By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast) -
Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) has just been released from prison, and arrives home just in time to find that his family has been forced off their land by the deed-holders, and that his family are packing up to move to California. Tom joins his family as they hit the road, looking for a way to make a living. Along the way, they find that many others of their kind have been met by vicious discrimination by citizens of the towns they enter, as well as local authorities.
Director John Ford managed to portray the plight of the American tenant farmer with an immensely sympathetic eye. From a visual perspective, The Grapes of Wrath ranks highly among Ford’s films, with heartbreaking imagery of the devastation and poverty wrought by the Great Depression. The below image in particular encapsulates the contrast between the haves and have-nots:
Ford seems to have been a funny choice to create the film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel, as he was well known for his conservative political views. Nevertheless, his keen visuals and anthemic storytelling style matched up perfectly with the story of the Joad family. Ford may have had political differences with John Steinbeck, but much like the author, he always showed a great deal of respect and love for blue collar people.
For his part as Tom Joad, Henry Fonda is at the top of his game, portraying a flawed but ultimately well-meaning man who slowly begins to understand the need to speak out for social justice. The supporting cast is equally strong, with Jane Darwell as the calm and ever-suffering Ma Joad, who nonetheless puts on a strong face as long as possible. This makes it equally heartbreaking to watch when she finally begins to lose her grip on things.
A solid adaptation of one of the great American novels.
Take a Drink: anytime someone turns away the Joads
Take a Drink: whenever they talk about farming
Do a Shot: anytime someone mentions “California”