Not so wrathful grapes

The 1930s were not a happy time. In the U.S. the Great Depression had the nation in its grip and one of the worst places was on the great plains around Oklahoma. A prolonged drought, coupled with high winds and a faltering economy turned a productive farming area into a “dust bowl” of dust storms and dead crops. Things were so bad that many farmers, especially tenant farmers in Oklahoma had to pull up stakes and move everything they owned to California for a chance at a new start. The roads to California were busy with lines of chugging, heavily loaded cars carrying poor farmers and their worldly goods westward. A powerful movie about the events,  The Grapes of Wrath, _Based on the John Steinbeck book) came out in 1939 and became a classic. Few who saw the movie will forget the sad caravans of displaced people leaving their homes behind. These were hard times on a scale we had never seen before, and some were anxious to use the situation for anti-US propaganda.

In the Soviet Union, Stalin had troubles of his own, largely self-created, what with mass starvation, purges, wholesale terror, paranoia, and widespread political violence. Showing The Grapes of Wrath would seem to be an ideal way of scoring some propaganda hits against the US and divert the Russians from the horrible state of their own country, but Stalin refused to allow the movie to be shown. The reason? According to some sources, the movie was banned because The Grapes of Wrath showed that the people in the US, as poor and desperate as they were, had their own cars; something most Russians could only dream of.


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