal on a plot of land.

As for Tom, he made it from prison to Oklahoma to California and now he's got too much momentum to cast anchor. Where to next? "I'll be everywhere," he tells us in his final monologue. "Wherever there's a cop beating up a guy, I'll be there." And for all his work in the dry dirt, he's finally transcended the terrestrial: "I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. . . . And when people are eating the stuff they raise, living in the houses they build, I'll be there, too."

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Steinbeck's masterpiece

8/10
Author: SuperDuperMCA (SuperDuperMCA@hotmail.com) from United States
6 March 2013

This is a great movie with an epic story that is ultra realistic to issues people faced during the time period depicted. The cinematography is astonishing especially for a 1940 film and really helps set the mood of each scene. Tom Joad's journey is a captivating adventure, the struggles him and his family face throughout the film and the hardships overcome made me appreciative all the things I'm blessed with. When originally released I can imagine this film had a strong impact on American society because during the great depression many families had gone through similar situation and could relate. Strong acting done by Henry Fonda really helps to create a strong emotional bond to the characters. John Ford definitely did not disappoint in his adaptation of Steinbeck's most powerful story, truly a thought provoking perception on American life around the time of the great depression. A must see for anyone who enjoys classic masterpieces

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good film

7/10
Author: corypom from United States
6 March 2013

The Grapes of Wrath was a good film. I had started reading the novel by John Steinbeck back in high school and never finished it. But what I remember from it, it seemed as though i would find the movie interesting which i did.

I was really captivated by the opening scene of the paved road in Oklahoma. Just with the telephone poles and everything it was a great opening scene to draw in viewers.

the story itself of a man, Tom Joad, is one to grab anyones attention. The concept of Tom Joad(an ex convict) breaking his parole to move out west to California with his family was outstanding to me because it was sort of a bad-to-the-bone thing to do and thats definitely enough to get one like myself to watch any film.

i definitely recommend this to everyone. It's just a classic and a need to see movie by everyone. i would watch it again if i got the chance!

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Timeless Words

8/10
Author: Heart Haunter (green.dolphins3@gmail.com)
4 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Tom Joad: Well, maybe it's like Casy says. A fellow ain't got a soul of his own, just little piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody, then... Ma Joad: Then what, Tom? Tom Joad: Then it don't matter. 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 beatin' 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 eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they build - I'll be there, too.

These timeless words seemed to be reverberating through the confines of my mental processes, through the ages. Like love at the first sight, i immediately took to them. I had heard them for the first time in The Dream Team. Search as hard as i might, i couldn't find their source at that time. But things have a way of coming back to us when we least expect them regardless of our actually needing them. But as i watched The Grapes of Wrath i found how much i needed them as they spun their familiar magic over me. I had found them at last!

For me The Grapes of Wrath is all about the performances by the Academy award winner Jane Darwell, John Carradine, and one of my favorites Henry Fonda. Its also all about the endearing relationship between Tom and Ma Joad. Its not often that a literary masterpiece has got its due on the silver screen. The Grapes of Wrath is indeed one of them. Must watch!

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Historically touching

Author: bcaulford from United States
25 February 2013

I found this film to be touching, not only because of the Joad family's unfortunate situation but because this really happened during the Great Depression and in some cases on a far worse level. It's a shame that the whole family started off with twelve members and at the end of the movie only ended up with seven or eight. I commemorate the overall spirit of the family for not giving up and working together to make ends meet and establish a life for themselves. During this time it was very bad for farmers because they were forced off their land with no other direction to go in. Many people died and starved and fought tooth and nail for even the smallest, short lasting job out there. What really makes this film touching and unique is the fact that this actually took place in history and it gave people some insight on how others were suffering and how to be kind and compassionate towards others. When the family stumbled upon the camp that was run by the Department of Agriculture it demonstrated the kindness and compassion that was needed in order for people to survive and make it through the next day. Having that ultimately unified the people into preventing a so called "riot" to take place at a local dance just as a excuse for the sheriffs to show up and ransack the place. Tom and mama's little speeches towards the end touched the heart of the audience and affirmed the idea that no matter how hard things get in life you should always keep going and do your best and never give up to live a happy and healthy life. Another thing to add regarding the form is that the camera angles were very pleasing for being an older movie because during exciting scenes, like when there was a fight or a chase taking place, the camera man did very well in following every movement and the different angles made it more exciting to watch and made the audience feel as if they were really there watching it. Overall this was a great film in my opinion because a.) I'm a sucker for historical films and b.) the plot is one that could never get old and ultimately would touch the heart of anyone watching it.

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Realistic and relatable!

8/10
Author: Taffyta from United States
22 February 2013

I've always heard of "The Grapes of Wrath" but I had never known anything about it. So it was nice to get the chance to view it and see what it was about.

I enjoyed how "simple" it was. Sometimes I get lost in story lines when there's talk of financial matters and law. It just looses me. This was simple in that were wasn't too much babble about things like that. The characters carried on with life and had real experiences that I could emotionally follow.

I did seem to miss out on characters leaving the original party, besides the one that was pointed out by the characters. I did sit here wondering why certain faces weren't around anymore. I was paying attention, but I think it's because black and white movies are hard for me to follow, since I grew up with color. If a character isn't distinct enough, I'll forget who they are and mix them up with others. That would happen in such a story as this, with so many people in it and moving around such a large group.

Those are the only two discrepancies I had with it. Other than that I did enjoy it!

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The Greatest Film Ever Made Until Citizen Kane Was Released

10/10
Author: Intern2014 from United States
27 October 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Grapes of Wrath is a drama directed by John Ford. It was based on John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. It features Henry Fonda,Jane Darwell,John Carradine,Shirley Mills,John Qualen and Eddie Quillan.The screenplay was written by Nunnally Johnson.The film tells the story of the Joads, an Oklahoma family, who, after losing their farm during the Great Depression in the 1930's, become migrant workers and end up in California. The motion picture details their arduous journey across the United States as they travel to California in search of work and opportunities for the family members.

Tom Joad returns to his Oklahoma home after serving jail time for manslaughter. En route, Tom meets family friend Casey, a former preacher who warns Tom that dust storms, crop failures, and new agricultural methods have financially decimated the once prosperous Oklahoma farmland. Upon returning to his family farm, Tom is greeted by his mother, who tells him that the family is packing up for the "promised land" of California. Warned that they shouldn't expect a warm welcome in California--they've already seen the caravan of dispirited farmers, heading back home after striking out at finding work--the Joads push on all the same. Their first stop is a wretched migrant camp, full of starving children and surrounded by armed guards. Further down the road, the Joads drive into an idyllic government camp, with clean lodging, indoor plumbing, and a self-governing clientele. When Tom ultimately bids goodbye to his mother, who asks him where he'll go, he delivers the film's most famous speech: "I'll be all around...Wherever there's a fight so hungry people can eat...Whenever there's a cop beating a guy, I'll be there and when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise and livin' in the houses they build. I'll be there too."

Movies will probably go on improving and broadening themselves; but in any event, The Grapes of Wrath is the most mature picture story that has ever been made, in feeling, in purpose, and in the use of the medium.A potent drama that is as socially important today as when it was made, it is affecting, moving, and deservedly considered an American classic and a great adaptation of the novel.A documentary-styled production for which Ford and cinematographer Gregg Toland demanded painstaking authenticity, it is much more than a classy, old-fashioned history lesson. With dialogue and scenes that rank among the most moving and memorable ever filmed, it's a classic among classics or simply put, one of the finest films ever made.It was often named the greatest American film, until it was dethroned by Citizen Kane.

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Love the immiegrantion story

9/10
Author: shane-matthews-324-893783 from Rhode Island
27 March 2012

America was still changing from an agricultural to an industrial society back then. That causes a lot of trouble for people unskilled in any industrial job training. As a country we're going through something similar today in many areas. We're moving from an industrial to an information based economy. Industry jobs are being lost to other nations and older and poorer workers are suffering for it. It's progress I guess, but it takes its toll.

Some factory worker who has lost his job for any number of reasons can identify to some degree with the Joads, especially if they've lost a home they owned. For the Joads it was worse because they made their living off the land for many generations, identifying with it in a way that industrial workers could not.

Henry Fonda got his first Oscar nomination for Tom Joad. To get the part which he knew he was so right for, he signed a studio contract with 20th Century Fox. That caused him many problems later on, but those are stories for another film review.

Tom Joad is a midwest country kid, a whole lot like Fonda himself. Part of the story of The Grapes of Wrath is Tom himself trying to figure out why these economic forces are crushing him and his family and the way of life he's known. In the end when he leaves the Joad family and hits the open road, he's not got all the answers, but he's asking the questions. Tom hasn't figured it out, but a lot of people with many letters after their names haven't either. He only knows that he's got to get in the fight for economic justice.

Jane Darwell was in films from the earliest silent films to Mary Poppins in 1965. This became her career part and the mother role of all time. She's what holds the Joad family together in good times and bad. That's what moms do and get little recognition for it. Except in this case by the Motion Picture Academy.

John Carradine has his career part in this also. Another John Ford favorite, Carradine plays Casy the defrocked preacher who as he tells it disgraced himself with a female parishioner. After that preaching the gospel didn't seem quite right. When Fonda meets Carradine after Fonda's been released from prison, Carradine is asking a lot of questions about what is man's place in the metaphysical scheme of things. He's developing what we would now call situational ethics. Carradine's questions are on a higher plane, but he certainly inspires Fonda to ask for some answers himself.

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Steinbeck classic

8/10
Author: billcr12 from United States
22 March 2012

Starting with John Steinbeck's classic novel of the Depression and migration of families from Texas and Oklahoma due to the dust bowl and subsequent drought, the grapes of wrath brings the pain and suffering of the farmers to the big screen. Huge numbers of migrants had the misfortune of living through both the stock market crash and its aftermath and the lack of rain which left thousands of empty farms.

Narrated by Tom Joad, a man who has just been released from prison and returns to the family farm only to find it abandoned. He meets up with a former preacher, Jim Casey, and they venture out on the road. What they find is not pretty as the banks have foreclosed on countless properties and the rumor spreads that California is a perfect destination for good, high paying jobs. Unfortunately, the employers have sent out many more fliers than people needed for the work and use the oversupply to keep wages low. In order to force a living wage, attempts are made to form unions , which results in violence between starving transients living in camps and the owners who call them reds or communists.

The book is one of the finest works of American literature and director John Ford retains the spirit of the novel using Henry Fonda as every man in the defining character, Tom Joad. John Carradine is also well cast as the doubting former preacher, Jim Casey. The mood is ominous but at the same time hopeful of a better time yet to come. We need to be reminded of our past mistakes in order to avoid repeating them, and this film is a good history lesson.

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disappointed with the digital transfer

5/10
Author: utubeslasher from New York
16 December 2011

as much as a story can be excellent and a legendary and highly regarded as one of the best in history a visual experience can ruin it for you... for some of the same reasons i panned easy rider i can look at and be disappointed with the grapes of wrath... the timeless story or a displaced family in the great depression is half enhanced by the grainy look of the film half inhibited by the light flickering and dark photography... some night and indoor scenes at least in the copy i saw was impossible to see the action... the sound however was excellent... i am aware of the age of the film but i would imagine they would do a better job cleaning up this classic film... which i feel was over rated by nostalgic idiots that praise things that were already popular... the story carries much emotional weight and the acting is all very good but if you cant see or are distracted by the visual presentation on an HD monitor something is wrong... its still an essential classic i just need to try and find a cleaner copy i guess

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