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"The Grapes of Wrath." transferred to celluloid, is the same vivid and upsetting and magnificent and ugly story that Steinbeck first wrote. Gone are the Steinbeck descriptions, gone are his cuss-words, gone is some of his message--but by and large Director John Ford has retained enough of Steinbeck to make the screen sizzle and the audience think.
Preacher Casy in the book was the medium through whose garrulousness Steinbeck presented a stern and simple moral. "We're all part o' one big soul." Casy said and reasoned from this that the individual salvation lies in common, united action. It was to this truth that Tom Joad awakened after the death of Casy. And it is this truth which underlies the whole book.
The film is less than that--it is a documentary masterwork, but it is not quite the call to militant action which the paper "Grapes" sounds. Casy's talkative moments are fewer, and though John Carradine acts him to a T, the preacher is a less significant figure in consequence. Ma Joad grows in stature in the movie at Casy's expense; the courage and family unity which she symbolizes replace his message as the central theme.
Yet aside from this shift in emphasis, the movie is all that the author himself could want. More restrained in its criticisms and its language, it is nevertheless frank, sordid, and moving. The characters are sharply etched, the dialogue largely Steinbeck and not Zanttek. "The Grapes of Wrath's is the proof of what has long been suspect: Hollywood is capable of escaping from escapism.
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