Great Moments In Film – The Grapes of Wrath (1940)
Today marks the return of John Ford and Henry Fonda to this feature. The Grapes of Wrath (obviously based on the John Steinbeck novel) follows Tom Joad and his family as they’re farm in Oklahoma is foreclosed upon and they optimistically head to California where work is allegedly abundant. Set during the Dust Bowl/Great Depression, it’s an amazing story of trying times and of perseverance. I’ve spoken at length about John Ford, arguably the greatest American film director ever, and Henry Fonda is perfect in this star making role. In fact, not only would this earn him an Oscar nomination, but he considered this one of his two best roles (along with Juror #8 in 12 Angry Men).
This is Tom’s goodbye to his mother. He has to leave the family due to a recent turn of events. This circumstance served as only a catalyst as his departure what something he was thinking about for a while. Originally a man who would mind his own business, Tom has seen too much on this road that he considers to be flat out wrong to keep quiet. He goes off to fight for people who no one else will fight for. Think of it as a vigilante of sorts for the migrant worker; in a much more figurative way that an actual Batman-like figure, of course.
This film does lean toward the left with it’s pro-union message, so be aware of that if you’re of the ilk to mind that sort of thing, but it’s a great one. It was the first one to voted into the National Film Registry for a reason.
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