Lifeboat

  • Directors: Alfred Hitchcock
  • Producers: Kenneth Macgowan
  • Writers: Novella, John Steinbeck, Screenplay, Jo Swerling, Uncredited, Ben Hecht
  • Genres: Thriller, War
  • Actors: Tallulah Bankhead, William Bendix, Walter Slezak, Mary Anderson, John Hodiak, Henry Hull, Heather Angel, Hume Cronyn, Canada Lee

Several American and British civilians are stuck in a lifeboat after their ship and a U-boat sink each other in combat. Willi (Walter Slezak), a German survivor, is pulled aboard and denies being an enemy officer. During an animated debate, Kovac (John Hodiak) demands the German be thrown out and allowed to drown. Cooler heads prevail with Garrett (Hume Cronyn) asserting the German’s prisoner of war status and he is allowed to stay.

Kovac takes charge, rationing the little food and water they have; but Willi gradually takes control away from him and is later revealed to be the U-boat captain. One morning, while the others are sleeping, the injured German-American Gus Smith (William Bendix) catches Willi drinking water from a hidden flask. Too delirious and weak to wake anybody up, Gus is pushed overboard by Willi and drowns while the others sleep. Upon waking, the others discover Gus missing and Willi is questioned. When they notice that the Nazi is sweating, the other passengers discover the hoarded flask in his jacket. In a spasm of anger they beat him up and throw him overboard, striking him multiple times to prevent him from reboarding. Musing on Willi’s treachery, Rittenhouse (Henry Hull) asks, “What do you do with people like that?”

The survivors are subsequently spotted by the German supply ship to which Willi had been steering them. Before a launch can pick them up, both are sunk by an Allied warship. A frightened young German seaman is pulled aboard the lifeboat and the passengers argue about keeping him or throwing him overboard to drown. The rescued seaman brandishes a gun and after being disarmed asks, “Aren’t you going to kill me?”. Kovac repeats, “What are you going do with people like that?”

East of Eden

  • Directors: Elia Kazan
  • Producers: Elia Kazan
  • Writers: Paul Osborn, John Steinbeck
  • Genres: Drama
  • Actors: James Dean, Raymond Massey, Julie Harris, Burl Ives, Richard Davalos, Jo Van Fleet

The story is set in 1917, during World War I, in the central California coastal towns of Monterey and Salinas. Cal (Caleb) (James Dean) and Aron (Richard Davalos) are the young adult sons of a modestly successful farmer and wartime draft board chairman named Adam Trask (Raymond Massey). Adam is a deeply religious man. Cal is moody and embittered by his belief that his father loves only Aron.

The Trask family has a farm in the fertile Salinas valley. Although both Cal and Aron had been led to believe that their mother had died “and gone to heaven”, the opening scene reveals that Cal knows that his mother is still alive, owning and running a successful brothel.

After the father’s idealistic plans for a long-haul vegetable shipping business venture end in a loss of thousands of dollars, Cal decides to enter the bean-growing business, as a way of recouping the money his father lost in the vegetable shipping venture. He knows that if the United States enters the war, the price of beans will skyrocket. Cal hopes this will finally earn him the love and respect of his father. He goes to his mother Kate (Jo Van Fleet) to ask to borrow the capital he needs. She reluctantly lends him the five thousand dollars.

The old man then suffers a stroke, which leaves him paralyzed and unable to communicate. Cal tries to talk to him, but gets no response and leaves the bedroom. Abra pleads with Adam to show Cal some affection before it is too late. Then she drags Cal back into the room. When Cal makes his last bid for acceptance before leaving town, his father manages to speak. He tells his son to get rid of the annoying nurse and not to get anyone else, but to stay and take care of him himself.

The Grapes of Wrath

  • Directors: John Ford
  • Producers: Darryl F Zanuck, Associate Producer, Nunnally Johnson
  • Writers: Screenplay, Nunnally Johnson, Story, John Steinbeck
  • Genres: Drama
  • Actors: Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine, Shirley Mills, John Qualen, Eddie Quillan

The film opens with Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) being released from prison and hitchhiking his way back to his family farm in Oklahoma only to find it deserted. Tom finds an itinerant ex-preacher named Jim Casy (John Carradine) sitting under a tree by the side of the road. Tom remembers that Casy was the preacher who baptized him, but now Casy has “lost the call” and his faith. Casy leads him to find his family at Tom’s uncle John’s place. His family is happy to see Tom and explain they have made plans to head for California in search of employment as their farm has been foreclosed by the bank. The large Joad family of twelve leaves at daybreak, packing everything into an old and dilapidated modified truck in order to make the long journey to the promised land of California.

The trip along Highway 66 is arduous and it soon takes a toll on the Joad family. Weak and elderly Grampa is the first to die on their journey. After he dies, they pull over to the shoulder of the road, unload him, and bury him. Tom writes the circumstances surrounding the death on a page from the Family Bible and places it on the body so that if his remains were ever found his death would not be investigated as a possible homicide. They park in a camp and they meet a man, a returning migrant from California, who laughs at Pa’s optimism about conditions in California and who speaks bitterly about his awful experiences in the West. He hints at what the Joads will soon find out for themselves. The family arrives at the first transient migrant campground for workers and find the camp is crowded with other starving, jobless and desperate travelers. Their truck slowly makes its way through the dirt road between the shanty houses and around the camp’s hungry-faced inhabitants. Tom says, “Sure don’t look none too prosperous.”

I ain’t never gonna be scared no more. I was though. For a while it looked like we was beat. Good and beat. Looked like we didn’t have nobody in the whole wide world but enemies. Like nobody was friendly no more. Made me feel kinda bad and scared too, like we was lost and nobody cared…. Rich fellas come up and they die, and their kids ain’t no good and they die out, but we keep on coming. We’re the people that live. They can’t wipe us out, they can’t lick us. We’ll go on forever Pa, cos we’re the people.