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
2006: Ranked #7 on the American Film Institute's 100 Most Inspiring Movies of All Time. See more »
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 »
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 »
Classic Hollywood films that tried to tackle important issues or answer big questions, typically were cheesy and hard to take seriously. They had gratuitous overacting, fake "Hollywood" dialogue, and just general over dramatization. Since these films are typically over-dramatized in this way, their attempts at having a deeper or meaning or some sort of a message are ruined. But not all classic Hollywood films fall into this abyss of clichés. And the ones that don't are still remembered and cherished to this very day, films like Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, or Modern Times, or 12 Angry Men, faced serious social issues at the time and succeeded. Films like these are unforgettable and in many ways life changing, and John Ford's Grapes of Wrath is one of these precious films.
As I'm sure you all already know Grapes of Wrath is an adaptation of the John Steinbeck Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name, that was published only a year before the film was first released. The novel is one of the greatest of the 20th Century, and I highly recommend that you should check it out. The film and the novel are both about Tom Joad, (played by Henry Fonda, who collaborated with John Ford several times.) who returns to his family's home in Oklahoma after spending 4 years in prison, but unfortunately by the time Tom Joad makes it out of prison, the country has fallen into the Great Depression. And the Joad family were unfortunately sharecroppers, so of course the bank repossessed there home and land, and the Joad family are forced to head west to California to look for work. But as they get closer and closer to California things begin to seem hopeless as they learn the truth about what is going on out in the west.
If I were to choose one word to describe The Grapes of Wrath it would be haunting, so many scenes and lines of dialogue send shivers down your spine and make tears grow in the back of your eyes. I won't spoil any of these fantastic moments, but dear god the combination of John Steinbeck's masterful writing and the actors's somber performances combine to make these scenes and lines of dialogues absolutely devastating, you will be thinking about them for weeks after you watch the film. The cinematography (done by the legendary Gregg Toland, who also was the cinematographer for Citizen Kane.) is also outstanding. Shots of the deserted houses in Oklahoma, the wide open road on highway 66, and the overcrowded filthy slums of California, all give The Grapes of Wrath a bleak depressing atmosphere.
Every single actor in the film gives it his/her all, Jane Darwell won the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role as Ma Joad, and Henry Fonda was nominated for best leading actor. And while these two performances are just perfect, every single roll in the film no matter how small is also perfect. (well, except for some minor child-actor roles.) John Ford is an excellent actor director though, so this should come as no surprise. John Ford also won the Oscar for best director, this was his second Oscar (his first was for The Informer.) and it is well deserved, each scene is meticulously crafted to dig real deep into the audiences emotions and not in a way that feels cheap by exploiting the audience or something. No instead of going for cheap shallow emotions the way an Oscar-bait movie would, Grapes of Wrath instead has characters that don't even feel like characters that are going through actual struggles, there is no cheap manipulation in this film. It is 100% genuine.
John Ford was a strange person for 20th century fox to pick to direct The Grapes of Wrath, because he was politically conservative and the book/film supported several liberal political ideas like strikes and unions. But John Ford was definitely the right choice. (see what I did there.) Grapes of Wrath was one of the few American films that was allowed to be released in the Soviet Union,it was only allowed because it supported pro-communist ideas. But it eventually had to be pulled from The Soviet Union when Soviet audiences saw that even dirt-poor begging Americans could still afford cars. In 1989 The Grapes of Wrath was one of the first 25 films to be added to the national film registry, alongside films like Citizen Kane, Vertigo, and Casablanca. And it deserves its spot there, Grapes of Wrath has become the definitive Great Depression film, and should be viewed by everyone.
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