Classic Movie Reviews

The Grapes of Wrath

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Often dubbed the "Dirty Thirties" the Dustbowl of the 1930s was created by severe drought coming after many years of destructive farming methods on the great plains of the U. S. and Canada. The worst-hit area in the U. S. included Oklahoma and the panhandle of Texas, plus parts of New Mexico, Colorado and Kansas. When agriculture came to the prairie states, the deep-rooted native grasses that held the soil in place and trapped moisture, even in dry years, were stripped away by plowing. The effect was amplified by the long-term failure to rotate crops or to incorporate fallow fields or cover crops. The exposed soil dried out, turned to dust and then blew away to the East and Gulf coasts, forming massive black clouds that cut visibility to zero. Much of that soil was deposited in the Atlantic Ocean or the Gulf of Mexico. Affecting an area of more than 100 million acres, the Dustbowl forced hundreds of thousands of Americans to abandon their farms and homes and migrate to other states, mostly in the West, especially to California. Because of the Great Depression and the glut of available labor, the migrant workers found their new lives little better than the hardship and heartache they had left behind, mostly harvesting apples and other crops for starvation wages. Some of the hardest-hit areas of the Dustbowl decade have never fully recovered.


"Wherever a guy is gettin' beat up by the cops, I'll be there."  


    A full-on presentation of John Steinbeck's gritty novel about Oklahoma farmers, made destitute by the Great Depression, the "dust bowl" and corporate greed. Many of these "Okies," including the Joad family, migrate to California* where, it is promised, there are lots of good jobs and good living. The reality is different. Henry Fonda's iconic portrayal of Tom Joad, a paroled convict with a social conscience, is matched by Jane Darwell as Ma Joad, matriarch of the family and the one who holds it together through one hardship after another. Darwell received the Best Supporting Actress Oscar and John Ford the Oscar for direction.

* Humorist Will Rogers, an Oklahoman, famously quipped that the migration raised the average IQ in both states.  

1940, Directed by John Ford

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