In Dubious Battle is a drama based on the first major work of Pulitzer Prizewinning author, John Steinbeck. The film was adapted from John Steinbeck’s novel by Matt Rager and directed by James Franco.
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.
Led by the doomed Jim Nolan, the strike is founded on his tragic idealism – on the “courage never to submit or yield.”
In Dubious Battle was written by Steinbeck in 1936. The central figure of the story is an activist for “the Party” (possibly the American Communist Party or the Industrial Workers of the World, although it is never specifically named in the novel) who is organizing a major strike by fruit pickers, seeking thus to attract followers to his cause.
The story recounts a fruit worker strike that occurred in Tulare County, California, in 1933.
Among Steinbeck’s best novels, the least known is probably ‘In Dubious Battle’, the title of which is a reference to a passage from John Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’.
This marks Steinbeck’s interest in what happens to men’s minds and hearts when they function not as responsible, self-governing individuals, but as members of a group.
Biologists have a word for this very important problem – they call it bionomics, or ecology. Steinbeck’s bionomic interest is visible in all that he has done, from ‘Tortilla Flat’, in the middle Thirties, through his semi-biological ‘Sea of Cortez’, to his communiqués as a war correspondent in England. ‘In Dubious Battle’ is his attempt to study a typical mid-depression strike in bionomic terms. In 1958, critic Alfred Kazin referred to ‘In Dubious Battle’ and ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ as “his most powerful books”, contrasting them with ‘Cannery Row’ and ‘The Wayward Bus’.
President Barack Obama told the New York Times that ‘In Dubious Battle’ is his favourite book.
CAST: JAMES FRANCO, NAT WOLFF, VINCENT D’ONOFRIO, SELENA GOMEZ, ED HARRIS
DIRECTOR: JAMES FRANCO