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The Grapes of Wrath

USA 1940
produced by
Daryl F. Zanuck, Nunnally Johnson (associate) for 20th Century Fox
directed by John Ford
starring Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine, Charley Grapewin, Dorris Bowdon, Russell Simpson, O.Z. Whitehead, John Qualen, Eddie Quillan, Zeffie Tilbury, Frank Sully, Frank Darien, Darryl Hickman, Shirley Mills, Roger Imhof, Grant Mitchell, Charles D.Brown, John Arledge, Ward Bond, Harry Tyler, William Pawley, Charles Tannen, Selmer Jackson, Charles Middleton, Eddy Waller, Paul Guilfoyle, David Hughes, Cliff Clark, Joe Sawyer, Frank Faylen, Adrian Morris, Hollis Jewell, Robert Homans, Irving Bacon, Kitty McHugh, Wally Albright, Erville Alderson, Trevor Bardette, Harry Cording, Jim Corey, Thornton Edwards, Ben Hall, Herbert Heywood, Mae Marsh, Walter McGrail, Walter Miller, George O'Hara, Dick Rich, Gloria Roy, Peggy Ryan, Harry Tenbrook, Tom Tyler, Norman Willis, Harry Strang, Steve Pendleton, Robert Shaw
screenplay by Nunnally Johnson, based on the novel by John Steinbeck, music by Alfed Newman

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Oklahoma, the Dust Bowl: Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) has been in prison for four years because he killed a man in self defense. Now he's out on parole, but when he comes to his family's farm he finds it deserted. From a neighbour (John Qualen) he learns that the company that owns the land is in the process of repossessing it and tearing down farmhouses with bulldozers.

Together with Casy (John Carradine), a priest who has lost his faith, Tom is able to track down his family at Uncle John's (Frank Darien), but his farm too is threatened by the bulldozers, so the whole family including Uncle John and Casy head for California, where they are promised jobs in fruit picking, in their truck that seems to fall apart more with every mile they make and with just enough money not to starve.

During the journey, both Tom's grandpa (Charley Grapewin) and grandma (Zeffie Tilbury) die, but the family has to move on. Finally they arrive in California - only to be welcomed with anything but open arms. Fact is, farmers from all over the country have come to California to pick fruits - and there aren't all that many fruits to pick.

The Joad family finally finds abode at a run-down camp of unemployed farmworkers - but this one is terrorized by deputies who are looking for reds among the unemployed and are looking for every excuse to close it down. Eventually, they find a red and want to shoot him down, but accidently shoot Tom's Ma (Jane Darwell), not fatally though, and before he knows it, Tom knocks one of them out. Casy, who knows that Tom is out only on parole, assumes responsibility for the act and is arrested. Soon enough, Tom learns that locals want to burn down the camp, and everybody makes a hasty escape.

Finally, the Joad family arrive at a camp where there is actually work ... but the conditions are even worse than in the unemployed camp: The camp is under constant watch by deputies, is paroled all through the night, the pay is miserable, and the workers are forced to buy their food in the overpriced local shop ...

When Tom takes a walk, he meets Casy again, who has since the last time they saw each other done some thinking, and has come up with some ideas to improve the conditions of the workers - which in the eyes of the company that runs the place makes him a red, and ultimately the deputies kill him right before Tom's very eyes, which makes Tom kill one of them as a reflex ...

Again, the family has to leave in a hurry.

The next camp they arrive at though is something completely else, it was installed by the gouvernment but is run by the workers themselves as a corporation. There is no guarantee for work , but at least the infrastructure is adequate and no deputies can come in without a warrant. And the occupants are more than determined to keep both deputies and troublemakers out despite the fact that the locals despise them and are just looking for an excuse to close the camp down (for them, all camp-inhabitants are Communists anyways).

Soon enough, Tom realizes that the deputies might already be after him and he sees it best to leave his family and fend for himself on his own - but to spread the ideas of Casy everywhere he goes ...

 

By and large, John Ford was known for his (often epic) Westerns, but Grapes of Wrath, the epic of the underdog based on John Steinbeck's masterpiece about the Great Depression, might very well be his most accomplished work, the film in which he actually brings the wide open plains of his Westerns into a relation with the characters' plight - which makes Ford's direction even more flawless than usual. The performance by Henry Fonda, maybe the most unglamourous in his career, is also quite compelling.

Recommended.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
Amazon!!!

 

 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD