Adapted from John Steinbeck's novel, a poor family loses their Oklahoma land and travels to California to find work.
After four years in prison Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) gets a ride and meets former preacher Casy (John Carradine) on his way home. Muley (John Qualen) tells Tom his folks had to leave and his folks too. Tractors replaced the families, bulldozing the house. Tom hides from the new owner. Tom goes to Uncle John (Frank Darien) and learns they are going to California. John is reminded by a man in a car to leave by morning. Grandpa (Charley Grapewin) says he isn't going, but they sedate him with a drink. Casy goes too. Grandpa dies, and they bury him by the road. They travel in the truck and camp in tents. A man tells them he couldn't find work in the west as his family starved. Pa Joad (Russell Simpson) buys bread at a café for ten cents. They cross Arizona and enter California. They go into the desert at night. Grandma (Zeffie Tilbury) is sick and dies. They push the truck but make it.
A policeman (Ward Bond) tells them to go to the transients camp, where children are hungry. A contractor offers work; but a man who questions him resists arrest. A deputy shoots, hitting a woman. Tom and Casy stop the deputy from shooting again. Casy tells Tom to hide and tells the arriving deputies he hit the officer and is arrested. Tom says they have to leave before the camp is burned. Connie (Eddie Quillan) ran out, and pregnant Rosasharn (Dorris Bowdon) cries. Men with clubs block the road and make them turn around. After a flat tire they go to pick peaches, passing people outside the gate. They get five cents a box, but the company store has high prices. Tom is stopped from walking out but gets out and finds Casy in a tent. Casy says they cut the pay in half; so they went on strike. Guards come after Casy and club him. Tom kills a guard and escapes with a cheek wound. Ma Joad (Jane Darwell) tells Tom they want to lynch him.
They leave with Tom hid and find an Agriculture Dept. camp, where the caretaker (Grant Mitchell) says there is plumbing, self-government, and no cops. Tom works and is warned by his employer about a fight at the dance. Four trouble-makers are controlled, and cops aren't allowed in. Tom sees cops get his license number; the caretaker says they must have a warrant. Tom says good-bye to Ma and says he'll be wherever there is a fight to survive. The family packs to go to Fresno for work. Ma says they were beat but will go on forever, because they are the people.
This classic Depression story of homeless people looking
for work is portrayed with stark realism that reveals the inequities
and problem areas of the capitalist economy.