Steinbeck Loved Henry Fonda’s Portrayal of Tom Joad


This gem reveals John Ford’s talents not only as a great director of actors, but also his delicate skill in faithfully adapting John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, ‘The Grapes of Wrath’.


Executive producer Darryl Zanuck purchased the film rights for ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ for $75,000 following a major bidding war between several film production companies. Concerned about controversy, Zanuck decided to hold the premiere of ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ in New York. The film, directed by John Ford, received glowing reviews and earned Ford an Academy Award for Best Director.


One of Ford’s favourite actors, Henry Fonda, played the challenging lead role of Tom Joad, a character who loves his family and tries to be good, but is tainted by his violent past and ultimately doomed by it. Fonda’s strong yet subtle portrayal of the character earned the actor his first ever Oscar nomination as Actor in a Lead Role.


Steinbeck said Fonda’s performance as Joad made him “believe my own words”. Steinbeck and Fonda remained friends and the actor read Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem ‘Ulysses’ at Steinbeck’s funeral in 1968.


2014 marks the 75th anniversary of John Steinbeck’s novel ‘The Grapes of Wrath.’ This year also marks the 74th anniversary of John Ford’s film adaptation.