Tobacco Road (1941)

Tobacco Road (1941)

“If ever there was a nuisance, it’s you Tobacco Road folks!”

When a poverty-stricken tobacco farmer (Charley Grapewin) and his wife (Elizabeth Patterson) are unable to pay rent on their property, they hope the marriage of their good-for-nothing son (William Tracy) to a local preacher (Marjorie Rambeau) will allow them to borrow some money; meanwhile, their daughter (Gene Tierney) pines after the unhappy husband (Ward Bond) of Tierney’s 13-year-old sister.

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Dana Andrews Films
  • Deep South
  • Gene Tierney Films
  • John Ford Films
  • Play Adaptation
  • Ward Bond Films

John Ford and Nunnally Johnson’s cinematic adaptation of Jack Kirkland’s enormously popular Broadway play (based on the 1932 novel by Erskine Caldwell) is a strange and disappointing entry in Ford’s long-lived, illustrious career. This comedic interpretation of the plight of poverty-stricken Georgia sharecroppers simply doesn’t work, coming across as mean-spirited and caricatured rather than nuanced or empathetic.

(It’s hard to know how much of this was due to Hays Code restrictions which forced numerous drastic cuts and shifts in tone.) Critics of the day were in agreement, with Bosley Crowther of the New York Times referring to it as “a leisurely picnic with a batch of moldy Georgia crackers” (though audiences appeared to like it well enough). Fans of Tierney will be sad to know her role here is slim-to-none, consistently primarily of an embarrassing come-hither-slither across the ground.

The primary redeeming feature of this flick is Arthur C. Miller’s typically atmospheric cinematography, making the film a pleasure at least to look at.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Arthur C. Miller’s cinematography

Must See?
No; feel free to skip this one unless you’re curious.


One thought on “Tobacco Road (1941)

  1. First viewing. Agreed – skip it.

    It’s sort of like we’re expected to react with, “Gee, ain’t poor, uneducated, bumbling, proud-for-no-reason folk hilarious!”

    Largely unsatisfying, to say the least.

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