Jane Darwell

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The Devil And Daniel Webster Review


Extraordinary
It's the 1840s, and times are tough for New Hampshire farmer Jabez Stone, just as they are for other New Englanders. He's a hard-working, God-fearing man, but he's prone to cursing ("consarn it" is his favorite), and he doesn't always find time to attend church on Sundays. He has a good wife (named Mary, of course) and a Bible-reading Ma, but when he can't make his mortgage payments, that just doesn't seem like enough. In Washington, a heroic Massachusetts senator named Daniel Webster is introducing legislation that will ease his plight. But in the meantime, what's a working man to do?

In this folklore New England, the devil is a real thing, like a fox that steals hens or a dog that barks at nights, and if you want to make a deal with him, it's not too hard to do. One rainy day Jabez curses in the barn, and a little man named Scratch (Walter Huston) appears out of nowhere with a bargain to make: Jabez will have seven years' worth of prosperity and everything that goes with it, and at the end of the seven years, Scratch will get his soul. Jabez signs the contract, and Scratch kicks at the floor of the barn, where a pile of gold rises up from a loose plank. The devil is in the details though, and anyone who's ever seen a movie knows there's going to be Hell to pay.

Continue reading: The Devil And Daniel Webster Review

The Grapes Of Wrath Review


Excellent
John Ford's adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel is moving and heartfelt, despite its random structure and rambling, overwrought (and overly political) narrative. Henry Fonda owns the show as Tom Joad, a prison parolee in the 1930s who returns to his Oklahoma home to discover his family has been ousted from their farm by a greedy corporation when the infamous "dust bowl" hits. The family packs it up for California to try to make a go of it as migrant farm workers, which doesn't necessarily pan out for the best, thanks to Tom's penchant for getting into fights with "Okies go home" types. The Grapes of Wrath pours on the populist and neo-Communist schmaltz, but Fonda's portrayal of the permanently-down-on-his-luck Tom really makes you feel sorry for him. Which, I suppose, is the point.
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