THE GRAPES OF WRATH (1940) B/W 129m dir: John Ford
w/Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine, Charley Grapewin, Dorris Bowdon, Russell Simpson, O.Z. Whitehead, John Qualen, Eddie Quillan, Zeffie Tilbury
John Steinbeck's novel about impoverished migratory workers and their struggle to get to California and find work has been turned into one of the all-time great films. Ford's direction and a superb cast make this story of a group of people who were almost destroyed by the Depression a must.
From Georges Sadoul's Dictionary of Films: "Steinbeck's novel was based on his experiences in 1936 as a reporter among the Okies, who were then wandering around the United States, driven from their land by erosion, the Depression, and the usurious methods of bankers. The unity of the film is derived to a great extent from the leitmotiv of the rattling old truck in which the Joad family travels with their clothes, pots and pans, and ramshackle furniture. The stagecoach of Stagecoach is here replaced by the junkpile truck used in the exodus, but it is the same desert that has to be crossed, the trails are just as hazardous and, on top of hunger and lack of work, they are beset by police and roughnecks. Gregg Toland, whose photography in the film is among his best work, described the film this way: 'It was the story of unhappy men, men of the soil, suffering men with genuine problems. And it was a difficult film for us. As I recall, we moved the camera only once: a long traveling shot through the streets of Hooverville (the shanty town). This is what the people in the truck saw after the long trip to the promised land of California.' This is one of the most important Hollywood films of the Roosevelt era."
Oscars went to Ford for his direction and to Darwell as Best Supporting Actress. Additional nominations were for Best Picture, Actor (Fonda), Screenplay (Nunnally Johnson), Editing (Robert E. Simpson), and Sound (E.H. Hansen).