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The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Passed | | Drama, History | 15 March 1940 (USA)
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A poor Midwest family is forced off their land. They travel to California, suffering the misfortunes of the homeless in the Great Depression.

Director:

John Ford

Writers:

Nunnally Johnson (screen play), John Steinbeck (based on the novel by)
Top Rated Movies #220 | Won 2 Oscars. Another 9 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Henry Fonda ... Tom Joad
Jane Darwell ... Ma Joad
John Carradine ... Jim Casy
Charley Grapewin ... Grandpa
Dorris Bowdon ... Rosasharn
Russell Simpson ... Pa Joad
O.Z. Whitehead ... Al
John Qualen ... Muley Bates
Eddie Quillan ... Connie
Zeffie Tilbury ... Grandma
Frank Sully ... Noah
Frank Darien Frank Darien ... Uncle John
Darryl Hickman ... Winfield
Shirley Mills ... Ruthie
Roger Imhof Roger Imhof ... Thomas
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Storyline

The Joad clan, introduced to the world in John Steinbeck's iconic novel, is looking for a better life in California. After their drought-ridden farm is seized by the bank, the family -- led by just-paroled son Tom -- loads up a truck and heads West. On the road, beset by hardships, the Joads meet dozens of other families making the same trek and holding onto the same dream. Once in California, however, the Joads soon realize that the promised land isn't quite what they hoped. Written by Jwelch5742

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The most discussed book in years - now comes to the screen to become the most discussed picture in ages See more »

Genres:

Drama | History

Certificate:

Passed | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

15 March 1940 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Highway 66 See more »

Filming Locations:

Los Angeles, California, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$800,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$55,000, 31 January 1940
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (cut)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film was banned by Josef Stalin in the Soviet Union because it showed that even the poorest Americans could afford cars. See more »

Goofs

As Tom walks across the dance floor after saying goodbye to his mother his shadow goes to his left. When the point of view changes, the shadows are perpendicular to this, coming from behind his mother. See more »

Quotes

Casy: I wouldn't pray just for a old man that's dead, 'cause he's all right. If I was to pray, I'd pray for folks that's alive and don't know which way to turn.
See more »

Alternate Versions

International distributions (e.g. UK) have a short ~30 second prologue at the beginning to explain the historical context to the story to touch on the socio-economic problems in the US which arose during the Great Depression and the concurrent Dust Bowl. See more »

Connections

Referenced in Robot Chicken: Papercut to Aorta (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

A Tisket, A Tasket
(uncredited)
Traditional
Background music during the first scene
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Economic Dislocation
1 October 2006 | by bkoganbingSee all my reviews

John Ford's film of John Steinbeck's novel has deservedly a classic film mirroring the views of both men and the times the book was written and filmed. Ford won his second Oscar for Best Director and Jane Darwell was the Best Supporting Actress of 1940.

For most of America the Depression started with the stock market crash of 1929. But for the farmers it really began at the end of World War I. Those were good years for agriculture, the war in Europe was a boom for agriculture. But when farm prices dropped after the Armistice, a whole lot of family farms went belly up. Lots of people left the farms for the big city and industry jobs. The Depression years unhappily coincided with some of the worst drought ever seen in America.

This is what many families like the Joads were facing in 1939 when the book was written. The banks had foreclosed on land that had withered to dust in any event. Folks like the Joads picked up and moved elsewhere, like California on a rumor of prosperity and jobs.

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.

The Grapes of Wrath illustrates that at least government can give first aid in a crisis. After being in privately run agricultural camps where they're treated like less than dirt, the Joads happen upon a camp run by the Department of Agriculture where at least they're treated like humans. As it turns out, the Secretary of Agriculture was one Henry A. Wallace who was running for Vice President that year with Franklin D. Roosevelt. I'll bet any number of people saw The Grapes of Wrath and saw a message of support for FDR and the New Deal.

Given some of the problems of the American economy today, The Grapes of Wrath though it appears dated isn't really all that much a relic of our past. It's both a timeless book and a timeless classic film.


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