Revisiting Steinbeck

Here are a few highlights from one of California’s greatest authors—John Steinbeck.

Here are a few highlights from one of California’s greatest authors.



The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Produced only a year after the novel was released, the film stars a hopeful Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, who loads up his Depression-era Oklahoma family into a dilapidated Hudson Super Six in search of greener pastures in California. The Joad family’s arduous journey from dust bowl to promised land provides a sobering snapshot of a wretched period in American history. Directed by John Ford and distributed by 20th Century Fox.




Pipe Dream

Rodgers and Hammerstein’s often overlooked seventh musical was not a huge hit when it debuted on Broadway in 1955. Based on Steinbeck’s Cannery Row and short novel Sweet Thursday, it follows the love story between a marine biologist and a prostitute—though it’s only eluded to in the adaptation. The show was revived in 2012 in New York by Encores! at City Center and lives on in a live recording. That production starred rising Broadway stars Laura Osnes as Suzy and Will Chase as Doc. 





East of Eden (1955)

Probably most remembered as a film vehicle for the broodingly handsome James Dean, the novel is just as entertaining and goes deeper into the backstory of Adam and Kate, the parents of brothers Cal and Aron. This modern retelling of the Cain and Abel story uses early 20th-century Salinas Valley as a backdrop. It’s rumored that Hollywood “it girl” Jennifer Lawrence will play a young Kate in a new film adaptation of the book, a part that earned Jo Van Fleet an Best Supporting Actress Oscar.



Of Mice and Men

Steinbeck first adapted his novella of the same name for Broadway in 1937. That play is currently receiving a handsome revival on the Great White Way directed by Anna D. Shapiro. The new production stars James Franco as George, friend and guardian to Lennie, a mentally challenged but physically powerful giant played by Chris O’Dowd. Like many of Steinbeck’s other works, the story takes place during the Great Depression and follows two struggling California migrant workers. Runs now through July 27.