Monday, 11 February 2013

The Grapes of Wrath


John Ford
Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carrandine, Charles Grapewin, O.Z. Whitehead and Ward Bond
10 and up

Depression America, 1930s. Tom (Fonda) has just been paroled from jail after serving time for killing a man on a dance floor. He goes back to the farm and realises it has turned into an uninhabited dust bowl, that is except for Casy (Carrandine), an ex-priest. The two go to the rest of Tom’s family, who all dream of being employed, being poor as nomads who have lost their land. Of course, their dream is impossible from the start as tragedies hit them one by one.

Still of actor Henry Fonda looking at a job vacancy sign.
Why it’s good:
This movie is a masterpiece of grief and sadness. It is a sad lacework as sad as the depression really was. 800 jobs in California are available. Thousands see them. That’s the truth. Not only for a fellow nomad, but for everyone. That era was like that.
It is quite scary watching it with the young ones. Dad walked off the film halfway about the time they said that they ate with tin cans. It was sadder than it was scary. I wished I had not watched it. It was just too unforgiving and I hid out myself after finishing the film.

Brilliantly adapted from John Steinbeck's novel, the film captures deep emotions and feelings that would leave you harbouring those feelings even if you put in the effort to forget. They were poor and their tragedies were too hard to take for the family of Joads. Employment was then a miracle, so was having a roof over their heads. “I aren’t goin’ to California!” screams Tom’s father at one time in the film.

Sadly, the film ends sad. Casy dies sudden under the control of the cops while there are protests at almost every scene. Be it the best scenes, too. The people at the dance floor of the new place lead a protest. The kids go in to the toilets and say,”Remember we saw this in the catalogues?!” That was quite a moment for me to see that those kids don't even have something as basic as a toilet.
Parent’s guide:
Casy is killed by policemen in the raid while Tom witnesses it in disgust. A man gets punched in the face at one of the many protests.
It was considered the world’s best American film till Citizen Kane stole the show in its 1958 re-release.
If you like this…:
The other movies about the Great Depression are as excellent as this. As a Chaplin film, "Modern Times" (1936) lacks seriousness. "My Man Godfrey" (1936) does too, using the Depression as a backdrop for story flow. Both are in the Comedy chapter.

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