Grapes of Wrath Article

The AAUW Fremont Branch presents John Ford’s 1940 film The Grapes of Wrath

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The Grapes of Wrath movie Moved Us All
by Shirley Gilbert

Henry Fonda stars as Tom Joad in the Grapes of Wrath movie.   Here he’s flanked by Ma and Pa Joad.

Henry Fonda stars as Tom Joad in the Grapes of Wrath movie. Here he’s flanked by Ma and Pa Joad.

Over 90 AAUW members and their guests took a sentimental journey from Oklahoma to California as they viewed the 1940 film version of the Grapes of Wrath.  On the way, we all laughed at the antics of the Joad family;  cried at their misfortunes and partings and generally were swept away by the beautiful John Ford saga of the hardship and pain of the terrible Great Depression years of the ’30s.

The special AAUW Fremont Branch showing took place at the Edison Theater at 3674176 Niles Boulevard in Fremont, which is part of the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum.  The admission was $10 and that included the movie, popcorn and a drink.

Rena Dein, Public Relations Director of the museum, opened the proceedings with a description of what the Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum had to offer.  She talked about the fact that the museum is a fabulous resource for all facets of silent film-making, certainly one of the best resources in the U.S.  She reminded us that the theater we were in featured films every Saturday evening of Charlie Chaplin, Broncho Billy Anderson and all the great silent film stars.

Before the movie started AAUW members marveled at the collection of the olde thyme movie cameras on display at the back of the theater.

Kris Sandoe, AAUW Fremont Branch member and orchestrator of this special evening, talked a little about the movie.   She said that Steinbeck’s book came out just six months before the movie was made – a short time indeed.  And that Henry Fonda, despite his excellent portrayal of Tom Joad, did not win an academy award while Jane Darwell, who played Ma Joad, won a best supporting actress academy award.

Kris also reminded us that the movie was different in spots from the book.  The ending is very different and the movie is more uplifting and hopeful than the Pulitzer prize winning Steinbeck novel.

It was a treat to watch the over 70-year-old film.   Many of us who had seen it before had forgotten its power and its poetry.   And all of us were struck by the relevance of what was happening to the Joads and what is happening to so many Americans today.

All in all it was a great evening and many kudos go to Kris and her team for making this such a special experience.

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