AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Summary View of Movie
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
The Grapes of Wrath
Director: John Ford (Dir)
Release Date:   15 Mar 1940
Duration (in mins):  129
Print this page
Display Movie Detail

Cast: Henry Fonda  (Tom Joad)
  Jane Darwell  (Ma Joad)
  John Carradine  (Casy)

Summary: Tom Joad returns from prison, where he was serving time for manslaughter, to his family's Oklahoma farm and finds the house abandoned. Muley, his half-crazed neighbor, tells Tom about the recent dispossession of the sharecroppers, who have been driven out by drought and the greedy land companies. Tom finally locates his family as they are about to pack their belongings on a dilapidated truck and head West, lured by promises of work and high wages in California. Joined by their friend Casy, a former "fire and brimstone" preacher, the Joads begin their long trek west on Route 66. Soon after, Grandpa dies and is buried alongside the road. Their hopes for a bright future are dimmed when a man at a roadside camp warns of no work in California, but the family continues on. As the Joads cross the great California desert, Grandma dies, and the remainder of the family emerges from the desert to find no jobs and hoards of starving migrants. Poverty and desperation begin to break apart the family as the husband of pregnant daughter Rosasharn leaves her. Despite rumors of labor violence, the family nonetheless hits the road once again. Hounded by the law and the local citizenry, the Joads find work as strikebreakers. Casy warns Tom that strikebreaking will only drive down wages, and when a deputy murders Casy for his labor organizing, Tom fights back and kills the deputy. With Tom now hunted as a murderer, the family steals away under cover of night and finds temporary refuge in a government agricultural camp. When the police track Tom down at the camp, however, he is forced to bid farewell to his family, knowing he may never see them again. As the family leaves the haven of the camp for promise of work in Fresno, Ma Joad voices the faith to carry on. 

Distribution Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.
Director: John Ford (Dir)
  Otto Brower (2d unit dir)
  Ed O'Fearna (Asst dir)
  Wingate Smith (Asst dir)
Producer: Nunnally Johnson (Assoc prod)
Writer: Nunnally Johnson (Scr)

Subject Major: The Depression, 1929
  Family life
  Migrant workers
Subject Minor: Agriculture
  Labor agitators

Display Movie Detail
The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.