Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB. USA, 1940. Twentieth Century Fox. Screenplay by Nunnally Johnson, based on the novel by John Steinbeck. Cinematography by Gregg Toland. Produced by Darryl F. Zanuck. Music by Alfred Newman. Production Design by Richard Day, Mark-Lee Kirk. Costume Design by Gwen Wakeling. Film Editing by Robert L. Simpson. Academy Awards 1940.
One of John Ford’s best films is this dramatic and thoroughly satisfying story about a Depression-era family headed up by Henry Fonda, who have left the poverty of Oklahoma in search of work. Going from town to town, the family ends up working in even worse conditions than what came before, in an orange grove field in California, where they must stay until they can gather their resources well enough to escape. Fonda has never been better, and he is matched by a fierce supporting performance by Jane Darwell as his tough mother. Ford’s direction emphasizes the triumph over tragedy in every sequence of the film instead of wallowing in the depressing elements of the story, which is probably why it’s the very best adaptation ever of a John Steinbeck novel.