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The Grapes of Wrath

  • Directed by John Ford
  • United States, 1940, 129 mins., English

Ford’s classic humanist masterpiece, an adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel, stars Henry Fonda in one of his most memorable roles as the laborer Tom Joad, who undergoes an ideological awakening during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Initially released from prison and set adrift, Joad returns to his Oklahoma family farm only to see it flattened in the Dust Bowl. The Joad family, with Tom in the lead, sets out toward California in search of opportunity—but several experiences, many unjust and bound up with larger labor disputes, serve as a catalyst for dissatisfaction with life where individuals just scrape by to subsist. The Grapes of Wrath, shot in shimmering black-and-white by famed cinematographer Gregg Toland (Citizen Kane) and one of many masterpieces helmed by Ford in the 1940s, is a film “founded in real experience and feeling. The story, which seems to be about the resiliency and courage of ‘the people,’ is built on a foundation of fear: fear of losing jobs, land, self-respect. To those who had felt that fear, who had gone hungry or been homeless, it would never become dated. And its sense of injustice, I believe, is still relevant.”—Roger Ebert.

Genres: Drama

Other Films by John Ford

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

“This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” That most famous of lines from John Ford’s late-career masterpiece is an excellent summation of the mythological aspects of not only the American West—a subject about which Ford was the undisputed master—but of American-style politics and its tenuous relationship to the mainstream

My Darling Clementine

One of John Ford’s finest Westerns, and possibly the best known cinematic telling of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral myth, My Darling Clementine quietly shimmers in its focus on the lyrical side of the American West. Henry Fonda plays Wyatt Earp, the legendary yet reluctant lawman of Tombstone, where he and his brothers stop during

The Long Voyage Home

Between 1939 and his departure for the war in 1942, director John Ford was in the middle of a remarkable string of masterpieces. Gregg Toland, one the greatest-ever cinematographers, was revolutionizing film style with the deep-focus camera techniques that would culminate in his work on Citizen Kane. Together, Toland and Ford transformed this adaptation of