Friday, April 15, 2016

AFI Top 100, #21: "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940)

Movie Stats:
Released 1940 (USA)
American, in English
Director - John Ford
Stars - Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine

Plot Summary:
Follows the exploits of the Joad family, Depression-era Okies trying to make it in California. Fonda co-stars as the eldest Joad son, Tom; Darwell as his mother, Ma; and Carradine as former preacher, and family friend, Jim Casy.


Bad Stuff:
The slow pace makes it seem much longer than it actually is.

It’s like one of those movies that they show in history class when you’re a teenager. I felt like I was being taught something rather than watching something that was meant to be entertaining.

There’s a little too much “stare off into the distance while monologuing” for my tastes.

Good Stuff:
There were a lot of good performances. I particularly enjoyed Carradine and Darwell. Darwell did such an excellent job of playing Ma Joad that I completely fell in love with her.

Loved the language, the way all the characters talked like Okies. It could have felt forced but it didn’t.

It did a good job of depicting the pain that people caught in the Dust Bowl felt. Losing the farms that had been in their families for generations, watching their homes bulldozed, given false hope over and over, treated like dirt wherever they went. It’s heart-wrenching, and if you feel any different after you’ve watched this movie, you probably have no soul.

Oh, the music is great!

The Verdict:
I’m not a big fan of how slow it is, and I’m not the only one. My husband, who watched the beginning with me, left to go play video games, and came back near the end, said, “Is this still on?” Watching was a bit of a chore, and I occasionally felt like I was being preached at. However, it’s a good story with great acting and excellent music. I also think it’s an important period of history. The country is likely one wrong step, and/or one major natural disaster, away from another Depression, where we could face such problems again. Have we learned the lessons of the past? It’s difficult to say (probably no). If you’re in the mood for a bit of history, and you’re feeling fairly upbeat so multiple deaths and police beatings won’t get you down, you should pop this one in the DVD player.

I give it 3.5 stars.


Patricia said...

We read this last year for Kenton Library Book Group and I learned that John Steinbeck had planned to write a nonfiction book about the subject, but the publishers gave that a no-go, so he turned it into fiction. The book has regular "history lesson"-type passages, so I wonder if that bled over into the script of the movie? (I've not actually seen this movie.)

Reading the cast list, I found myself wondering if John Carradine was related to David Carradine. And indeed, David is (or was) one of John's sons.

balyien said...

Well, that tidbit about him wanting to write a non-fiction book makes things make so much more sense! I don't think I ever read this one. We did East of Eden instead.

It's amazing to me how many acting dynasties there are in Hollywood. John Huston had his fingers in a lot of these AFI movies, either as an actor, director, or producer, and I only just discovered that he's Angelica Huston's father. I'd never even heard of him before. Funny, isn't it?