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Filmmaker is shooting documentary about “The Grapes of Wrath” May 21, 2014

Posted by Ron Warnick in Books, History, Movies.
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Filmmaker P.J. Palmer of (twenty)2 films is making a documentary movie about John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” novel after acquiring official rights from the Steinbeck estate, according to a news release.

The new documentary “The Grapes of Wrath: We Shall Overcome” began filming in New York City last month interviewing James Franco, who is currently on Broadway in a re-launch of John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice & Men.” Production on the documentary continues in Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and Washington D.C. […]

“The Grapes of Wrath: We Shall Overcome” is being produced through Palmer’s company, (twenty)2 films in partnership with the non-profit The National Steinbeck Center (NSC). […]

The film explores the legacy and meanings of John Steinbeck’s American realist novel “The Grapes of Wrath” (1939) while also revealing the struggles of dispossessed families in the U.S. today. The release of “The Grapes of Wrath” shook America to its core with its unflinching depictions of poverty, homelessness, starvation and misery within the U.S. and its exploration of the imbalance of power between the wealthy and the poor. This film examines the impact of the novel since its publication 75 years ago and utilizes its influence to shed light on the current state of similar social issues in America today.

Palmer was enlisted by the Steinbeck Center last fall to shoot several short films about the book and the Joad family’s journey on Route 66 in advance of the book’s 75th anniversary this year. Palmer, once he got on the road, probably found a lot of rich material and decided he could produce a full-length film.

One interesting tidbit from the news release: Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks studios are developing a new film version of “The Grapes of Wrath.” I’m sure those who adore John Ford’s version from 1940 would recoil at the news, but I strongly suspect Spielberg would tackle the grittier aspects of the novel that were sanitized or omitted for pre-World War II film audiences.

One should remember that a film being “in development” means it could be years before it makes it to the silver screen — if it makes it at all. So any excitement about Spielberg making a new “The Grapes of Wrath” movie should be tempered until the project is approved and a release date is scheduled.

(Image from “The Grapes of Wrath” film by drmvm1 via Flickr)

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