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Susan Green

To See or Not To See

(20 May 1940)

From Labor Action, Vol. 4 No. 6, 20 May 1940, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

You Ought to See

This movie is an honest interpretation of Steinbeck’s novel. It turns a powerful spotlight on democracy as it is practised in that foreign country called California. Newspapers have followed its lead with stories on the misery of the migrant workers and the tyranny of the fruit-growers. The LaFollette Civil Liberties Committee is investigating the situation.

You can bet that the workers themselves are not going, to let the fight rage over their prostrate bodies. If these migrant workers are anything like the character Tom Joad, they won’t.

His face scarred for life by the club of California “law and order”, he is bidding good-bye to his mother, perhaps forever. He tries to explain .to her how he feels about life. He says:

“Wherever men are fighting to get food for their children, I want to be there. Wherever cops are beating up strikers, I want to be there. Wherever hungry children are laughing the kind of laugh they have when, they are going to be fed, I want to be there. And when human beings are living in the houses they build, are eating the food they produce, I want to be there.”

Tom has become a rebel. Ex-preacher Casey also becomes a rebel, a fighting rebel. He leads a strike and is killed by a company gangster,

The movie shows how Tom and Casey got that way. Tractors crash through homes, pushing sharecroppers off the land, leaving wrecks behind them. Homeless families trek across the country to the “land of promise”, only to find wretched camps full of émigrés like themselves, without money, homes, jobs or hope. When they get a job they become the serfs of the fruit companies for the duration of the work, under the clubs and. guns of the vicious tin-star deputies.

The realism of the picture has its effect on the audience. The writer heard a woman gasp to her husband: “It can’t be true”. He said it is true. A young girl whispered to her boy friend: “It must be propaganda”. He answered that he read about it in the papers.

Don’t Waste Your Money on

You have seen this one lots of times under other names. The hero, Errol Flynn, rides right off a cliff, down, down, down. His horse breaks its neck. Errol, unscratched and quite debonair, appears at a telegraph station which miraculously arises in the middle of the desert.

Before this fall, he has already fallen in love with a Confederate spy Miriam Hopkins. You have guessed by now that the hero is a Union spy. Bandits, of course, hold up the stagecoach in which our lovers meet. Humphrey Bogart as the bandit chief dons a cute little mustache and an accent. The hero and the heroine are torn between love and duty. The girl goes to President Lincoln. He says some fine words and everything becomes all right.

You Ought to See

Paul de Kruif’s book is the basis for this story of the fight for the lives of slum mothers during childbirth. It affords an eyeful of the grand and glorious American standard of living, dug out of the lowest depths. In face of the odds, what a miracle that these men of medicine don’t throw up the sponge. If one places their heroic struggle to save but one life, against the background of war in which even minor battles take hundreds of thousands of lives, the miracle of these men becomes even greater. Some statistics are presented in the course of the story. For instance, as many mothers die today in childbirth from preventable causes, as did twenty-five years ago.

You Could Take a Chance on

First you disregard the blurb about the typical story of a courageous American boy. It certainly is not typical, not even of Tom Edison. After that you may enjoy Mickey Rooney as he fights his way through the first stages of being a genius. His antics are amusing and some scenes are dramatic. The climax comes when he uses the whistle of a train to telegraph a message of danger to another train as it rushes on towards a washed out bridge.

Don’t Miss

This is a story of bindle-stiffs from Steinbeck’s novel. Bindle-stiffs, the writer understands; are migrant workers, loaders of grain, etc. The hunger of these lonely workers for a shack and patch of land of their own, gnaws its way out of the screen into the guts of the audience. But the emphasis in this story is on the unshakeable friendship between George and Lenny. Lenny is a gentle-hearted half-wit whose uncontrolled physical strength brings George nothing but trouble, and finally tragedy. The story is gripping. Lon Chaney, Jr. does fine acting as Lenny.

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Last updated: 10 July 2014