NBC (Mon., Feb. 25, 9 P.M. ET)
Mark Harmon plays the head of an extended family on California’s migrant-farmworker circuit in 1937. We watch a prideful man slowly come around to the union point of view in the face of continued exploitation by wealthy growers. Lee Purcell, Timothy Owen and Leon Russom also star.
Harmon gives a focused performance and the hardscrabble look of the film is convincing. The story of dignity wrestling with survival instincts is touching. As Harmon’s wife, Purcell dreams of having a home again and describes in detail to another woman the blue china service she once had. “I still have the cream pitcher.” she says, her face alight.
Everything is undercut, though, by the story’s unremitting sentimentality. You’d do better to wait for the American Playhouse version of The drapes of Wrath next month on PBS.