Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Grapes of Wrath

This John Ford/Henry Fonda classic is on TCM tonight. Enjoy!
Truly magnificent film. Touching, sad and inspirational. The Grapes of Wrath is almost 70 years old, but the emotions and message are as true today as when this film debuted. Based on the classic novel by John Steinbeck, this is the story of the Joad family during the Great Depression. They have lost the family farm in the dust bowl. This story follows the Joads as they move to California in an effort to find work. Upon arriving they find conditions to be little better then where they left. Prejudice, hunger and unbearable conditions pressure the Joads at every stop.

Henry Fonda, as Tom Joad, gives one of the performances of his life. He gives us a window into the soul of someone who has been kicked around by life. He represents all those Americans who lost so much during the Great Depression. Masterfully directed by John Ford. He deserved the Oscar that he won for Best Director. Wonderful touch in what could have been a maudlin story. He got the very best out of the cast, script and crew.

While Fonda was terrific, I feel the best portrayal in the film goes to Jane Darwell. She plays Ma Joad. While Tom Joad can go off and fight the good fight, Ma Joad must stay and care for her large, ragtag family. Darwell is outstanding and received the academy award for Best Supporting Actress. Her character holds the family together and her acting holds this picture together. First-rate!

Compelling, moving and as important today as in 1940. One of the greatest ever.

Filmed in 1940, directed by John Ford, written by Nunnally Johnson, starring Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine and Russell Simpson.

Some notes on the John Steinbeck novel upon which this film is based. The novel was banned in several states and most of California upon its release. The book was so controversial that the library in Steinbeck's hometown, Salinas, CA., did not stock it until the 1990s. The novel's ending was just too provocative to be allowed in the 1940 film. In the book Rose-of-Sharon's baby is stillborn and she offers her breast milk to a dying man. Strong imagery for today let alone 1940. Also, I consider this book to be the best novel ever written. One note about the movie. Stalin banned this film in the Soviet Union. He did not want anyone in Russia knowing that even very poor Americans had a car.

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