[click "Play" to listen to David Oyster's discussion of Depression films]
Monday, March 7, the Telluride Film Festival’s Cinematheque, a club for cinephiles showing FREE films the first Monday of the month, continues its winter series with two more “Films of the Great Depression”: “Of Mice and Men” (1939, 106 min.) and “Grapes of Wrath,” both based on novels by John Steinbeck. The evening is hosted by Telluride’s five-star Wilkinson Public Library and includes food and a lively discussion hosted by Ringmaster David Oyster. The programming is thanks to Telluride Film Fest co-director Gary Meyer, who knows how to pick them. (See the Oscars 2011.)
Published in 1937, “Of Mice and Men” is the touching, tragic story of a friendship set against the backdrop of America during the Great Depression. The story is based on Steinbeck’s experiences as a hobo in the 1920s.
Milton and Lennie Small are two displaced migrant ranch workers, one a cynic, the other, “Small” a mentally challenged giant, who dream of owning their own ranch. The title of the book-turned-movie was taken from a Robert Burns poem, “To the Mouse,” which read: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men/Gang aft agley” (‘The best laid schemes of mice and men/Go oft awry’). The film based on the novella was nominated for four Oscars and included a musical score by Aaron Copland. “Of Mice and Men” introduced Burgess Meredith and Lon Chaney Jr. to the screen. The 1992 remake starred John Malkovich and Gary Sinise.
“Grape of Wrath” was published in 1939, one year before the troubled author won a Pulizter Prize. The novel tells the story of the Joads, a poor family of Okies, driven from their home by drought, real and economic. Rather than remain trapped in the Dust Bowl, the family heads West for California, along with thousands of other sharecroppers seeking jobs, land, dignity and a future.
The film version of “The Grapes of Wrath” is considered director John Ford’s most famous black-and-white epic and was the most popular left-leaning movie of pre-World War II Hollywood. The title of the film was taken from the Battle Hymn of the Republic, by Julia Ward Howe (“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord, He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored, He has loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword, His truth is marching on”). The theme of an oppressed family migration parallels the Biblical story of Exodus. “Joad” twins with “Job.”
“Grapes of Wrath” garnered seven Oscar nominations and two wins: Best Supporting Actress (Jane Darwell) for her role as the archetypal mother figure, and Best Director (John Ford). Henry Fonda did not win Best Actor, though the film role was easily one of his greatest. “Grapes of Wrath” lost Best Picture to Alfred Hitchcock’s “Rebecca.”
Pre-SHOW reception starts at 5:30 p.m. Food is also served at intermission. The first screening starts at 6 p.m.
To learn more, click the “play” button and listen to David Oyster’s rap.