Favorite things about… The Grapes of Wrath

(Image via worldscinema.org)

The favorite film:
The Grapes of Wrath, a 1940 drama based on the novel by John Steinbeck (adapted for the screen by Nunnally Johnson) and directed by John Ford

The synopsis:
Tom Joad is fresh off of a prison sentence for homicide when he returns to his family’s home to find that they’ve been kicked off of their land. Like many Oklahoma sharecroppers, they’ve been forced out and their home is going to be bulldozed soon. After seeing an advertisement for workers needed in California, the family decides to head West, but the coastal promised land doesn’t turn out to be as immediately wonderful as they expected.

The cast:
Henry Fonda as Tom Joad
John Carradine as Casy
Jane Darwell as Ma Joad
Russell Simpson as Pa Joad
Dorris Bowdon as Rosasharn
Charley Grapewin and Zeffie Tilbury as grandpa and grandma Joad
Eddie Quillan as Connie

Fun facts:

(Image via pyxurz.blogspot)

  • John Steinbeck was very happy with the outcome of the movie, especially Henry Fonda’s performance as central character Tom Joad.
  • The film was shot in seven weeks.
  • John Ford did not allow makeup or perfume on set in order to maintain the story’s tone.
  • The film was shown to international audiences with a prologue explaining the Depression and the dust bowl.
  • Henry Fonda signed a seven-year contract with Fox even though he didn’t want to be a contract player. He knew that the role was too great to pass up, so he gave in. Producer Darryl Zanuck threatened to give the role to Tyrone Power in order to talk Fonda into signing the contract.
  • Both John Steinbeck and John Ford were investigated by Congress during the McCarthy era because of the book/film.
  • The film was banned by Joseph Stalin.
  • Darryl Zanuck, due to his nerves over the leftist views of the novel, sent private investigators to Oklahoma and to migrant camps so he could be sure Steinbeck wasn’t exaggerating the conditions.

Favorite things:

  • Such a great cast, especially John Carradine and Henry Fonda
  • Carradine’s awesome fence jumping skills
  • The lighting when Tom and Casy go into the darkened Joad house
  • Perfectly built bleak and hopeless mood in the beginning of the film
  • The scene where the house gets bulldozed breaks my heart EVERY. TIME.
  • Everyone thinking that Tom busted out of jail even though he insists he was paroled
  • The scene where Ma has to burn all of her keepsakes = lots of ugly crying from Lindsey
  • The little details, like the newspaper lining the walls of the home, make it very clear that the crew paid a lot of mind to portraying the conditions wholly and accurately. So great.
  • Grandpa’s death scene = more ugly crying

(Image via corndogchats.blogspot)

  • FLYING SHEEP!
  • Casy letting himself be carted away over something he didn’t do, for the sake of the others
  • The big “YAY” that I feel when Casy returns… the big “NOOOO” that I always yell when he dies a few minutes later
  • The USDA camp is a pro-government fairytale land. “We have running water! We have the best dances in the county!” – While I’m sure it’s true that the conditions there were better than in most camps, the fact that it’s such a “HALLELUJAH” moment in the film always makes me laugh a little bit.
  • Henry Fonda singing
  • Quotes:

    (Image via doctormacro)

    • Casy: “I used to get an irrigation ditch so squirmin’ full of repentant sinners I pretty near drowned half of ‘em.”
    • “Then who do we shoot?”
    • “What’d you do, son? Bust out?”
    • “You can’t keep a Joad in jail!”
    • Tom: “What about Grandma?”
      Grandpa: “TAKE HER WITH YA!”
    • Cop:”The guy they oughta lock up is the guy that sent them things out” [referring to the "help wanted" advertisement]
    • Ma: “I wished you didn’t do it, but you done what you had to do.”
    • Tom: “That Casy… he mighta been a preacher, but he seen things clear.”
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4 thoughts on “Favorite things about… The Grapes of Wrath

  1. There is a song by Bruce Springsteen entitled The Ghost of Tom Joad. Every time I hear it I see images from this film in my mind. Thanks for following me. I have since returned the favor.

  2. Pingback: What to Watch #6: March 13 – 19 | the motion pictures

  3. Pingback: What to Watch #25: September 4 – 10 | the motion pictures

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