The Grapes of Wrath is a 1940 drama film directed by John Ford. It was based on John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name. The screenplay was written by Nunnally Johnson and the executive producer was Darryl F. Zanuck. The film tells the story of the Joads, an Oklahoma family, who, after losing their farm during the Great Depression in the 1930s, become migrant workers and end up in California. The motion picture details their arduous journey across the United States as they travel to California in search of work and opportunities for the family members. In 1989, this film was one of the first 25 films to be selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." The film opens with Tom Joad (Henry Fonda), released from prison and hitchhiking his way back to his parents' family farm in Oklahoma. Tom finds an itinerant ex-preacher named Jim Casy (John Carradine) sitting under a tree by the side of the road. Casy was the preacher who baptized Tom, but now Casy has "lost the spirit" and his faith (presaging his imminent conversion to communism).
John Ford’s adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel is moving and heartfelt, despite its random structure and rambling, overwrought (and overly political) narrative. Henry Fonda owns the show as Tom Joad, a prison parolee in the 1930s who returns to his Oklahoma home to discover his family has been ousted from their farm by a greedy corporation when the infamous ‘dust bowl’ hits. The family packs it up for California to try to make a go of it as migrant farm workers, which doesn’t necessarily pan out for the best, thanks to Tom’s penchant for getting into fights with ‘Okies go home’ types. The Grapes of Wrath pours on the populist and neo-Communist schmaltz, but Fonda’s portrayal of the permanently-down-on-his-luck Tom really makes you feel sorry for him. Which, I suppose, is the point.