Tuesday, September 29, 2009

If it weren't for the fact that it's on so regularly, there'd be something temporally sadistic in the most current revival of John Ford's The Grapes of Wrath (Oct. 1, 25, Nov. 3 on Turner Classic Movies). This is the one that's almost bent over by the weight of prestige: the 1940 dustbowl epic whose elements of sentimental fraud are all but overridden by aspects so true that they're virtually documentary. Even the synthetic nature of the sets, as when John Carradine, the preacher, comes stumbling into the windblown foreground, are somehow truer than reality, in the way that an opera set selects a certain aspect of what is real.
Try to overlook the "pore white folk" talk, the probable exaggerations of labor camp venality, the grossness of Ma Joad's bravely hearty uplift (though the scene where Jane Darwell dangles her youthful earrings in the mirror and registers a sudden shock at her ugliness is too eloquent to question).
And the scenes of Granpa (Charlie Grapewin) and Granma (Zeffie Tilbury) — both of them by now as nutty as fruitcakes — are practically unwatchable for their pathos. "Shore wud lahk to git me a mesha shpareribsh," says Granpa, who has to be force-fed alcoholic cough syrup before he can be made to ascend the beaten-up old jalopy.
Even at this time of their lives, there is far from any rest for them.
— Lloyd Dykk


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written!

John said...

Yeah, nice job. I saw it last night for the first time. Moving but what's with Ma Joad? "Did they make ya mean mad, son?" " Cuz we're the people." And that bit about the difference between men and women was just a bit much.