Revered as it is, John Ford's 1940 adaptation of John Steinbeck's Depression-era novel stands tall in its documentary-style passages but stumbles on scenes of speechifying sentimentality. In telling the tale of the Joad family's migration from Oklahoma to the promised land of California, Ford and cinematographer Gregg Toland set the rickety, near-road-movie narrative to ripe dustbowl imagery. Pleasingly slow-moving, it's firmly rooted in persuasive performances from Henry Fonda and John Carradine, as well as rugged scriptwriting ("Knocked his head to plum to squash").
The bad news is that the grandparents and Jane Darwell's Ma Joad haven't aged well, swamping the film in a folksy affectation. Still, the film survives due to its sturdy engagement with hard times... And, of course, Ford's taut, restrained cine-poetry.