[Marxism] Fwd: Steinbeck’s Red Devils

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Feb 17 08:40:44 MST 2017

When I received email from a publicist announcing the premiere of a film 
based on John Steinbeck’s “In Dubious Battle” directed by and starring 
James Franco that opens on Friday, February 17th, I knew at the outset 
that this would not be in the same league as John Ford’s 1940 
masterpiece “The Grapes of Wrath”. Everything I have heard from Franco 
in the past five years or so persuades me that outside of acting he 
overestimates his talents, whether it is writing poetry or teaching 
classes in the NYU film school. If he wants to become a renaissance man, 
it would probably be best for him to stick to projects he is qualified 
for, like being named the face of Gucci’s men’s fragrance line.

Like most people I suppose, my knowledge of Steinbeck is based on “The 
Grapes of Wrath” and “Of Mice and Men”, a novella I read in high school. 
The publicist provided a synopsis of the film: “In the California apple 
country, nine hundred migratory workers rise up against the landowners 
after getting paid a faction of the wages they were promised. The group 
takes on a life of its own—stronger than its individual members and more 
frightening.” I said to myself that even if Franco makes a mess of this 
Steinbeck story, it would still be worth watching for the subject matter 
alone. Guess what. I was wrong.

Steinbeck’s novel was based on historical events. In the early 1930s, 
farmworkers in California fought pitched battles with the agribusinesses 
we became familiar with in the 1960s when the UFW was fighting to 
organize farmworkers in the lettuce fields and grape vineyards.

The earlier strikes were organized by the Communist-led Cannery and 
Agricultural Workers Industrial Union (CAWIU). Franco stars as Mac 
McLeod, a Communist organizer who has taken raw CP recruit Jim Nolan 
(Nat Wolff) under his wing. The two of them head off to the fictional 
Torgas Valley, where they begin working at an apple orchard owned by 
Bolton, an old-school capitalist pig reminiscent of C. Montgomery Burns 
on “The Simpsons”. Not long after starting work, they learn with the 
rest of the men that their pay will been cut from 25 to 20 cents per 
hour. They can take it or leave it. Robert Duvall, a long-time 
Republican outlier in Hollywood, was cast as Bolton. No method acting 
preparation was required from someone who belonged to a labor-hating 
political party.

full: http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/02/17/steinbecks-red-devils/

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