Author Topic: "Grapes of Wrath": the novel and the movie  (Read 1466 times)

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Offline Heorhij

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"Grapes of Wrath": the novel and the movie
« on: August 04, 2009, 09:36:57 AM »
A few days ago, Lesya and I saw the classical 1950-s Hollywood movie made after Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath," and I am so bewildered.

The film was overall very good, the actors were wonderful, the spirit of Steinbeck's heroes was most definitely there. But why was the end completely cut?

The end of the novel is tragic and certainly influenced by Steinbeck's meditations on the Bible. The Joad family is in a small valley being flooded by a river swelling as the result of torrential rainfall. The water is rising. The family, together with other folks, is trying to build a dike, but the water ruins it over and over again. Meanwhile one heroine (Rose of Sharon) gives birth to a stillborn child. Having buried the little corpse, and having finally given up on rebuilding the dike, the family abandons their sunk truck and runs uphill, hoping to be saved on the hilltop. There, they find a barn, where a man is dying of starvation, and Rose of Sharon breastfeeds him. Whether or not the man survives, whether or not all Joads are killed - we do not know, but the waters are still rising. The last sentence of the novel says only that Rose of Sharon's eyes "were smiling mysteriously."

In the movie, however, the final scene is when Ma tells Tom that now, we all have to stick together and we will make it. Sweet optimistic, upbeat tune plays in the background. Great American Dream...

I haven't seen "East of Eden" yet - is it also so "primitivized" and de-Christianized, compared to the novel?
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Offline katherineofdixie

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Re: "Grapes of Wrath": the novel and the movie
« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2009, 09:42:59 AM »
A few days ago, Lesya and I saw the classical 1950-s Hollywood movie made after Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath," and I am so bewildered.

The film was overall very good, the actors were wonderful, the spirit of Steinbeck's heroes was most definitely there. But why was the end completely cut?

The end of the novel is tragic and certainly influenced by Steinbeck's meditations on the Bible. The Joad family is in a small valley being flooded by a river swelling as the result of torrential rainfall. The water is rising. The family, together with other folks, is trying to build a dike, but the water ruins it over and over again. Meanwhile one heroine (Rose of Sharon) gives birth to a stillborn child. Having buried the little corpse, and having finally given up on rebuilding the dike, the family abandons their sunk truck and runs uphill, hoping to be saved on the hilltop. There, they find a barn, where a man is dying of starvation, and Rose of Sharon breastfeeds him. Whether or not the man survives, whether or not all Joads are killed - we do not know, but the waters are still rising. The last sentence of the novel says only that Rose of Sharon's eyes "were smiling mysteriously."

In the movie, however, the final scene is when Ma tells Tom that now, we all have to stick together and we will make it. Sweet optimistic, upbeat tune plays in the background. Great American Dream...

I haven't seen "East of Eden" yet - is it also so "primitivized" and de-Christianized, compared to the novel?

My guess? Because it's movie and movies seem to be required to have a happy ending. And also the time it was made (1940).
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Offline GabrieltheCelt

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Re: "Grapes of Wrath": the novel and the movie
« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2009, 10:48:20 AM »
Steinbeck is one of my all time favorite authors and I really enjoyed his "Grapes of Wrath" novel; I think it was his magnum opus as well though I'm not positive.  Any way, I haven't watched any of the movie or tv adaptations simply because I figured they would be chopped up or "artistically re-worked" somehow.  Turns out I was right.  Although I will say that the ending to this particular book is too much for an American television audience, both because of the breastfeeding of an adult male as well as the overall sadness and dire straights of the families.  Here's a brief synopsis from Wiki-

 "The Grapes of Wrath is a novel published in 1939 and written by John Steinbeck, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and the Nobel Prize for Literature. Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on a poor family of sharecroppers, the Joads, driven from their home by drought, economic hardship, and changes in the agriculture industry. In a nearly hopeless situation, they set out for California's Central Valley along with thousands of other "Okies" in search of land, jobs, and dignity."
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Offline LBK

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Re: "Grapes of Wrath": the novel and the movie
« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2009, 07:44:39 PM »
Another Steinbeck novel which was turned into a film faithful to the book was Of Mice and Men (1992), starring Gary Sinise as George, and John Malkovich as Lenny. Beautiful cinematography, and superb performances, particularly Malkovich, who flawlessly plays the "half-wit" Lenny. I can also say that there's no Hollywood compromise "happy ending" here.
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Offline lubeltri

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Re: "Grapes of Wrath": the novel and the movie
« Reply #4 on: August 04, 2009, 08:21:58 PM »
I know I'm committing heresy here, but I have to admit  :-[ that I preferred the movie over the book. Yes, I know the ending is changed, but it's still not a happy ending, really. The family is moving on, still with no prospects, and Ma Joad has just said good-bye (probably forever) to her only son. They got beat yet again---but Ma Joad says they'll keep getting up, regardless. So it's a little more upbeat because of Ma's determination to hold what is left of the family together.

It really is a wonderful production overall, with the great John Ford directing. It has also has (IMO) two of the greatest performances in the cinema---the inimitable Jane Darwell as Ma Joad and the legendary Henry Fonda as Tom Joad.

A must-see, I think, especially in these times.


Offline lubeltri

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Re: "Grapes of Wrath": the novel and the movie
« Reply #5 on: August 04, 2009, 08:29:04 PM »
Of course, the movie is still a very left-wing film, all the more remarkable that Ford (a famous Hollywood conservative and a devout Catholic) directed it. However, the book certainly goes further left politically.

Offline Quinault

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Re: "Grapes of Wrath": the novel and the movie
« Reply #6 on: August 04, 2009, 09:06:07 PM »
there will never be a movie where an adult woman breastfeeds an adult man unless it is some sort of porn because it will always be construed as sexual.

Offline lubeltri

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Re: "Grapes of Wrath": the novel and the movie
« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2009, 09:29:55 PM »
there will never be a movie where an adult woman breastfeeds an adult man unless it is some sort of porn because it will always be construed as sexual.

Thank God the original is such a classic, thus strongly discouraging attempts at a remake. I can't imagine modern Hollywood remaking it without tarting it up. In the new version, they'd probably have Rose of Sharon meeting more than the man's victual needs.

Offline LBK

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Re: "Grapes of Wrath": the novel and the movie
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2009, 11:47:43 PM »
Thank God the original is such a classic, thus strongly discouraging attempts at a remake. I can't imagine modern Hollywood remaking it without tarting it up. In the new version, they'd probably have Rose of Sharon meeting more than the man's victual needs.

Didn't stop Hollywood from remaking Sabrina. Cute film, but a pale imitation of the original. No wonder Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond (fine actors that they are) were rather ill at ease, when they knew they were supposed to fill the shoes of Humphrey Bogart and the incomparable Audrey Hepburn.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2009, 11:48:47 PM by LBK »
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Offline lubeltri

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Re: "Grapes of Wrath": the novel and the movie
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2009, 12:19:38 PM »
Thank God the original is such a classic, thus strongly discouraging attempts at a remake. I can't imagine modern Hollywood remaking it without tarting it up. In the new version, they'd probably have Rose of Sharon meeting more than the man's victual needs.

Didn't stop Hollywood from remaking Sabrina. Cute film, but a pale imitation of the original. No wonder Harrison Ford and Julia Ormond (fine actors that they are) were rather ill at ease, when they knew they were supposed to fill the shoes of Humphrey Bogart and the incomparable Audrey Hepburn.

I enjoyed the film, but you're right, it really ruined Julia Ormond's career (such a shame---what a beauty!).

I saw the original recently---Bogie and Audrey Hepburn, you'd never expect it to work, but it does.

Oh, and Bill Holden is definitely a step up from Greg Kinnear.
« Last Edit: August 05, 2009, 12:20:18 PM by lubeltri »

Offline Heorhij

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Re: "Grapes of Wrath": the novel and the movie
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2009, 12:36:40 PM »
I know I'm committing heresy here, but I have to admit  :-[ that I preferred the movie over the book. Yes, I know the ending is changed, but it's still not a happy ending, really. The family is moving on, still with no prospects, and Ma Joad has just said good-bye (probably forever) to her only son. They got beat yet again---but Ma Joad says they'll keep getting up, regardless. So it's a little more upbeat because of Ma's determination to hold what is left of the family together.

It really is a wonderful production overall, with the great John Ford directing. It has also has (IMO) two of the greatest performances in the cinema---the inimitable Jane Darwell as Ma Joad and the legendary Henry Fonda as Tom Joad.

A must-see, I think, especially in these times.



I certainly agree that the movie was outstanding. I don't know, maybe I was just so impressed with the ending of the novel when I read it that I became saddened to see this ending gone from the film.
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