A review by Shlomoh Sherman
June 7, 2018
Read about The Grapes of Wrath On the Internet Movie Data Base
The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Director: John Ford
Writers: Nunnally Johnson (screen play), John Steinbeck (based on the novel by)
Stars: Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine
Plot Summary: A poor Midwest family is forced off their land. They travel to California, suffering
the misfortunes of the homeless in the Great Depression.
Plot Keywords: great depression - capitalism - company housing - corrupt cop - national film registry
Taglines: The most discussed book in years - now comes to the screen to become the most discussed picture in ages
Genres: Drama - History
Certificate: See below
Parents Guide: See below
Release Date: March 15, 1940 (USA)
Filming Locations: Los Angeles, California, USA, Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico,
following the route that the "Okies" had taken West, Needles, Daggett and Tehachapi, California
Production Co: Twentieth Century Fox See more »
Runtime: 129 min - 108 min (cut)
Sound Mix: Mono (Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)
Color: Black and White
Awards: See below
I have not read any of John Steinbeck's books but I have seen at least two films based on his writings, namely, OF MICE AND MEN and THE GRAPES OF WRATH.
Grapes of Wrath was released in 1940, 3 years after I was born. Of course, everyone who is familiar with the film [or the book], knows that the major theme of the work is the Great Depression and its demoralizing affects on the poor people of America, most notably those Americans living in what became known as the "Dust Bowl".
The Dust Bowl, also known as the Dirty Thirties, was a period of severe dust storms that greatly damaged the ecology and agriculture of the American and Canadian prairies during the 1930s; the drought came in three waves, 1934, 1936, and 1939–1940, but some regions of the high plains experienced drought conditions for as many as eight years.
The Dust Bowl, an area of Oklahoma, Kansas, and northern Texas affected by severe soil erosion,caused by windstorms, in the early 1930s, which obliged many people to move.
Of course, at three years of age, I could not have seen the film upon its release but I saw it later at least twice. But even having seen the movie more than once, I had no recollection of it other than the ending scene in which Jane Darwell utters the iconic speech:
"They can't wipe us out; they can't lick us. We'll go on forever, Pa, 'cause we're the people."
I 've known that THE GRAPES OF WRATH is one of the great productions to come out of Hollywood, memorable as in the category of CITIZEN KANE, my favorite film.
I do remember that when I was 3 years old, my family was on Welfare, then called Home Relief. So in a very real way, we were also feeling the effects of the Great Depression. I could always very well identify with the Joad family, of course, with cultural differences. The Joads are are a southern hillbilly family. My family were immigrant Eastern European Ashkenazic Jews, with all the usual intellectual implications associated with the description.
The story has a simple plot, well summarized by Jwelch5742 in his own IMDB review:
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.
John Ford's direction is superb and the cimematography of Gregg Toland, known for his innovative use of lighting and techniques such as deep focus, provides the film with the emotive force of the dark dispair and depression of the era. Toland, by the way, also was the cinematographer for THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES and CITIZEN KANE. The article at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gregg_Toland says that: Some film historians believe Citizen Kane's visual brilliance was due primarily to the contributions of Toland, not director Orson Welles.
The acting talents of the stars, Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell and John Carradine, bring the character of the "Okies" to life.
If you have not seen The Grapes of Wrath, treat yourself to this classic. You can borrow it from your public library. If you have seen it, treat yourself to a second showing of Steinbeck's magnificent story.
STEINBECK UNDER SUSPICION
Until recently, until informed by my friend, Dietz, I was not aware that The Grapes Of Wrath had created a politically heated controversy.
Apparently, this film aroused the ire of many of the politically conservative in this country. When Steinbeck shows the poor Oakies objecting to working conditions in the transit camps and trying to establish unions, he was accused of being a Red. Steinbeck may have sympathized with the plight of the Dust Bowl migrants but he was far from being a Communist. The truth is that Steinbeck did not like to discuss his political opinions.
Censorship was an important part of the Red Scare and containment of communism in the United States. The film and music industries were especially censored, as well as literature. Writers, screenwriters, directors, etc. were often investigated and blacklisted due to claims of their alleged communist beliefs. Educational literature and literature in college curricula were especially targeted under McCarthyism due to the fear that communism will be taught to students. As a result, many famous works were censored during the 1950s, including Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Civil Disobedience (Thoreau) by Henry David Thoreau, and The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
Steinbeck made his first trip to the Soviet Union in 1947 as a journalist. Even before the trip, the pro-worker sentiments of his novels had attracted government suspicion. He was under surveillance by the Federal Bureau of Investigation starting in the early 1940s, though apparently the bureau was not all that discreet. "Do you suppose you could ask Edgar's boys to stop stepping on my heels? They think I am an enemy alien. It is getting tiresome." Steinbeck wrote to Attorney General Francis Biddle in 1942. 5 His trip to Russia confirmed many people's suspicions that Steinbeck was a socialist. But while Steinbeck's work and travels brought him into frequent contact with labor organizers, strikers, and communists, he was not a card-carrying member of the Communist Party, Socialist Party, or any other particular camp. Steinbeck was no revolutionary. In his later years, his friendship with President Lyndon B. Johnson and his largely pro-war reporting on Vietnam drew criticism from liberals and leftists.
Like George Orwell, John Steinbeck was an urban liberal activist with small-town conservative roots. As a Stanford student following World War I, he witnessed America’s Big Red Scare, when hysteria about Bolsheviks, blacks, and labor unions created what Frederick Lewis Allen called a “reign of terror” by the federal government and local vigilante groups. When Red-Scare tactics were employed against Steinbeck following The Grapes of Wrath, the writer complained to the Roosevelt administration, incurring the wrath of J. Edgar Hoover, director of Roosevelt’s newly named Federal Bureau of Investigation. In post-World War II America, Steinbeck’s celebrated liberalism remained part of the public image of California’s famous pro-democracy writer.
A wonderfully written thesis on the subject of exploitation of the working classes as described by Steinbeck -
The Phrase: "THE GRAPES OF WRATH"
The Battle Hymn of the Great Depression
Battle Hymn of the Republic: What do Those Words Mean?
Isaiah 63 - God’s Day of Vengeance and Redemption
1 Who is this coming from Edom, from Bozrah, with his garments stained crimson? Who is this, robed in splendor, striding forward in the greatness of his strength? “It is I, proclaiming victory, mighty to save.”
As is usual lately, I conclude my reviews with excerpts from a reviewer on The Internet Movie Database [IMDB]
This is from 29055's January 5, 1999 review -
A marvelous production of Steinbeck's epic.
KUDOS TO Henry Fonda as Tom Joad; this magnificent actor went on, after Grapes of Wrath, to an illustrious career; father of actors Jane and Peter Fonda, I remember him best for his roles in films I have seen, including, On Golden Pond, The Boston Strangler, Battle of the Bulge,
How the West Was Won, The Longest Day, 1962 Advise & Consent, 12 Angry Men, The Wrong Man, The Return of Frank James, The Story of Alexander Graham Bell
PARENTS GUIDE FOR THE GRAPES OF WRATH (1940)
SEX & NUDITY:
VIOLENCE & GORE:
ALCOHOL, DRUGS & SMOKING:
FRIGHTENING & INTENSE SCENES:
VIOLENCE & GORE:
THE GRAPES OF WRATH (1940) AWARDS
Academy Awards, USA 1941
Blue Ribbon Awards 1963
National Board of Review, USA 1940
National Film Preservation Board, USA 1989
New York Film Critics Circle Awards 1940
Online Film & Television Association 2000
Read about The Grapes of Wrath On the Internet Movie Data Base
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 ... Uncle John
Darryl Hickman ... Winfield
Shirley Mills ... Ruthie
Roger Imhof ... Thomas
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