THE GRAPES OF WRATH
Thursday, November 9
Directed by John Ford
Starring Henry Fonda
(1940) “I’ll be all around in the dark.” A plain, aging woman pauses, while consigning old keepsakes to the flames, to model her sole pair of earring in a cracked mirror, underscored by a mournful “Red River Valley;” an ancient jalopy is piled to several times its normal height with what’s left of decades of subsistence living; and a lanky man walks along a lonely road under an endless sky. Tough homecoming for Henry Fonda’s ex-con Tom Joad: he doesn’t have one anymore. In the wake of the Oklahoma Dust Bowl, with foreclosures everywhere as the bulldozers loom, four generations of the Joads—plus John Carradine’s simultaneously creepy and ethereal ex-preacher—pile themselves and their meager belongings into that overloaded heap in the wake of a flyer vaunting jobs in California. But what if there aren’t any jobs? The adaptation of John Steinbeck’s worldwide bestseller of Depression dislocation and fiery social protest surprised even the author himself: “a hard, straight picture that looks and feels like a documentary, [with] no punches pulled.” Garnering five Oscar nominations—Picture, Editing, Sound, Nunnally Johnson for Screenplay, and Fonda for Best Actor—and two wins—Best Supporting Actress for Jane Darwell’s “Ma” and Best Director for Ford—it created, via the convincingly weathered faces of familiar actors, and the richly dark, brooding camerawork of the legendary Gregg Toland (Citizen Kane), images to stand beside the classic Depression era photos of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. 35mm. Approx. 129 min.
“Ford's film, shot by Gregg Toland with magnificent, lyrical simplicity, captures the stark plainness of the migrants, stripped to a few possessions, left with innumerable relations and little hope.”
– Matthew Hoffman, Time Out (London)