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The Grapes of Wrath
Director: John Ford (Dir)
Release Date:   15 Mar 1940
Premiere Information:   New York opening: 24 Jan 1940
Production Date:   4 Oct--16 Nov 1939
Duration (in mins):   129
Duration (in feet):   11,586
Duration (in reels):   14
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Cast:   Henry Fonda (Tom Joad)  
    Jane Darwell (Ma Joad)  
    John Carradine (Casy)  
    Charley Grapewin (Grandpa)  
    Dorris Bowdon (Rosasharn)  
    Russell Simpson (Pa Joad)  
    O. Z. Whitehead (Al)  
    John Qualen (Muley)  
    Eddie Quillan (Connie)  
    Zeffie Tilbury (Grandma)  
    Frank Sully (Noah)  
    Frank Darien (Uncle John)  
    Darryl Hickman (Winfield)  
    Shirley Mills (Ruth Joad)  
    Roger Imhof (Thomas)  
    Grant Mitchell (Caretaker)  
    Charles D. Brown (Wilkie)  
    John Arledge (Davis)  
    Ward Bond (Policeman)  
    Harry Tyler (Bert)  
    William Pawley (Bill)  
    Charles Tannen (Joe)  
    Selmar Jackson (Inspection officer)  
    Charles Middleton (Leader)  
    Eddie Waller (Proprietor)  
    Paul Guilfoyle (Floyd)  
    David Hughes (Frank)  
    Cliff Clark (City man)  
    Joseph Sawyer (Bookkeeper)  
    Frank Faylen (Tim)  
    Adrian Morris (Agent)  
    Hollis Jewell (Muley's son)  
    Robert Homans (Spencer)  
    Irving Bacon (Roy)  
    Kitty McHugh (Mae)  
    Arthur Aylesworth (Father)  
    Norman Willis (Deputy)  
    Lee Shumway (Deputy)  
    Frank O'Connor (Deputy)  
    Tom Tyler (Deputy)  
    Harry Cording (Deputy)  
    Ralph Dunn (Deputy)  
    Paul Sutton (Deputy)  
    Pat Flaherty (Deputy)  
    Dick Rich (Deputy)  
    Mae Marsh (Muley's wife)  
    Herbert Heywood (Gas station man)  
    Harry Strang (Fred)  
    Walter Miller (Border guard)  
    Gaylord Pendleton (Gas station attendant)  
    Ben Hall (Gas station attendant)  
    Robert Shaw (Gas station attendant)  
    George O'Hara (Clerk)  
    Thornton Edwards (Motor cop)  
    Russ Clark (Guard)  
    James Flavin (Guard)  
    Philip Morris (Guard)  
    Max Wagner (Guard)  
    Trevor Bardette (Jule)  
    Jack Pennick (Committee man)  
    Walter McGrail (Leader of gang)  
    William Haade (Deputy driver)  
    Ted Oliver (State policeman)  
    Gloria Roy (Waitress)  
    George Breakstone (Boy)  
    Wally Albright (Boy)  
    John Wallace (Migrant)  
    Erville Alderson    
    Louis Mason    
    Shirley Coates    
    Peggy Ryan    
    Georgia Simmons    
    Harry Holden    
    Hal Budlong    
    John Binns    
    Harry Wallace    
    L. F. O'Connor    
    Cliff Herbert    
    Joe Bordeaux    
    Tyler Gibson    
    Leon Brace    
    Harry Matthews    
    Frank Newberg    
    Jack Walters    
    Bill Wolfe    
    Delmar Costello    
    Bill Worth    
    Frank Atkinson    
    James Welch    
    Charles Thurston    
    Jules Michaelson    
    Waclaw Rekwart    
    Sidney Hayes    
    E. J. Kaspar    
    D. H. Turner    
    David Kirkland    
    C. B. Steele    
    Frank Watson    
    Al Stewart    
    Henry Brahe    
    Scotty Brown    
    Charles West    
    Dean Hall    
    Walton Pindon    
    Charles W. Hertzinger    
    W. H. Davis    
    Scotty Mattraw    
    Chauncey Pyle    
    Walter Perry    
    Billy Elmer    
    Buster Brodie    
    Barney Gilmore    
    Cal Cohen    
    Nora Bush    
    Jane Crowley    
    Eleanor Vogel    
    Lillian Drew    
    Cecil Cook    
    Helen Dean    
    Pearl Varvell    
    Hazel Lollier    
    Emily Gerdes    
    Rose Plummer    
    Mrs. Gladys Rehfeld    
    Edna Hall    
    Josephine Allen    

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. 

Production Company: Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.  
Production Text: A Darryl F. Zanuck Production
Distribution 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)
Photography: Gregg Toland (Photog)
  Bert Shipman (Cam op)
  Eddie Garvin (Asst cam)
  Paul Garnett (Asst cam)
  Charles G. Clarke (2nd unit photog)
  William McClellan (Gaffer)
Art Direction: Richard Day (Art dir)
  Mark-Lee Kirk (Art dir)
Film Editor: Robert Simpson (Film ed)
  Jack Wells (Asst cutter)
  Mary Crumley (Asst cutter)
Set Decoration: Thomas Little (Set dec)
  Andy Kisch (Asst propman)
  William Sittel (Asst propman)
Costumes: Gwen Wakeling (Cost)
  Harry Kernell (Ward)
  Josephine Perrin (Ward)
Music: Alfred Newman (Mus dir)
Sound: George Leverett (Sd)
  Roger Heman (Sd)
  Harry Cornfield (Asst sd)
  Jack Miller (Cableman)
  W. P. Mathewson (Asst boom man)
Make Up: Myrtle Ford (Hair)
  Gus Norin (Makeup)
Production Misc: Tom Collins (Tech dir)
  Ralph Dietrich (Prod mgr)
  B. F. McEveety (Unit mgr)
  Meta C. Sterne (Scr clerk)
  Ralph Hoge (Grip)
  Eddie Jones (Props)
  Arthur Dorien (Best boy)
  Emmett Schoenbaum (Still photog)
Country: United States

Songs: "Goin' Down the Road Feeling Bad" and "Red River Valley," traditionals.
Source Text: Based on the novel The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (New York, 1939).
Authors: John Steinbeck

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp. 24/1/1940 dd/mm/yyyy LP9700

PCA NO: 5789
Physical Properties: b&w:
  Sd: Western Electric Mirrophonic

 
Genre: Drama
Sub-Genre: Social
 
Subjects (Major): The Depression, 1929
  Family life
  Migrant workers
  Poverty
 
Subjects (Minor): Agriculture
  California
  Camps
  Deputies
  Deserts
  Droughts
  Ex-convicts
  Farmers
  Labor agitators
  Murder
  Oklahoma
  Pregnancy
  Strikes

Note: According to materials contained in the Twentieth Century-Fox Records of the Legal Department at the UCLA Theater Arts Library, Fox paid John Steinbeck $70,000 for the rights to his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Steinbeck insisted that the studio add a clause to his contract stating that "the producer agrees that any motion picture based on the said literary property shall fairly and reasonably retain the main action and social intent of the said literary property." The film diverged from the novel most significantly in its ending. The celebrated speech of "Ma Joad," which ends the film ("We're the people that live. They can't wipe us out--they can't lick us. We'll go on forever, Pa, 'cause we're the people"), is actually taken from a chapter in the novel that appears approximately two-thirds of the way through. (In the novel, Ma says, "Why, Tom, we're the people that live. They ain't gonna wipe us out. Why, we're the people--we go on.") The novel ends as "Rosasharn" gives birth to a dead baby and then nurses a famished old man with the milk from her breasts. (This scene was included in the 1988 stage version of the story.) Associate producer and writer Nunnally Johnson, as quoted in a modern source, stated, "There had to be some ray of hope--something that would keep the people who saw it from going out and getting so drunk in utter despondency that they couldn't tell other people that it was a good picture to see. Steinbeck agreed on the necessity for a more hopeful ending." Although some modern sources have stated that studio head Darryl Zanuck wrote the final scene of the film, the only screenplays in the Twentieth Century-Fox Produced Scripts Collection, also at UCLA, dated 13 Jul 1939 and 31 Jul 1939, are by Johnson, and both include a final scene very similar to that which was in the film. Modern sources have also stated that during pre-production, Zanuck sent a team of investigators to check on the veracity of Steinbeck's account of the migrant workers' plight and was informed that conditions were actually much worse than those conveyed in the novel. The controversy surrounding the publication of Steinbeck's novel, which was banned in many places and condemned by the California Chamber of Commerce, resurfaced when Twentieth Century-Fox announced its intention to film the story. The Agricultural Council of California and the Associated Farmers of California began a publicity campaign against Fox in rural newspapers, calling for a boycott of the studio's films.
       According to the file for the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, the PCA, on 29 Sep 1939, informed Fox that although the script for The Grapes of Wrath conformed to the provisions of the Production Code, a number of potential censorship problems had to be addressed. The list of suggested alterations or eliminations included a warning "not to characterize Muley as insane," the rewording of "certain of the lines which have reference to Rosasharn's pregnancy," the removal of a "toilet gag about Grandma," the elimination of "specific mention of Tulare County [California]" and a request not to identify a town as "Pixley." It was also suggested that the film not show "Tom killing the deputy in self-defense." A modern source quotes Zanuck as having said, in May 1939, "If they [the Hays Office] interfere with this picture I'm going to take full-page ads in the papers and print our correspondence."
       According to a Sep 1939 HR news item, Twentieth Century-Fox put in a request for the loan of Spencer Tracy for the part of Tom even though the studio had already announced Henry Fonda for the spot. Although some modern sources note that Zanuck originally wanted Tyrone Power for the part of Tom, and later considered Don Ameche for the part, there is no official record indicating that this was the case in the Fox legal files or elsewhere. Fonda was cast in the role two weeks prior to the start of production and signed to a seven-year contract with the studio. A HR pre-release news item noted that actress Patricia Doyle was cast in a "supporting role to Henry Fonda," but she did not appear in the released film. Although HR noted that Henry King and his "migratory workers' orchestra from Weed Patch, CA," were set to perform in the picture, their appearance in the released film has not been confirmed. Modern sources add Rex Lease, Inez Palange and Harry Tenbrook to the cast, and note that Beulah Bondi was tested for the role of Ma Joad. Bondi, believing that she had the part, reportedly bought an old jalopy and moved to Bakersfield to live among the migrant workers in order to study for the role.
       Studio publicity material contained in the file on the film in the AMPAS Library notes that director John Ford banned all makeup and perfume from the set on the grounds that it was not in keeping with the tone of the picture. (The legal files, however, include a credit for a makeup man.) The legal files also note that the area around Needles, CA, was used as a riverbank in the film, Canejo Ranch stood in for the Keene ranch, the Irvine Ranch in Tustin, CA, provided backdrops for a montage sequence, and Lasky Mesa, in the San Fernando Valley near Chatsworth, CA, was used for the Joad farm and for Muley's farm. Second unit director Otto Brower took a crew to Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico, following the route that the "Okies" had taken West, and also filmed in Needles, Daggett and Tehachapi, CA. Brower and his crew filmed doubles in long shot to represent the Joad family members. According to modern sources, the second unit, while filming the Joads' car travelling down the highway, wanted to add a shot showing the large number of caravans heading west, so the film's business manager stopped actual cars making the trek and paid the drivers five dollars to escort the Joads' jalopy for the cameras.
       Modern sources note that Zanuck, feeling that the film would engender controversy due to its social themes, decided to hold its premiere in New York, where he believed it would be more sympathetically received. The Grapes of Wrath received many highly favorable reviews, including the Var review, which called the film "an absorbing, tense melodrama, starkly realistic, and loaded with social and political fireworks." NYT reviewer Frank Nugent wrote that the film had taken its place on the "...small uncrowded shelf devoted to the cinema's masterworks, to those films, which by dignity of theme and excellence of treatment, seem destined to be recalled not merely at the end of their particular year but whenever great motion pictures are mentioned." After Nugent wrote his highly favorable review of the film, according to his obituary in NYT in 1966, he accepted an offer by Zanuck to go to work for Twentieth Century-Fox for three times his newspaper salary. Because Nugent had at times been a severe critic of that studio's films, some "cynics," according to Var , thought that Zanuck was attempting to silence him by hiring him, but Nugent became convinced that the offer was genuine and accepted it. After being a script critic for a number of years, Nugent became one of Hollywood's top screenwriters, collaborating on some of Ford's most respected films.
       The Grapes of Wrath won an Academy Award for Best Direction and Best Supporting Actress (Jane Darwell), and it was nominated for the following Academy Awards: Best Actor, Best Editing, Best Sound Recording, Best Screenplay and Best Picture. The picture was also included in FD 's "ten best" list for 1940 and was named the best picture of 1940 by the National Board of Review and the New York Film Critics association. A Tony Award-winning stage version of The Grapes of Wrath , directed by Frank Galati and starring Terry Kinney, Gary Sinise and Lois Smith, opened in Chicago in 1988. The play was later produced for the American Playhouse program and presented on the PBS television network on 27 Mar 1991. A 25-hour radio reading of Steinbeck's novel, featuring the voices of Carl Reiner, Kris Kristofferson and Laraine Newman, aired on Los Angeles radio station KPFK-FM on Thanksgiving weekend, 1989, and coincided with the novel's 50th anniversary. The Grapes of Wrath was ranked 23rd on AFI's 2007 100 Years…100 Movies--10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films, moving down from the 21st position it held on AFI's 1997 list. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   22 Jan 40   p. 3.
Film Daily   24 Jan 40   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   5 Sep 39   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   30 Sep 39   pp. 6-7.
Hollywood Reporter   3 Oct 39   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Nov 39   p. 2.
Hollywood Reporter   17 Nov 39   p. 7.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Dec 39   p. 1.
Hollywood Reporter   23 Jan 40   p. 3.
Motion Picture Daily   25 Jan 40   p. 2, 7
Motion Picture Herald   27 Jan 40   p. 52.
New York Times   25 Jan 40   p. 17.
New York Times   28 Jan 40   p. 5.
Variety   31 Jan 40   p. 14.
Variety   12-Jan-66   

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