Archive for December 15th, 2008


by Allan Fish

(USA 1940 129m) DVD1/2

We’re the people

p  Darryl F.Zanuck, Nunnally Johnson  d  John Ford  w  Nunnally Johnson  novel  John Steinbeck  ph  Gregg Toland  ed  Robert Simpson  m  Alfred Newman  art  Richard Day, Mark Lee Kirk  cos  Gwen Wakeling

Henry Fonda (Tom Joad), Jane Darwell (Ma Joad), John Carradine (Casey), Russell Simpson (Pa Joad), Charley Grapewin (Grandpa Joad), Dorris Bowdon (Rosasham), Eddie Quillan (Connie Rivers), Zeffie Tilbury (Grandma Joad), O.Z.Whitehead (Al), John Qualen (Muley Graves), Grant Mitchell, Ward Bond, Irving Bacon, Frank Faylen,

That well known avoider of critical controversy David Thomson has a very pointed opinion of John Ford’s adaptation of Steinbeck’s novel, calling it “an appallingly hollow posture of stoicism.”  Hmm, guess he didn’t like it.  The fact remains, though, that I’m with the majority of the critical masses.  The Grapes of Wrath may not quite be John Ford’s best film, but it’s his most poetic, beautiful and thought-provoking. 

The basic story follows a family of Oklahomans leaving to find work in California when the dustbowl disaster of the thirties leads to their eviction from their land, but it was a bowdlerisation of the original novel, cutting the finale where Rosasham has a stillborn baby but rather than waste her mother’s milk, suckles a starving man with her breast – The Hays Office would have loved that – and also showing Tom going off into the unknown of his own accord, not at the behest of his family to give it an upbeat feel.  Yet as many critics have observed, such a downer ending, though acceptable in a novel, would be just the last straw for your average Joe Public filmgoer.  It may have been a film about the people, for the people, but it still had to make a buck.  (more…)

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