Combustible Celluloid
Stream it:
Download at i-tunes iTunes
Own it:
With: Charley Grapewin, Marjorie Rambeau, Gene Tierney, William Tracy, Elizabeth Patterson, Dana Andrews, Slim Summerville, Ward Bond, Grant Mitchell, Zeffie Tilbury
Written by: Nunnally Johnson, based on a novel by Erskine Caldwell and a play by Jack Kirkland
Directed by: John Ford
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 84
Date: 02/19/1941

Tobacco Road (1941)

3 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

John Ford's weirdest film plays like a flip-side of -- or an alternate reality to -- The Grapes of Wrath. Based on a novel by Erskine Caldwell and a long-running play by Jack Kirkland (but reportedly gutted by screenwriter Nunnally Johnson), the film focuses on a group of hillbillies who still occupy their farmland, long after crops have ceased to grow. Charley Grapewin provides some balance as Jeeter Lester, a schemer with a good heart. But many other performances are shrill and agitating, such as William Tracy as Jeeter's son "Dude" and Marjorie Rambeau as the caterwauling Sister Bessie Rice.

Just wait till you witness the sight of sexy young Gene Tierney trying to seduce Ward Bond by lounging on the dirty ground, inching toward him and raising dust clouds as she goes. Even more bizarre is one of the movie's final exchanges ("where's grandma?"). Ford's penchant for broad comedy is at its worst here, but at the same time, he also manages some of his most beautiful lyrical passages.

Movies Unlimtied