The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Passed   |    |  Drama, History


The Grapes of Wrath (1940) Poster

A poor Midwest family is forced off their land. They travel to California, suffering the misfortunes of the homeless in the Great Depression.


8/10
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  • O.Z. Whitehead in The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  • Jane Darwell and Russell Simpson in The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  • Henry Fonda in The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  • Henry Fonda and Jane Darwell in The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  • Henry Fonda and Dorris Bowdon in The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
  • Henry Fonda in The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

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10 February 2006 | evanston_dad
9
| Not the Book, But Beautiful in Its Own Right
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

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