The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

8.1
  • Passed
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release year: 1940 (1940-03-15)
  • Running time: 129 min
  • Original Title: The Grapes of Wrath
  • Voted: 79624
The Grapes of Wrath is a movie starring Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, and John Carradine. A poor Midwest family is forced off their land. They travel to California, suffering the misfortunes of the homeless in the Great Depression.
#PersonCharacters
1Henry FondaTom Joad
2Jane DarwellMa Joad
3John CarradineJim Casy
4Charley GrapewinGrandpa
  • My experience of living the movie, its so true to life 11/28/2005 12:00:00 AM by gene-mcdaniel 10

    This movie is so real..at least to this person, who lived these things that happened in the movie. I will tell a short version of my personal life to let you know how it affected me from my own experience of growing up in the Thirties

    I think their must have been more then one car because ours was full of stuff in the back seat, clear up almost to the roof. Frankie, Bill and me (my brothers) all was on top of the stuff in the back seat, had to stay lying down was not enough room to set up. What I remember most about the trip was it was awful hot when we went through Arizona and we had not much water, the water we had was in a canvas bag, hooked to the front bumper to help keep it cool. We did not get much because dad was saving it for the car when the car got to hot. Mom told us to suck on pebbles, and we did. It was a bad time every where. No jobs or anyway to make any money.

    We were going to California because their was suppose to be some picking work their, after we got to California we saw miles of potatoes all loose piled up high my guess would be about six feet high, they had put lime or something that looked like lime it was a white powder to keep people from taking them to eat.

    We found a place to pick plums that they used to make prunes and we lived in a Quonset hut made of corrugated metal setting on a concrete slab. The public toilets were near were we stayed, Joe and his wife (Family friends)had their own Hut?this was the time that dad & Joe would sell tickets for people to watch them box each other in a ring at the recreation hall on the property. Also they joined a baseball team and played baseball, dad played left field. We got to watch them play for free.

    Seems like Frankie and I played together a lot don't think Bill did because he was still a baby his self, Doris and Dorothy (my sisters) was still crawling so Bill could not have been very old at that time. Frank & I would go pick up plums off the ground and we would bring them home, Doris and Dorothy would set in the box and eat them. You can guess what they would look like when mom and dad got home, their was no air condition back then so they would take a hose and squirt water on the tin Quonset hut to try and cool it off some, I know when we went west we looked like those grapes of wrath folks in the movie.

    That area was the first time I ever saw a frog walk, it was to hot for them to hop, when they tried to hop their bellies would touch the ground ( gravel) and would burn them, any way that's what we thought at that time. I saw the movie of Grapes of wrath a long time ago, and I remember it so well, I cried most of the time it was on because it reminded me of the hard time we all had back then, I was born in Oklahoma and it was just a terrible time in the late thirties I would love to see the movie again, its to me a history of my family, I am 71 1/2 years old now and still remember it very clearly.

    Gene McDaniel

  • John Ford's stark portrayal of a poor family in the depression remains one of the most moving films in history. 2/13/2001 12:00:00 AM by Anonymous_Maxine 10

    The Grapes of Wrath is the story of the Joad family, who are run off of their land in Oklahoma because of drought and poverty. I think that one of the most striking elements of this movie is the black and white cinematography. Obviously, there wasn't a lot of variation on this particular subject in 1940, but especially today, the lack of color enhances the feelings of poverty and desperation and emptiness due to the family's loss of their home. In this way, because it would not be nearly as noticeable in 1940 as it is today, this time-enhanced effect of the black and white film stock has allowed for the film's impact to actually grow with time.

    Henry Fonda plays the part of Tom Joad, a young member of the family who is released from prison at the beginning of the film, only to find that his family has been driven from their home and is staying at his uncle's house until they can figure out what to do about their sudden homelessness. It is by pure coincidence that Tom was released early on good behavior, otherwise he may very well never have seen his family again. He finds them in a state of near desperation, as they begin more and more to realize the predicament that they are in. Their trek across half of the country, on their way to California to assume jobs that they've heard about, provides for a substantial portion of the plot and is extremely well-structured.

    The family encounters every hardship imaginable on this journey, from family members dying to their struggle to feed themselves to their rickety old truck constantly breaking down. They run into disillusioned people who claim that they've been to California and there are really no jobs there, at least not nearly as many as there are people going to look for them. They are periodically and derogatorily referred to as `Okies,' a term which places them in a broad category of poor folks driven from there homes in middle America who are traveling to the coast to get jobs that aren't there. There is so much doubt and hardship presented that it is never really certain whether they really will find jobs. The audience is never able to assume a happy ending, because there is so much contrary foreshadowing throughout the film.

    The struggles do not abate once the family reaches California and takes up shaky residence in residential areas that would be more accurately referred to as shanty towns, and the rest of the film is dominated by the family's efforts to survive in a new and unfamiliar place, while working for wages that are barely sufficient to prevent starvation. Ma Joad spends the majority of the film stressing the importance of keeping the family together, seeing it as the only thing that they really had left, but this is eventually set aside in favor of each member of the family not only surviving but also flourishing, which provides for one of the many powerful messages that the film delivers.

    The Grapes of Wrath is not exactly an edge of your seat film, but it is a shockingly realistic portrayal of the suffering that so many people and families experienced during the Great Depression. The performances are flawless, and the experience is not only powerful and moving but also educational. It's no secret that most people do not watch movies to learn, but there comes a point, at least once in a great while, when a person should watch a film that requires a little mental thought processing, and in such cases, The Grapes of Wrath is an excellent choice.

  • Economic Dislocation 10/1/2006 12:00:00 AM by bkoganbing 10

    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.

  • Not the Book, But Beautiful in Its Own Right 2/10/2006 12:00:00 AM by evanston_dad 9

    It's difficult on a first viewing of "The Grapes of Wrath" not to be somewhat disappointed with it. So much of Steinbeck's beautiful novel is left out of the film, and it's hard to see his story and characters wedged into the "gee whizz" style of film-making so prevalent at the time. But once you get beyond a comparison of the movie to the book, you begin to realize that John Ford created a beautiful piece of work of his own, and the film inspires a great deal of admiration, and deserves credit for its gutsiness at tackling a story that wouldn't have gone down smoothly with film executives at the time.

    Of course the most controversial parts of the book are left out (like its final image, for example), but Ford still managed to work around the constraints forced upon him to fashion a hard-biting film. Henry Fonda is perfect casting for Tom Joad--never have his otherworldly eyes been used to greater effect. And Jane Darwell is pitch-perfect as Ma Joad--she captures the tough-as-nails dignity that the character has in the novel. The whole movie is lit by expert cinematographer Gregg Toland, who uses shadow and reflection to cast a ghostly pall over everything. Indeed, much of what Ford wasn't able to include in the film as words he communicates instead through images, and isn't that what a good book-to-film adaptation should do? One of those films that feels ahead of its time.

    Grade: A

  • A marvellous production of Steinbeck's epic. 1/5/1999 12:00:00 AM by 29055 10

    Henry Fonda's portrayal of Tom Joad captures perfectly the humanity and compassion of the Steinbeck character, an ex-con who breaks his parole conditions by joining his family in their epic journey across the southern US to a "better life" in California.

    This is not the usual Hollywood fare. Tragedy and betrayal beset the Joad family from the outset. But it is nonetheless an uplifting movie. Spirit, compassion and tenderness mark them out. Fonda's role is particularly understated, and we see, as in Steinbeck's masterly epic, the maternally robust figure of Ma holding the family together.

    The performances all round are wonderful, and Ford's direction and sense of space under the big sky of the Midwest is breathtaking.

    This film is now largely a testament to the time in which it was set, but like the war movies that were soon to follow, a story that needed telling lest we forget.

#PersonCrew
1Gregg Tolandcinematographer
2John Forddirector
3Robert L. Simpsoneditor
4Darryl F. Zanuckproducer
5Nunnally Johnsonwriter
6John Steinbeckwriter