Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Henry Fonda in “The Grapes of Wrath” March Classic in Bigfork

.The 1940  film “The Grapes of Wrath” starred a young Henry Fonda and is regarded as one of the best movies set during the 1930’s depression era. The displaced Joads family lose their Oklahoma farm and head west looking for work, opportunities and a new life. The film portrays a part of American history that might have been buried in history books except for effort like this movie based on John Steinbeck’s 1939 novel of the same name. The film was one of the first 25 films selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” Ironically, as bad as conditions were for the Joad family, the movie was still banned by Stalin because it showed how even the poorest Americans could afford a car. “The Grapes of Wrath” will be shown by Jack Nachbar at The Edge Center in Bigfork on March 10th at 6:30PM free of charge. The movie will be accompanied by Jack’s presentation providing a better understanding of the film at the time period of the picture.

Life in the “dust bowl” of the central US was challenging to say the least. Years without sufficient rain, combined with farming techniques that caused topsoil to erode in the winds, and bank foreclosures all combined with the 1930’s depression to make families, like the Joads, look for a life that could sustain their bare existence. All they wanted was work for the family and a better life. So they headed west towards California becoming part of a flood of migrant workers. California was supposed to be the land of “plenty,” but going west ended up being into a land of plenty of trouble for the Joads and hundreds of thousands of other people. This is the story of their arduous journey and the adventures and misadventures they encountered.

Three of the stars in this film were Henery Fonda as Tom Joad, Jane Darwell as Ma Joad,  and John Carradine as Jim Casy. The movie was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won two for Best Supporting Actress by Jane Darwell and Best Director by John Ford. It was received very well by the critics of the time. Bosley Crowther, a New York Times critic of the period, when retiring, called it one of the best ever films ever made.

Henry Fonda loved his role as Tom Joad. He kept the hat he used in this movie for the rest of his life. Before he died, he passed it on to Jane Withers, who, as an 8 year old little girl, help Hank with stage fright with a little prayer before he went on stage.

Henry Jaynes “Hank” Fonda (1905 – 1982) was an American film and stage actor with a career spanning more than five decades. His numerous acting awards included an Oscar for best actor in “On Golden Pond." Through his more than half century in the industry Fonda had roles spanning comedy, drama, and some darker epics. Even with his almost six decades in the business, he still holds the record between Oscar nominations with this movie in 1940 and his last movie “On Golden Pond” in 1981.

Jane Darwell (1879 – 1967) had appearances in more than one hundred movies over her fifty year plus career, but is still best known for her portrayal as Ma Joad, the matriarch of the family.

John Ford could not embarrass or upset John Caradine and it is said it was a real irritation to Ford. Apparently the reason was simply that Carradine had a huge ego and considered himself a great actor and was not effected by anything the director hit him with.

 One Critic’s Opinion About the Movie

If you still need a little more coaxing to come out on a winter’s night to see this movie, consider what another critic said about the movie. A noted Time magazine editor said, while separating the movie from the novel, (which he did not particularly like) “But people who go to pictures for the sake of seeing pictures will see a great one. For The Grapes of Wrath is possibly the best picture ever made from a so-so book...Camera craft purged the picture of the editorial rash that blotched the Steinbeck book. It is the saga of an authentic U.S. farming family who lose their land. They wander, they suffer, but they endure. They are never quite defeated, and their survival is itself a triumph.”

So if you would like to see a 1940 drama classic come and see “The Grapes of Wrath” on the “Big Screen ” of the Edge Center in Bigfork. You can see this movie free of charge.  Some appropriate snacks will be served courtesy of Jack and his wife/projectionist, Lynn.  Place: The Edge Center for the Arts, Bigfork. Date and time: Thursday March 10th at 6:30PM. It will be worth going out in the cold to a nice warm theater.