John Steinbeck might well be called the conscience of America; throughout his career, the novelist wrote fiction permeated by social concerns and the plight of the downtrodden. Most consider The Grape...
Salinas, California, USA
|La Perla||Book Author||n/a||7|
|The Red Pony||Book Author||n/a||7|
|The Red Pony||Book Author||n/a||7|
|Tortilla Flat||Book Author||n/a||7|
|A Medal for Benny||Screenwriter||n/a||7|
|The Moon Is Down||Book Author||n/a||7|
|The Winter of Our Discontent||Book Author||n/a||7|
|The Harness||Short Story Author||n/a||34|
|Cannery Row||Source Material (from novel)||("Cannery Row")||4000006|
|John Steinbeck's "The Winter of Our Discontent" (1981-1982)||Source Material (from novel)||("The Winter of Our Discontent")||1981||4000006|
|John Steinbeck's "East of Eden" (1979-1980)||Source Material (from novel)||("East of Eden")||1979||4000006|
|East of Eden||Source Material (from novel)||("East of Eden")||4000006|
|The Pearl||Source Material (from novel)||("The Pearl")||4000006|
|The Wayward Bus||Source Material (from novel)||("The Wayward Bus")||4000006|
|The Grapes of Wrath||Source Material (from novel)||("The Grapes of Wrath")||4000006|
|Of Mice and Men (1980-1981)||Source Material (from novel)||("Of Mice and Men")||1980||4000006|
|Of Mice and Men||Source Material (from novel)||("Of Mice and Men")||4000006|
|Of Mice and Men||Source Material (from novel)||n/a||4000006|
|The Grapes of Wrath (1989-1990)||Source Material (from novel)||("The Grapes of Wrath")||1989||4000006|
|Cannery Row||From Story||("Sweet Thursday")||4000007|
|The Harness (1970-1971)||From Story||n/a||1970||4000007|
|The Red Pony (1971-1972)||Source Material (from novel)||("The Red Pony")||1971||4000007|
|Of Mice and Men||Play as Source Material||n/a||4000007|
|Publishes The Grapes of Wrath, a huge critical and commerical success|
|First novel published, Cup of Gold|
|Became war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune|
|First film made from one of his novels, "Of Mice and Men"|
|Writes first screenplay for documentary "The Forgotten Village"|
|Wrote first feature screenplay, Alfred Hitchcock's "Lifeboat"|
|First television script for "Nash Airflyte Theater" (CBS, 1950-51)|
Steinbeck was born in Salinas, California, and it is the region with which much of his fiction is associated. The only boy among four children, he shared a love of books with his mother, a former teacher. In childhood, he also developed a love for the landscape, for the coasts and the hills, and this sense of human connection with the environment would become a major theme throughout his writing. He enrolled at Stanford University in 1919 and took some writing classes, but he attended erratically, often dropping out and working alongside migrants, where he saw firsthand the conditions and heard the stories that would later inform his fiction. In 1925, he gave up college altogether without having graduated and moved to New York City to pursue a writing career.
The career was not immediately forthcoming; Steinbeck struggled for several years, unpublished, working construction and for a newspaper, before returning home to California and getting work as a Lake Tahoe caretaker, which afforded him the time to write his first book, Cup of Gold (1929). Readers of his debut would not have imagined the social realist master who would emerge in the coming decade-Cup of Gold was the tale of a pirate, Henry Morgan, with whom Steinbeck had been fascinated in his youth. In addition to finishing and publishing his first book, Steinbeck also met, fell in love with and married his first wife, Carol Henning.
While the two lived together in the Steinbeck family's beach cottage, Steinbeck produced several books, including his first three significant works of fiction: the short novel The Red Pony (1933); his first critically praised work, Tortilla Flat; and the classic Of Mice and Men (1937). Several of the books he wrote at the time are considered his "California novels," most of them dealing with the effects of the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression on the lives of working-class and poor people. Of Mice and Men told the story of two migrant workers, one of whom, Lenny, is mentally retarded and is looked after by the other, George. The book was produced as a stage play in New York City and was made into the film "Of Mice and Men" (1939) starring Lon Chaney Jr. and Burgess Meredith, the first of several of Steinbeck's novels to be adapted for the screen. Steinbeck also became more involved with politics, joining the League of American Writers-a Communist organization, though he was not a Communist himself-and attending meetings of the John Reed Club, although he found them too strident.
Steinbeck's greatest success as a novelist came with the publication of The Grapes of Wrath (1939). Tom Joad is the main character in this novel about a family's journey from the Oklahoma Dust Bowl to California in search of a better life. On its release, the novel was critically acclaimed-it won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction-as well as a popular success-it was the best-selling novel of 1939. It was also enormously controversial; its critics argued that Steinbeck exaggerated the poor conditions on the farms for the sake of his fiction. John Ford, famous for his Westerns and expansive vistas in particular, directed the film version of the book the following year with the same eye for the American landscape so crucial to Steinbeck's vision. "The Grapes of Wrath" (1940) starred Henry Ford as Tom Joad, and the fictional character has become an icon of labor and protest movements, featuring in songs by Woody Guthrie and Bruce Springsteen, among others.
In 1941, Steinbeck had the opportunity to write his first screenplay, a documentary called "The Forgotten Village" about a small town in Mexico and its struggles in coping with modernity. While Steinbeck's professional life was soaring, however, his personal life was falling into shambles. Carol had been instrumental in building his early career, editing and typing his work, but their marriage was suffering by the time they accompanied Steinbeck's close friend Ed Ricketts, a marine biologist, on a specimen-gathering journey around the Gulf of Mexico, which Steinbeck wrote about in the book Sea of Cortez (1941) and a later, shorter account of the journey The Log from the Sea of Cortez that removed the scientific catalog and replaced it with an essay about Ricketts. The two divorced in 1943 and Steinbeck married Gwyndolyn "Gwyn" Conger.
Meanwhile, Steinbeck's series of successes in film continued. Spencer Tracy and Hedy Lamar starred in the film adaptation of "Tortilla Flat" (1942), while a year later "The Moon is Down" (1943), dealing with the resistance movement in an unnamed northern European country followed on the heels of the novel released by the same name. As a war correspondent for the New York Herald Tribune, Steinbeck returned home wounded in body and soul and was given the opportunity to pen an original screenplay with "Lifeboat" (1944), directed by Alfred Hitchcock. The effort garnered him an Academy Award nomination. His first son, Thomas Myles Steinbeck, was born the same year. Steinbeck received a second Academy Award nomination for scripting duties on "A Medal for Benny" (1945).
After writing Cannery Row (1945)-for which the district in Monterey was named-Steinbeck produced the novella The Pearl (1947) and the screenplay based on it, "La perla" (1947), almost simultaneously, and traveled for its filming to Mexico, where he would be inspired to pen the story of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata several years later. Steinbeck also made one of several trips to Russia, and his second son, John Steinbeck IV, was born. But he was beginning to struggle with a number of things. His marriage to Gwyn was ending, critics were attacking his books for lacking the weight of The Grapes of Wrath and his beloved friend Ed Ricketts died. During this time, he wrote the screenplay for "The Red Pony" (1949), which starred Myrna Loy and Robert Mitchum, and made his first foray into television writing with an episode of "The Nash Airflyte Theater" (CBS, 1950-51). It was meeting and marrying his third wife, Elaine Scott, and moving to New York, however, that signified a shift for him and better times ahead.
In the 1950s, Steinbeck worked with director Elia Kazan, controversial for his later naming of names of purported Communists in Hollywood for the House Un-American Activities Committee. "Viva Zapata!" (1952) starred Marlon Brando and earned Steinbeck his third Academy Award nomination. Three years later, Kazan directed "East of Eden" (1955), the film version of what many consider to be Steinbeck's last great work, although Steinbeck did not write the script this time; it was James Dean's first major movie. Steinbeck also wrote for a number of television shows throughout the 1950s, mostly anthology shows, including "Omnibus" (ABC, CBS, NBC, 1952-1961), "Lux Video Theater" (CBS, 1950-59) and "Studio One" (CBS, 1948-1958). Steinbeck's major work was behind him, however, with the exception perhaps of his American travelogue, Travels with Charley (1962), about several months spent traveling around the country with his dog.
In 1962, Steinbeck was awarded a Nobel Prize for Literature, but critical reaction was mixed, and he was said to have been hurt by the attacks as he was throughout his life. He wrote no more novels after The Winter of Our Discontent (1961), a critical failure, and his pro-American stance in a series of articles he wrote for Newsday as a Vietnam war correspondent was considered a betrayal of his earlier values, though many argued that he was simply concerned about his son in combat. Steinbeck died of a heart attack in 1968, but adaptations of his work for television and the big screen have continued, and his literary reputation has not flagged. "Cannery Row" (1982) starred Debra Winger and Nick Nolte while the Gary Sinise-directed "Of Mice and Men" (1992) featured Sinise, John Malkovitch and Ray Walston. While Steinbeck's early triumph with The Grapes of Wrath may have overshadowed his successive efforts, critical and popular opinion toward him is more measured today, and he is firmly established in the canon of film and literature.
|Gwyndolyn Conder||Wife||Born c. 1920|
|Olive Hamilton||Mother||died in February 1934|
|Carol Henning||Wife||Met 1928; Eloped to Los Angeles 1930|
|Elaine Steinbeck||Wife||Married 1950 until his death Dec. 20, 1968|
|John Steinbeck||Father||served as Monterrey County treasurer; died in 1935|
|John Steinbeck||Son||born c. 1946; survived him|
|Thom Steinbeck||Son||born on August 2, 1944; survived him; mother, Gwyn|
|Claimed he was under FBI surveillance and audited yearly due to his political views.|
|Traveled to Russia several times but disliked Soviet repression.|
|In Vietnam in 1966 for Newsday, took controversial (in light of his earlier views) pro-American position.|
|"I truly do not care about a book once it is finished. Any money or fame that results has no connection in my feeling with the book. The book dies a real death for me when I write the last word." - from Paris Review, Fall 1975|
|"Writing is a very silly business at best. There is a certain ridiculousness about putting down a picture of life. And to add to the joke-one must withdraw for a time from life in order to set down that picture." - from Paris Review, Fall 1975|
|Spent many years working on translation of Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, a beloved boyhood book, which was posthumously.|
|Won Nobel Prize for Literature|
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