319 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
My experience of living the movie, its so true to life
gene-mcdaniel28 November 2005
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
266 out of 290 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
John Ford's stark portrayal of a poor family in the depression remains one of the most moving films in history.
Anonymous_Maxine13 February 2001
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.
120 out of 138 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Economic Dislocation
bkoganbing1 October 2006
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.
69 out of 82 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Not the Book, But Beautiful in Its Own Right
evanston_dad10 February 2006
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
57 out of 67 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A marvellous production of Steinbeck's epic.
290555 January 1999
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.
85 out of 103 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A masterpiece...
jluis19844 May 2007
During most of the decade of the 30s, the United States lived under the shroud of the Great Depression, a decade of unemployment and high poverty that would changed the face of the country forever. While the entire country suffered the effects of the Depression, the inhabitants of the prairie lands had to face an extra difficulty: the Dust Bowl. The Dust Bowl was a terrible ecological disaster that destroyed many farms in the area of the Great Plains, and forced people to migrate looking for better working conditions. The difficulties and social problems that those migrants had to endure in this sad chapter of history became the inspiration for John Steinbeck's novel, "The Grapes of Wrath", a book that quickly became a classic due to its powerful depiction of the era. Soon after it's release, plans for a film adaptation began to be made, and the man who would bring the novel to the screen would be none other than John Ford.

In "The Grapes of Wrath", Henry Fonda plays Tom Joad, a young man recently paroled from prison who is traveling to his family home in Oklahoma. When he arrives, he discovers that the farm is deserted and the only person he can find is Jim Casy (John Carradine), the former preacher of his community. Together they decide to go to the house of Tom's uncle John (Frank Darien) looking for the Joads, and it's there where they find them packing their belongings as they get ready to move. The Joads explain Tom that the bank has foreclosed their farm, and that they are moving to California looking for work and a better life. While he is not supposed to leave the state by the conditions of his parole, Tom decides to join his family and convinces Jim to go with them in the long and arduous trip to California. However, things won't be as easy as they thought they would.

Adapted to the screen by Nunnally Johnson, "The Grapes of Wrath" takes on the spirit of John Steinbeck's novel and delivers a harsh, crude and very realistic portrayal of poverty during the Dust Bowl. Despite not being an exactly faithful adaptation of the novel (changes were done due to censorship), the movie remains true to that powerful and very human essence that the novel had, and it could be said that Johnson distilled the themes of the novel and made an unabashed story free of any political compromises. While this kind of stories often suffer literary embellishments, "The Grapes of Wrath" avoids stereotypes and shows humanity as it is, with all their vices and virtues. It is the excellent development of the main characters what gives that very human touch to the story, as it really shows a real understanding not only of Steinbeck's novel, but also of the real social situations that inspired the book.

In 1939, John Ford was in one of the best periods of his career, having directed "Stagecoach", "Young Mr. Lincoln" and "Drums Along the Mohawk" in less than 12 months. "The Grapes of Wrath" would also be shot the same year, being the culminating work of that extraordinary series of masterpieces. While Ford was better known for his legendary westerns and larger-than-life heroes, "The Grapes of Wrath" was in many levels a very personal movie for him, so he basically took Steinbeck's novel and completely made the story his own. Framed by Gregg Toland's wonderful cinematography, Ford brings to life the Joads' story in a way that mixes his own style with a focus so realistic that almost feels like a documentary. Without excessive sentimentalism, Ford tells in this movie a very human tale of survival, so universal that could easily be related to any group of people migrating due to poverty.

While Ford and Toland deserve a lot of the credit, the movie wouldn't be the same without the extraordinary performances of the cast. Leading the cast is Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, delivering one of his best works of acting in his portrayal of the young man. Considering his performance in Ford's "Young Mr. Lincoln", one could say that Fonda's career reached legendary status under Ford's direction. While Fonda's work is worthy of praise, two actors actually manage to overshadow him in this movie: Jane Darwell and John Carradine. As the idealist preacher Jim Casy, Carradine makes a terrific job in what's probably the story's most interesting character, completely embodying Casy's persona in an atypical role for him. Like Carradine, Jane Darwell makes a wonderful job (probably her finest) as Ma Joad, and without a doubt she truly deserved that Academy award she received for her performance.

As written above, the movie has several considerable differences with the novel (specially the second half), so fans expecting a complete translation of the book will be a bit disappointed. However, Johnson and Ford did a wonderful job in the adaptation than while considerably different beasts, both the movie and the novel carry the same spirit and the message that Steinbeck tried to give in his book. Interestingly, producer Darryl F. Zanuck also saw the film as a personal project and certainly his involvement helped the movie to get away from censorship as most as possible. While the film has indeed some flaws (most famously the sudden and unexplained disappearance of a minor character), it's hard to diminish its value due to them, as the beauty of its craft is so big that they can be easily dismissed.

With a haunting atmosphere, a beautiful visual composition, and superb performances by his actors, Ford created one of the first masterpieces of the 40s and one of the finest American movies ever made. While already a celebrated director by the time of its release, this movie consolidated Ford as a master of his craft. Despite their differences, John Ford's "The Grapes of Wrath" truly carries the spirit of Steinbeck's novel, as well as the ghost of Tom Joad. 10/10
26 out of 31 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Triumph in Record Time
RHKLWK18 May 2002
They say that you should wait 20 or 30 years before attempting to capture an historical event on film. That is why it was remarkable that Oliver Stone was able to capture the "feel" of Viet Nam (in "Platoon") so soon (13 years) after America's withdrawal. Usually, an honest perspective takes more time to develop.

But, when you consider that John Steinbeck and John Ford needed less than ten years to bring the 1932 "dust bowl" to life, you really have to admire their magnificent achievement.

Of course, in 1940, Ford could not film much of the graphic squalor described in the novel. For example, the film cannot show a starving hobo suckling at the breast of a young Rose of Sharon, who has milk to spare following the death of her baby. But, far from degradation, Rose of Sharon's gesture is a reflection of the goodness that resides within her, and that quality is well illustrated in the character development seen on the screen. Tom Joad may be an ex-con, but he is a good man.

One of the commentaries (below) uses this film to rant about the exploitation in today's society. That completely misses the point. Ford, who was as conservative as anyone in Hollywood, even more conservative than John Wayne, used this movie to show that Man can triumph, despite the natural and human barriers that are put in his way.

This is ultimately a movie about hope and the human spirit.
64 out of 84 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A compelling story of a family trying to survive the hardship of great depression era.
mianaliilyas7864 April 2006
One of the best movies Hollywood ever produced and yes it's true that "The Grapes of Wrath" is one of those movies which don't loose their lust in many years. Released in 1940 and till now this movie is as fresh as it can be. John Ford directorial version of John Steinbeck's finest work really worth a watch.As from the release of the book "Grapes of Wrath" has been seiged with controversies as the book was banned in many states but the book is great proponent of hardship. This movie mesmerizes you from the start as the characters are indulged with true humanitarian instincts, you won't feel any thing irrelevant.Henry Fonda is very much compelling in the role of young Todd and Jane Darwell won best supporting actress in magnificent portrayal of Mama Todd. All the other cast was fine and convincing in their roles .John Ford won another best director award from this and its no doubt the best deserving from his other achievements .In the end it's a treat and you wont be able to forget its impact for a long time.
44 out of 57 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Down but not Out
Richie-67-48585229 March 2016
Anytime you are tempted to feel down and out, watch this movie. I personally have seen it many times and are currently reading the book which I highly recommend. I cannot emphasize this enough. This is as down as you can get and still survive. We are taught to be grateful when watching this and to also consider the other guy, whoever he is and at the least, do not add to his burden. Actors are on their game as is the Director. Of course, none of this exists if it wasn't for John Steinbeck and his book. I thought about this movie during the recent Real Estate downturn and what the banks did in real life was indeed captured in this movie way back when. Indifferent, callous, and greedy while practicing their rights leaves one with a bad taste in the mouth and we bailed them out if that isn't the gall of galls. Have something to eat while watching to appreciate that you have food and the people in the movie do not, a tasty drink and a snack which is unheard of back during the depression days will help you connect more to the movie theme. There is humility, gratitude and lessons to be learned while being entertained. Its called a TEN thank you
6 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The definitive Great Depression film
willwoodmill26 February 2016
Classic Hollywood films that tried to tackle important issues or answer big questions, typically were cheesy and hard to take seriously. They had gratuitous overacting, fake "Hollywood" dialogue, and just general over dramatization. Since these films are typically over-dramatized in this way, their attempts at having a deeper or meaning or some sort of a message are ruined. But not all classic Hollywood films fall into this abyss of clichés. And the ones that don't are still remembered and cherished to this very day, films like Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, or Modern Times, or 12 Angry Men, faced serious social issues at the time and succeeded. Films like these are unforgettable and in many ways life changing, and John Ford's Grapes of Wrath is one of these precious films.

As I'm sure you all already know Grapes of Wrath is an adaptation of the John Steinbeck Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name, that was published only a year before the film was first released. The novel is one of the greatest of the 20th Century, and I highly recommend that you should check it out. The film and the novel are both about Tom Joad, (played by Henry Fonda, who collaborated with John Ford several times.) who returns to his family's home in Oklahoma after spending 4 years in prison, but unfortunately by the time Tom Joad makes it out of prison, the country has fallen into the Great Depression. And the Joad family were unfortunately sharecroppers, so of course the bank repossessed there home and land, and the Joad family are forced to head west to California to look for work. But as they get closer and closer to California things begin to seem hopeless as they learn the truth about what is going on out in the west.

If I were to choose one word to describe The Grapes of Wrath it would be haunting, so many scenes and lines of dialogue send shivers down your spine and make tears grow in the back of your eyes. I won't spoil any of these fantastic moments, but dear god the combination of John Steinbeck's masterful writing and the actors's somber performances combine to make these scenes and lines of dialogues absolutely devastating, you will be thinking about them for weeks after you watch the film. The cinematography (done by the legendary Gregg Toland, who also was the cinematographer for Citizen Kane.) is also outstanding. Shots of the deserted houses in Oklahoma, the wide open road on highway 66, and the overcrowded filthy slums of California, all give The Grapes of Wrath a bleak depressing atmosphere.

Every single actor in the film gives it his/her all, Jane Darwell won the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role as Ma Joad, and Henry Fonda was nominated for best leading actor. And while these two performances are just perfect, every single roll in the film no matter how small is also perfect. (well, except for some minor child-actor roles.) John Ford is an excellent actor director though, so this should come as no surprise. John Ford also won the Oscar for best director, this was his second Oscar (his first was for The Informer.) and it is well deserved, each scene is meticulously crafted to dig real deep into the audiences emotions and not in a way that feels cheap by exploiting the audience or something. No instead of going for cheap shallow emotions the way an Oscar-bait movie would, Grapes of Wrath instead has characters that don't even feel like characters that are going through actual struggles, there is no cheap manipulation in this film. It is 100% genuine.

John Ford was a strange person for 20th century fox to pick to direct The Grapes of Wrath, because he was politically conservative and the book/film supported several liberal political ideas like strikes and unions. But John Ford was definitely the right choice. (see what I did there.) Grapes of Wrath was one of the few American films that was allowed to be released in the Soviet Union,it was only allowed because it supported pro-communist ideas. But it eventually had to be pulled from The Soviet Union when Soviet audiences saw that even dirt-poor begging Americans could still afford cars. In 1989 The Grapes of Wrath was one of the first 25 films to be added to the national film registry, alongside films like Citizen Kane, Vertigo, and Casablanca. And it deserves its spot there, Grapes of Wrath has become the definitive Great Depression film, and should be viewed by everyone.

5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Wherever they're showing the Grapes of Wrath, that's where I'll be
jay4stein79-12 April 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Do I have your attention? Okay: Go out and watch this movie immediately because to not do so is, well, it's un-American. John Ford, with this nifty little film, made the greatest argument for populist/socialist politics in cinematic history. This movie understands the Depression and the Dust Bowl and the poor and the hungry and the starving and all those people that the sign at Ellis Island (or is it at the Statue of Liberty?) says that we'll take on and help. It understands those people better than anyone or anything else I know. Steinbeck's novel helps this movie get to where it needs to be, but, let's be honest, the Grapes of Wrath is all John Ford.

The sweeping vistas, the excellent editing and pacing, and the acting are of the highest caliber, as befits a John Ford film. I'm amazed every time I see this movie just how moving it is without straying into trite sentimentality. Tom Joad's speech at the end always makes me cry--his chilly delivery of the word homicide at the beginning continues to give me a prickly spine. Fonda was a great actor, and he is certainly at the top of his game here. Without him, interestingly, the film would have probably floundered. No one else could have possibly played Tom Joad; no one would have that charm and charisma and, most importantly, that voice. The rest of the cast is amazing, don't misunderstand, but Henry Fonda is Henry Fonda--an actor unto himself. There is no one like him and never will there be; he is the single most watchable actor of all time.

And this isn't even my favorite John Ford movie! Nevertheless, it's a great film with a great message. Call me a pinko (it's been done before), but what's superb about this movie is its humanism. Yeah, the ideology promotes a type of socialism (ahem, I mean, let's not forget that that is basically what the New Deal was and if you think that system was a bad idea, then fine), but, really, the movie is about caring for people who don't have the resources to care for themselves. Grapes of Wrath is not a scathing indictment of anyone; it's a simple portrait of a family's struggles to overcome the Depression. It's uplifting and shows a real feeling for the downtrodden, and that's more than you can say about most American films that intend to deal with the poor and hungry.
14 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The First Great Film of a Great Decade for the Cinema.
tfrizzell8 June 2002
"The Grapes of Wrath" was a huge novel so it only made sense to turn it into a feature motion picture. The result is one of the greatest films ever produced. Oscar-nominee Henry Fonda, his mother Jane Darwell (Oscar-winning) and their family have had it in the Dust Bowl. Thus they decide to leave the midwest of our nation's Great Depression and go to California. The film is an intensely dramatic affair that is first-rate in all cinematic departments. John Ford won his second Best Director Oscar with this movie and the landscape of the late-1920s and early-1930s has never been captured more fully. Excellent film-making. 5 stars out of 5.
33 out of 48 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Fine Cast & Production
Snow Leopard26 October 2004
This classic adaptation of "The Grapes of Wrath" features a fine cast as well as a skillful production headed by director John Ford. Henry Fonda and Jane Darwell are well-remembered for their roles, which are among the defining roles in their careers. The only limitations that it has come from the original novel, with its heartfelt but sometimes contrived story.

Besides Fonda and Darwell, the supporting cast features plenty of good supporting players, including Charley Grapewin and John Carradine. All of them make their characters come alive believably. They also fit together well and complement one another's performances, which accentuates the themes involved in the struggles of the Joad family.

For all that the Steinbeck novel is so revered, and for all that his story is an often compelling depiction of its characters, with whom many in the era could identify, it would have been better if it had not been so heavy-handed. Even given that the times were bad, more balance in the characters outside of the family, and in the Joads' experiences, would have made it an even better story. Certainly, this is barely even noticeable when compared with the stories in many present-day movies and novels, which often dispense with any attempts at plausibility.

And that does not stop this adaptation from being a worthwhile and often moving film. Ford clearly appreciated the potential in the material, and he and the cast work together to make each character count, and to give meaning to each scene.
21 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A masterpiece
grantss19 December 2015
A masterpiece, based on John Steinbeck's classic Pulitzer Prize- winning novel. Captures the desperation, hopelessness and human suffering caused by the Great Depression better than any other movie. Surely one of the saddest, most depressing, movies ever made.

Director John Ford pulls no punches. Other than the direct effects of the depression, the depiction of the lengths people go to to abuse the helplessness of other humans is shocking (and very probably true). Yet, among all the cynicism, there are acts of kindness and selflessness that leave you with hope for mankind.

Henry Fonda is great as Tom Joad, and deserved his Best Actor Oscar nomination. Supporting cast are superb, with Jane Darwell (as Ma Joad), to the fore. Her Best Supporting Actress Oscar was well- deserved.

A must-see, whether you've read the book or not. Realistic human drama at its best.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
People That Live
rmax30482316 September 2000
Warning: Spoilers
The movie itself is generally recognized as about as good (or great) as you can get, especially considering that it was shot in 33 days. But it often gets nailed for two scenes, one absent from the film, the other changed drastically. No Rosasharn is not seen in the film nursing the dying old man from her swollen breast. If the scene had been shot in 1939 (or even suggested), the movie would never have been released. The second problem often pointed out is that the ending is too upbeat, what with Ma Joad's carrying on about how men live their lives in jerks while women flow along like Anna Livia Plurabelle, and "we're the people that live." That last scene was written by Zanuck and was almost essential to a successful film in the late 1930s. Of course tragedies had been filmed for years, but ordinarily the tragic hero or heroine had earned his or her fate. Both audiences and authorities would have waxed wroth seeing an honest close-knit family crushed by an American economy that was totally inimical to their welfare. We need to look at art in the context of its time.

From the Marxist perspective that Steinbeck used in writing the novel, Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) is the protagonist but the two most important characters are Ma Joad (Jane Darwell) and Casey the Preacher (John Carradine). Ma represents what Marx called "false consciousness," the tendency to attribute our misery to our own flaws, to bad luck, or God's will. Ma Joad's solution is retrograde -- to hold the "fambly" together. Casey, on the other hand, discovers "class consciousness." It's not our fault. The flaw is systemic, and the solution lies in correcting the inequities in the system. Our allegiance has to transcend groups like the family and embrace all the exploited workers. The film endorses not Marx's revolution but a milder form of socialism -- the government-run labor camp with its democratic "sanitary units", and the emerging union movement with its collective bargaining. Steinbeck's polemic is more acid. The novel has a reference to the extremely wealthy William Randolph Hearst (better known as Charles Foster Kane) who is described as have "a mean face and a mouth like a a**hole." There aren't many references to communism either in the novel or the film, just a few remarks about "Who is these Reds, anyways?" Still pretty bold stuff for the 1930s with the public in one of its periodic Bolshevik scares!

No need for anxiety, though. By the late 1930s the Great Depression was easing up, and World War II was about to bring it to an end. Bakersfield now looks as if Tom Joad had made a successful escape and decided to open a chain of organic food stores.

This is a marvelous film. To single out just one shot, note when the Joads drive through the first starving Hooverville. The camera is mounted on the front of the old truck and travels slowly, without any cuts or dialog, through groups of wary, singularly ratty looking people, men and women, young and old, some resembling photos of criminals from old Police Gazettes, who "don't look none too prosperous."

If nothing else, the film is a valuable corrective to the current view that people are poor because they're lazy. How did one third of a nation become so terribly lazy in the years following the 1929 stock market crash?
13 out of 19 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A testament with the wrong moral..
mizzcaramel3327 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The Grapes of wrath is a film based on the novel written by John Steinbeck. The film follows a family westward as an exodus of lower class families are forced out of work and their homes due to the firm hand of "the man."

While several cinematography elements used within the film, such as the use of black as white as well as some camera tricks, elevated the 'run down' feeling of the Joad family it is my feeling that although the film was an homage to the novel it did not capture the intended thesis of Steinbeck.

Throughout the plight of the Joad family the movie focuses simply on the obstacles and hard times that only the Joads had to encounter. I feel the lack of the strong sense of a community in the film really detracted from the moral of the book. The book has a strong lesson of the "I" becomes "we", whereas the film lacks the sort of artistic ability to really capture that phenomenon. The film puts forth a plot of the Joads against the world and the most important and striking part of the book was realization that a community of perfect strangers had come together, bonding over their nothingness and had become a greater 'fambly' of their own; a unit to reckon with.

It is because the Director's cut of the film failed to bring to screen Steinbeck's message of the human nature: of a people coming together when they have no means of living and yet there they are - still fighting the silent fight.

While the film has an impressive cast of actors and several other noteworthy aspects of the film which are quite beautiful when speaking the film in parallel with novel, the film has fallen short. This could justly be because of the times period and other circumstances but in short while this film pays homage to this timeless literary work the film is due for a remake with the world being in a place where one is not fearful to expose the truth. To truly honor Steinbeck's work this must be done.
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
My Family's History in film
cldavisj21 July 2004
Ma Joad was my mother. That is to say her and thousands like her out of the Dust Bowl of the '30s and '40's . I never got to ask ma about those days, she died before I knew that this movie and her life were the same. But my oldest sisters were born in transient camps just like the movie..people were alternately mean and kind just like the movie. When I watch the camp scenes they are as my sister's described them. The director (Ford) has nailed that episode of American history (or just a slice) deftly jumping from the hopeless to the hopeful that these folks lived through. This is a social film true...but it is also a well told morality play with some of the finest words committed to celluloid. Hard to beat Steinbeck . I have the newly restored Fox DVD...excellent quality. They did a faithful restoration. You should never pick up a head of lettuce or put on a cotton shirt without thinking of this film after viewing it. Me....I just remember Ma.
9 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
While a tad too sentimental and not always accurate historically, it's a very impressive and heart-rending film
MartinHafer15 May 2007
This is an extremely sentimental and worthwhile film that fans of Hollywood's Golden Age should see at least once. While I don't think it's director John Ford's best film (I preferred HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, THE QUIET MAN and FORT APACHE), it is superb and well-crafted. Some of the acting (in particular Jane Darwell as "Ma") was terrific and very realistic, while occasionally it was a bit over the top (John Carradine as "the Preacher"). And the story itself was excellent and well-constructed--making an emotional and heart-felt appeal for justice and a more Socialist nation in response to the poverty of the Great Depression. You can't help but be sucked into the pitiful yet somehow hopeful lives of the Joad family. While some of the facts were definitely exaggerated in order to make this point (making it a one-dimensional fight between good and evil), the overall message of upheaval and loss was important and potent.

I am a history teacher and so naturally I gravitate to films like THE GRAPES OF WRATH. It is an amazingly powerful film that is extremely touching and lovingly made--though historically, some of the film is pretty much fiction. While most web sites I checked praised the book, one presents a thoughtful and documented analysis of the actual Okie experience and compares it to the book and movie--coming up with many ways in which THE GRAPES OF WRATH isn't a totally accurate portrait of the times. Some examples cited were the general success the "Okies" had when they arrived in California, that the exodus to California from most of America PRE-DATED the Dust Bowl years and the Dust Bowl itself had very little actual impact on Oklahoma (though it DID affect Kansas and some other states considerably). This isn't to say that the film is completely fiction or it was a bad book or that Steinbeck was a Communist, but that Steinbeck wasn't always careful in his research and seemed to stretch facts to make his social and political statement. See for yourself--it makes interesting reading at: http://www.newcriterion.com/archive/20/jun02/steinbeck.htm
11 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
The most important word you'll ever hear : Family !!!
Coventry6 October 2003
Wow...this movie is just WOW !! I've been wanting to see it for such a long time but I never got the chance. Now, I finally did and it even goes beyond my highest expectations... I was prepared to see some class-A drama but everything what this family goes through is even worse than I thought. This famous movie milestone goes about the Joad family. They have to leave everything they own in Oklahoma behind. Them and several other poor families are attracted by California because there is supposed to be work and a place to live. The long trip is filled with misery and when they finally get in California, it seems that they've been deceived once more. There's almost no food and 8 hungry mouths to fill.

It's impossible not to get touched by the Joad family. All the characters are so sad but at the same time so brave. They don't give up and keep fighting...you just have to encourage them while watching this film. The Grapes of Wrath really makes you feel happy you live in this era and in this part of the world. You know stories like this really happened in the old days and they still do in some parts of the world. This kind of film is excellent to make you realize you have nothing to complain about.

The dramatic highlights in this motion picture are countless : The flashbacks about how families are driven away from their homes, the grandfather's "funeral" , the mother and son conversation near the end... All these scenes and several other ones are indicators of great drama and brilliant cinema. The Grapes of Wrath received several prices and nominations and it deserved every single one of them. Every element in it is flawless. Henry Fonda's portrayal of Tom Joad is one of the most intriguing characters ever shown of the screen. He's absolutely brilliant.

The highest possible recommendation isn't yet high enough to describe The Grapes of Wrath...If you ever have the chance: SEE IT !
14 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Classic That Stands Tall Today
Cinexcellence29 June 2008
The Grapes of Wrath is one of those great American classics that manages to get on most of the big lists. With that in mind, I was expecting a minor let-down because of all the great things I'd heard about it. Yesterday I had one of those rare experiences watching a film where all of my expectations were met and exceeded.

I found myself mesmerized by the people in the story; I wanted them to succeed. The Grapes of Wrath is a depressing film, which I knew coming in, but I was surprised by the little instances within the film where kindness was shown. In a film peopled by crooked cops and harsh times, it was refreshing to see these acts of kindness and integrity.

The lighting in the film was also superb. In the opening scene where Tom is in his old house at night it really looks like it's at night. And in another scene, where he has a candle at night, it looks real. I know The Grapes of Wrath is the text-book example of natural lighting, but there's a reason for that. :) And without spoiling anything, I love how the film ended.
6 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Great Movie
85122218 October 2017
Greetings from Lithuania.

"The Grapes of Wrath" (1940) is a one powerful and heartbreaking movie. It tells a very simple story but does this in a great way. Its been a long time since i felt true sorry for people shown in this movie or more specific life that they had to endure during the time.

The craftsmanship of this movie is great - directing (amazing pacing for whole 2 h 8 min), involving and realistic writing as well as great acting. Best performance in this movie was hand down by Jane Darwell who played Ma. She glues the family together in its hardest time - literally i could seen my mom in her - this is a wonderful performance of a wonderful human.

Overall, "The Grapes of Wrath" left me heartbroken many times during its time. The most saddest things for me when watching a movie isn't when somebody cries - but its when a life tries to knock good and hard working people down on its knee. "The Grapes of Wrath" is a great movie.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
California here we come!
donaldricco24 July 2017
This is a beautiful looking film with lots of wonderful acting performances! It's one of the rare times that a classic book has been turned into a classic movie, in my opinion! John Ford really captures the essence of the novel, even if some big parts are left out. And when Henry Fonda delivers that "I'll be there" speech near the end, well that's just cinema gold! It's not better than the book, but it sure can stand proud!
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Is it me?
counterrevolutionary26 February 2003
I hesitated before writing this, because I really didn't much like this movie, and I assumed at first that it was because I find its politics so appalling.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that even cinematically, I found it compelling only on a purely visual level (Ford's movies are always at least visually compelling).

I think Ford spent so much effort trying to make his characters into symbols that he failed to make them people. At no point did I care whether the Joads made it to California; the deaths of the old folks made no impression on me. The villainy of the local cops and those who ran the work camps was much mitigated by its obvious artifice. The only emotion any of these people inspired in me was a deep desire to punch that self-righteous jerk Tom Joad right in the mouth--which I don't think was what Ford was going for. I have to admit that I did like John Carradine, but I always like John Carradine.

And when the Joads drove into that federal government work camp, and it was like arriving in heaven with an obvious FDR lookalike (sans wheelchair, of course) as God, I completely lost it. That was about the unintentionally funniest thing I've ever seen in a classic film.

Am I just too cynical?
21 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Close, But No Cigar
klyngraves27 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
While the movie was still controversial for its time, it was too censored to fully convey Steinbeck's message. The movie reorganized the scenes so that instead of the Joads going from Hoovervilles to the government camp (Weed Patch) to the boxcars they went from Hoovervilles to the Ranch to the government camp (Wheat Patch). They changed the order in the movie and took the hard-hitting tragedy of the book and made it into the feel-good-movie-of-the-year. This censorship happened with many scenes in the movie. The Joads, in the book, ended by fleeing from flooding boxcars to the sanctuary of a damp barn while in the movie they leave a clean, nice government camp to go get 20 days worth of work while driving off into the sunset. The movie also completely leaves out the ending of the book where Rose of Sharon gives birth to a stillborn baby and then has to flee with some of the family to a barn to get out of the "wet". When they reach the barn she nurses an old man dying of malnutrition. This is a very powerful ending that was completely written out.

Another major criticism I have for this movie is the lack of emotion and connection. When grandma and grandpa die in the movie, the audience feels nothing; there was no emotional connection between the audience and the characters. I also feel that by leaving out the land and by not connecting the land with the people we lose a crucial part of the story. Not once in the movie do we see a peach.

The censorship of the movie destroyed Steinbeck's message. The book has a strong message of community, working together and building relationships to get through hard times. Steinbeck's way of saying this was "I" turning into "we" and if the "we" didn't form than everyone would fail. The movies message was that the Joads "are the people" and the people live on and that they were winning because they were still surviving.

I do understand that if the movie wasn't censored it would never have been produced but I feel that if you cannot do a novel like The Grapes of Wrath justice then don't try.
8 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A Memorable Film Of Its Era, 'The Grapes Of Wrath' Is A Deserving John Ford Classic.
CinemaClown31 July 2016
Painting a gritty yet authentic portrait of family life ravaged by economic hardships, The Grapes of Wrath covers the strenuous ordeal faced by one family as it struggles to keep itself together when everything around them is falling apart. Steered by John Ford's assured direction & powered by a couple of stellar performances, it remains one of the most memorable works of its era.

Set during the Great Depression, the story of The Grapes of Wrath follows Tom Joad who's out of prison on parole, only to find out that his family has been forced off their own land. Managing to reunite with them eventually, Tom & the Joad family set off to California in search of better work, opportunities & a hopeful future but face one misfortune after another, each testing their strength.

Directed by John Ford, the film doesn't even try to sugarcoat any of its events and brings back the gruesome memory of living through the Great Depression for its viewers. There's constant friction between hope & hopelessness in the script but it is deftly written & wonderfully balances the arcs of its characters. Ford's direction also makes sure that the narrative is always on point & not tread around the edges.

The production design team & location setting work in tandem to recreate the era that devastated thousands of lives while further assistance comes from its smart camera-work & patient editing to help the movie achieve its desired look n feel. But what holds it together is the outstanding inputs from Henry Fonda & Jane Darwell, especially the latter who delivers a powerful performance that only gets better as story progresses.

On an overall scale, The Grapes of Wrath is tragic, heartbreaking & harrowing but, despite its bleak appearance, it isn't entirely devoid of hope & optimism. We witness the Joad family disintegrating under the burdens of crashed economy yet the end result is a reflection of the strength that lies in unity and how a strongly-bonded family can steer through any situation. Expertly directed, deftly written, brilliantly performed & culminating with one of cinema's most inspiring monologues, The Grapes of Wrath comes thoroughly recommended.
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed