Grapes of Wrath

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Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Sep 20, 1999 (Updated Nov 19, 1999)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:cast, script, story, cinematography, direction

Cons:evil capitalists, poor as victims

"The Grapes of Wrath" tells the story of the Joads, a displaced Oklahoman sharecropper family, and one of many forced to abandon their lands due to the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by John Steinbeck, the film succeeds in depicting the poverty, to the extent of starvation, of the homeless Okies. There are other messages as well: the difficulty in maintaining a family in the face of adversity, the low value placed on the lives of migrant farm workers, and the injustices of the capitalist system.

Let me explain that last remark. "The Grapes of
Wrath" is a pro-socialist film. Socialism was at
its zenith during the Great Depression, when it
seemed that capitalism may have failed. Franklin
Roosevelt was a socialist President, and the poor
saw Big Government as a lifeline from their
jobless despair. "The Grapes of Wrath" condemns
the faceless banks for foreclosing on the Okies,
the agricultural growers for cheating their
low-paid workers, and local police forces for
their brutality and affiliation with the
capitalists. When the Joads finally arrive at a
Government-run camp, it is as if they have
reached heaven. Fresh from his success with
"Stagecoach", John Ford directed "The Grapes of
Wrath", and almost deserved his Best Director
Academy Award (I think Hitchcock should have won
for "Rebecca"). The black and white
cinematography by Gregg Toland is excellent, with
extraordinary footage of the deep poverty of the
migrant worker camps.

Henry Fonda stars as Tom Joad, a hot-tempered
ex-con who returns to his family just in time to
join it on a desperate job-hunting expedition to
California. Jane Darwell gives an excellent
performance as his mother, who tries to hold the
dissolving family together as matters go from bad
to worse. John Carradine plays a colorful,
half-mad preacher.

Fonda was nominated for Best Actor, and Darwell
won Best Supporting Actress. "The Grapes of
Wrath" was nominated for Best Picture, and
Nunnally Johnson was nominated for Best
Screenplay. Johnson did a reasonable job in
distilling the lengthy novel into a filmable
version, changing the ending and jumbling the
chronology to soften the novel's pessimistic
message. (89/100)

Recommend this product? Yes

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