Seven years ago I happened to see the Los Angeles County Museum of Arts' landmark show, "Made in California". A vast and ambitious look at California culture, the works ranged from Edenic painted landscapes to Rock and Roll posters. What affected me most, however, was a short film loop of Henry Fonda's end speech from the John Ford film of Steinbeck's "Grapes of Wrath". Inspired by FSA photography it was film as verbal and visual poetry, and I always felt a loss at not being able to revisit it at will. Well, thanks to the miracle of You Tube, here it is. (If you're impatient skip to 02:15 minutes into the clip.)
To set the scene: it is late at night after a dance at the workers' camp. Tom Joad and his mother stand at the edge of the wooden dance floor. Joad has killed the man who assassinated his friend the activist Preacher Casey. Now Joad must run away to take up Casey’s mission.
And here, for the record, are Fonda/Joad's words:
Well, maybe it's like Casey says. A fella ain't got a soul of his own, just a little piece of a big soul, the one big soul out there that belongs to everybody. Then....(Ma Joad: "Then What, Tom?") Then... it don't matter. I'll be all around in the dark. I'll be everywhere…wherever you can look. Wherever there's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever there's a cop beating up a guy, I'll be there. I'll be in the way guys yell when they're mad. I'll be in the way kids laugh when they're hungry and they know supper's ready…And when the people are eatin' the stuff they raise, livin' in the houses they build, I'll be there too.