"The book is a film that takes place in the mind of the reader." ~ Paulo Coelho

Friday, July 17, 2020

Movie Review: The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Good day, readers!

Usually when there is a movie that is based on a book, I like to review both and compare them. Today I'll be just reviewing a movie, with some thoughts on the book later. Read on, to find all about my thoughts on my first Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath!

My guarantee: On ALL of my reviews there are NO spoilers unless I give you warning. This is spoiler free!

The Grapes of Wrath (1940):
Based on: the book by John Steinbeck.
Tom Joad returns home from the penitentiary to find that his folks are being shoved off of their land. The family plans to drive out to California where there is lots of work. They endure a lot - having twelve people in one truck over that long journey, and along the way the number diminishes. In California they find that the hardships aren't over as greed rules there. Is the only way to stop it by going on strike, or will that lead them to further trouble?
'"Is he tellin' the truth?"
"The truth for him, he ain't makin' it up."
"Is it the truth for us?"
"I don't know."'
Genre: Drama.
Length: approx. 127 minutes.
Costumes:  8, there are a few times when people aren't wearing shirts, but other than that good. Very accurate for the time frame.
Script: 10, there was not one bad word in this whole film, which was such a relief!
"My dirt. It's no good, but it's mine. All mine."
Crew: Directed by: John Ford. Written by: Nunnally Johnson & John Steinbeck.
Henry Fonda as Tom Joad.
Jane Darwell as Ma Joad. "I ain't never gonna be scairt no more."
John Carradine as Jim Casy.
Charley Grapewin as Grandpa Joad.
Zeffie Tilbury as Grandma Joad.
Russell Simpson as Pa Joad.
Frank Darien as Uncle John Joad.
Dorris Bowdon as Rosasharn Rivers.
Eddie Quillan as Connie Rivers.
O.Z. Whitehead as Al Joad.
Darryl Hickman as Winfield Joad.
Shirley Mills as Ruthie Joad.
Frank Sully as Noah Joad.
I don't think this is a scene from the movie, just a promotional photo.
John Qualen as Muley Bates.
Roger Imhof as Thomas.
Grant Mitchell as Caretaker.
Charles D. Brown as Wilkie.
John Arledge as Davis.
Ward Bond as Needles Policeman.
Harry Tyler as Bert.
William Pawley as Bill.
Charles Tannen as Joe.
Eddie Waller as Proprietor.
Paul Guilfoyle as Floyd.
David Hughes as Frank.
Joseph Sawyer as Keene Ranch Foreman.
Adrian Morris as Hiring Agent.
Cinematography: 10, okay, so this cinemtography is incredible. The lighting is so real! Usually in movies when someone lights a match then the whole room becomes bright, which is not realistic. One scene here that really was amazing was with candlelight. Ah, I had shivers.
This was the best I could find, but it isn't even close to how good it is.
Cinematography by: Gregg Toland.
Music: 8, I liked the use of the songs within it, even if I don't quite remember the score.
Music by: Alfred Newman.
Notes: I will address this later, but I just want to mention that there are a ton of differences from the book.
"Seems like a lot of times the government cares more about dead people than livin' ones."
Quotes: N/A, as I just watched it yesterday. One quote that was revelant to today's issues, was: "Wherever there's a cop beating up a guy, I'll be there." Food for thought.
Oscars won: 2: Best Director (John Ford), Best Supporting Actress (Jane Darwell).
Content: 9, there is smoking, murder, and one suggestive thing, but believe me, this is tame! The book is chock full of many more problems. Because of that I'm giving this such a high ranking.
"...A human being couldn't stand to be so miserable..."
Originality: I'm not sure. It seems like I've seen other movies where a family moves, but not in the conditions of this. I'll give it an 8.
Good For: Black and white movie lovers, anyone who has had to move, anyone who has lost family members.
Age Range: It is clean, but what happens in the story is hard to grasp. I know I wouldn't have gotten any of it a few years ago, so maybe for people above 15? It depends on each one, though.
Overall Score: 8.5!

This is my entry in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society's (PEPS) Code Classics Blogathon!

At first when I signed up for this blogathon I wasn't sure what to talk about. There are so many options! Finally I chose The Grapes of Wrath as my subject because my mom has been telling me to read the book for forever. As I mentioned in my intro, I had planned for this to be one of my Book vs. Movie Reviews, so what made me change my mind?

Earlier this week I dove into the book and started reading. A few chapters in I hated it. When I can define that I actually "hate" a book, then that's pretty serious. It was so painful to read! The language (at one point a character said, "Now I cuss all I want, any time I want, an' it does a fella good to cuss if he wants to." and I was ripping my hair out)! The overall content! I couldn't handle it. About halfway through my mom showed me mercy. She said that I didn't have to finish it, but that I did have to watch the film. Last night, my older sister, Em, and I sat down to watch this. She read the book a few years ago, but had been waiting until I read it to watch the movie. (Note, kudos to anyone who was able to finish this book! Bravo! I salute you for your perseverance). What would I rate it if I allowed myself to rate books that I don't finish?

Now, the movie is very different from what I read of the book. Steinbeck alternates between the story chapters and chapters that are metaphors on life. They can be as simple as a turtle walking (one of his most famous scenes), or about guys selling cars. Let me get this straight, I actually liked those parts of the book. Steinbeck's writing style is really neat, and I would prefer to read a whole book just like that without the actual storyline. While they do have a few bad words or suggestive lines, they are squeaky clean compared to the rest of the book. Because they are so different, the filmmakers made the choice to not include that part in the movie. They did manage to work one into the plot, which I was impressed with.

Back to other differences. A strange thing, I'm not saying this is a bad thing or a good thing, is that they moved around a lot of the events of the book. Instead of A coming before B, it went B, C, A, etc. My sister and I aren't really sure why they did this, but it worked out and you could see a fluid storyline. This shows how even previously written stories are so open for interpretation and adaptations! This movie is just a little over two hours, and that's a small time frame to put a 400+ page book into. Therefore, they obviously had to cut some things (besides the metaphor chapters). According to my sister, they cut the ending. She said that the movie ended about four chapters before the end of the book! She also says that I now have to read the ending, dash it all. It seemed like a good ending for the movie, but it's weird that they cut the original. I know that in my writing, endings are really hard for me, so when I come up with a good one I really like it. I wouldn't like my ending changed, but maybe Steinbeck didn't mind because of the message it got out. This was made the year after he wrote it, so if he objected he could’ve said something, right?

They also had to cut characters, which is understandable. For anyone who hadn’t read the book (or parts of it), you might have noticed a different head count from the start. They didn’t mention when or why one of the characters (I won’t tell you which) left. That really confused my sister and me. Since we had both read that part in the book we knew why, but they never explained it, or even acknowledged it. It seems like it would’ve been easy enough to say, “------- won’t go any further.” and leave it at that. Did they mean to do that and just forgot? The world will never know.

My sister was mentioning, though, that because we don’t hear about how “bad” the characters are in the beginning, then we don’t see their full character arc. I thought that the actors did a good job of playing all of the characters and showing how they aren’t the best people that they could be, but without having to go into all of the details. This is my strong feeling on characters: (Note, we all have different meanings of the word bad. Because of that I will be putting it in quotations each time, but I am usually talking about my personal moral standards.)
It’s fine for characters to do “bad” things if they are shown as a villain/antagonist, or if they are shown as trying to do better, or if they are eventually “redeemed” (‘cause really, I want everyone to become the best version of themselves!).
When reading the book I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to “root” for Tom and others, or not. That was frustrating, because I can tell you that I wasn’t feeling like it. I’m not sure how to express this, but I feel like the film version did a better job of this because of its Code influence.
My sister to me: "You, madame, are a walking contradiction, and I find that fascinating." (paraphrase)

A few things to mention on specific characters:
Jim Casy: Em doesn’t think that his character's journey was done justice compared to the book, because of a few things taken out. I’m trying to repress what I read, so no comment from me here.
I'm green, Em's blue.

Ma Joad: I’ve heard my parents reference Ma Joad all my life. It wasn’t until my younger sister was thinking about reading the book last year that I realized she was from this! Jane Darwell definitely deserved her Oscar for this role! She made me cry, which I can guarantee that I wouldn’t have done that while reading the book. What really struck me with this story (and what I will hold onto as my impression that I got from this for years to come), is Ma’s love for her family. No matter what happens to them, or what they do, she still loves them.
"I don't want a mean son."
That was inspiring for me. I really relate to her want of keeping the family together no matter what.

This is Code era, so it is so clean! I can’t even imagine a movie version of this nowadays, but I do know that it would probably be closer to the book in content levels, which I wouldn’t like. I'm always telling Em about the Code, and she thinks it's interesting but isn't as into it as I am. After we finished watching this she said, "I appreciate the Code compliance in this case!" I can't tell you how much I do, too! I am so glad that I was able to enjoy a version of this story without all of that horrible content. Thank you to the Code for its perspective!

Well, that got really rambly at the end. Thanks for sticking through it, if you're still here! Interested in other Code films based on classics? Check out the other posts HERE!

If any of you have seen The Grapes of Wrath (1940) or managed to read the book, I would love to discuss it with you! Leave me a comment with your thoughts.

Thanks for reading!



  1. I don't think I've ever seen the movie or read the book, but it sounds interesting. Adaptations are hard, because they have to have to decide what things they're going to keep, and what things they're going to cut.

    1. Right! I used to be very hard on filmmakers when a movie wasn't exactly like the book, but last year I realize that they aren't trying to make it the same, they are trying to put their own version together. They did a good job on this one!

  2. I love the film, but the book drive me nuts. We definitely don't agree on the "metaphor" chapters!

    1. I can see that if I was actually interested in the story, the "metaphor" chapters would be an annoying way to break up the story. Thanks for commenting!

    2. John Steinbeck is my favorite author. I don’t know why his writing drove you crazy. Maybe try again in a few years.


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"If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, where you stop your story." -Orson Welles