The Grapes of Wrath (Bilingual)
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This remarkable film version of Steinbecks novel was nominated for seven Academy Awards®, including for Best Picture, Actor (Henry Fonda), Film Editing, Sound and Writing. John Ford won the Best Director Oscar® and actress Jane Darwell won Best Actress for her portrayal of Ma Joad, the matriarch of the struggling migrant farmer family. Following a prison term he served for manslaughter, Tom Joad returns to find his family homestead overwhelmed by weather and the greed of the banking industry. With little work potential on the horizon of the Oklahoma dust bowls, the entire family packs up and heads for the promised land California. But the arduous trip and harsh living conditions they encounter offer little hope, and family unity proves as daunting a challenge as any other they face.
Ranking No. 21 on the American Film Institute's list of the 100 greatest American films, this 1940 classic is a bit dated in its noble sentimentality, but it remains a luminous example of Hollywood classicism from the peerless director of mythic Americana, John Ford. Adapted by Nunnally Johnson from John Steinbeck's classic novel, the film tells a simple story about Oklahoma farmers leaving the depression-era dustbowl for the promised land of California, but it's the story's emotional resonance and theme of human perseverance that makes the movie so richly and timelessly rewarding. It's all about the humble Joad family's cross-country trek to escape the economic devastation of their ruined farmland, beginning when Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) returns from a four-year prison term to discover that his family home is empty. He's reunited with his family just as they're setting out for the westbound journey, and thus begins an odyssey of saddening losses and strengthening hopes. As Ma Joad, Oscar-winner Jane Darwell is the embodiment of one of America's greatest social tragedies and the "Okie" spirit of pressing forward against all odds (as she says, "because we're the people"). A documentary-styled production for which Ford and cinematographer Gregg Toland demanded painstaking authenticity, The Grapes of Wrath is much more than a classy, old-fashioned history lesson. With dialogue and scenes that rank among the most moving and memorable ever filmed, it's a classic among classics--simply put, one of the finest films ever made. --Jeff Shannon
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In 1936, John Steinbeck wrote a series of articles about the migrant workers driven to California from the Midwestern states after losing their homes in the throes of the depression: inclement weather, failed crops, land mortgaged to the hilt and finally taken over by banks and large corporations when credit lines ran dry. Lured by promises of work aplenty, the Midwesterners packed their belongings and trekked westward to the Golden State, only to find themselves facing hunger, inhumane conditions, contempt and exploitation instead. "Dignity is all gone, and spirit has turned to sullen anger before it dies," Steinbeck described the result in one of his 1936 articles, collectively published as "The Harvest Gypsies;" and in another piece ("Starvation Under the Orange Trees," 1938) he asked: "Must the hunger become anger and the anger fury before anything will be done?"
By the time he wrote the latter article, Steinbeck had already published one novel addressing the agricultural laborers' struggle against corporate power ("In Dubious Battle," 1936). Shortly thereafter he began to work on "The Grapes of Wrath," which was published roughly a year later.Read more ›
By the way, there is NO widescreen version of "The Grapes of Wrath." This DVD release exhibits the full frame aspect ratio of the original (1.33 to 1 ratio). Essentially, films made between 1917 and 1952 were filmed with a full frame aspect ratio. Standard televisions were proportioned 4:3 to copy the standard cinema ratio. Widescreen (Cinemascope, etc) was a gimmick introduced by Hollywood in the 1950s to compete with television. So if a film was made between 1917 and 1952 don't go looking for a widescreen version of it because there isn't any!
As good as the film is, it really should be a companion-piece to Steinbeck's original masterpiece, and if you haven't read it I recommend setting aside enough time to read one of the greatest pieces of American literature ever written.
That being said, the medium of the cinema allows for a visual impact that can't be matched with the written word.
The Grapes of Wrath follows the Joad family during the great depression. That period of economic hardship hit the farmers in Oklahoma a little harder than the rest of the world, at the time of the dust bowl the "Okies" were at the end of their ropes, financially speaking.
Thousands of Okies packed up the house after being foreclosed and moved out to California - many winding up around Bakersfield, at the California end of old US Route 66. (Merle Haggard's family did so and the "Okie from Muscogee" wrote about it in songs like "California Cottonfields".)
Anyway, this is the historical context of the movie. The theme of the movie, and of Steinbeck's book, is the ability of the human spirit to remain intact in these worst of times. The Joads suffer terrible humiliations, one after another, most of them because of their desperate financial status. But as the story proceeds we see that they are fundamentally decent, hard-working people, and every time life knocks them down they get back up, brush the dirt off themselves, and keep moving forward.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Nice to watch B&W for a change.
Tough times back then, thankful for what we have.
Definitely not one of Henry Fonda's better movies. The script left a lot to be desired. I guess back in the day this type of movie was popular. Read morePublished 23 months ago by kelly
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