Donnerstag, 12. April 2012

Let's watch.. ..TOBACCO ROAD (1941)

You might remember the star of last month.. Gene Tierney..  – today I will present one directed by John Ford she did in the beginning of her career - and which actually deals a bit with religion:


The Great Depression has left people poor and disappointed.  Jeeter Lester (Charley Grapewin) and his family are living in Tobacco Road – one of the poorest places. The Jeeters live by stealing and so do their neighbours – to work on their farms is too straining and frequently postponed. When the new owner of their land ask for $100 rent for the farm for one year the Jeeters have to face the possibility to live at the poor farm – which is horrifying (They would have to bath before they get something to eat! Awful..) The Lester children are no help either: Ellie May (Gene Tierney) and Dude (William Tracy) are not too smart – and while Ellie May is very much interested in her brother-in-law Lov (Ward Bond) who has frequently troubles with his wife Pearl, Dude marries Sister Bessie (Marjorie Rambeau) a religious woman who is almost twice his age – but has enough money to buy him a car with a wonderful horn..

~ young love.. wily William Tracy and wonderful Marjorie Rambeau ~

TOBACCO ROAD is based on a play – which is based on the novel by Erskine Caldwell (who also wrote GOD'S LITTLE ACRE). I can’t tell you about the play – but the book I have read. Just by the way: It is set in Georgia – near to Augusta. For obvious reasons the scenes which contained sex – and I guess that’s one aspect that made Erskine Caldwell’s books so successful.. – are now much tamer: The scene in which the Lester Family is stealing Lov’s turnips just shows Gene Tierney’s character almost in a kiss with Lov. It’s very well done and has actually some eroticism in it (Gene Tierney and Ward Bond did a very good job here..) – but in the book they are doing things which made Lov much more distracted..

~ this picture is a publicity still - in the film Ward Bond and Gene Tierney are much MUCH closer to earth.. ~

Another very Hollywood-natural change: in the book Ellie Mae has a harelip (that’s why Lov didn’t want her for his wife in the first place and took Pearl.) – of course in this film Ellie Mae is beautiful but simply a bit dirty..
~ ... that's how an ugly woman looks in Hollywood..  ~

But this film isn’t after all a typical Hollywood glamour comedy – the Lesters are very canny (I think this is a characteristic which is supposed to be typical for every country folk all over the world..)  but due to Jeeter’s laziness  their home is quite rotten. Another typicall thing for Erskine Caldwell’s books is used in this film, too: Most Hollywood films take Religion for a higher thing – here it is mostly used by the characters to get what they’re longing for – to manipulate. It’s the overall argument for everything. Unlike the book the film has almost a happy-end though I fear that after six month Jeeter and his wife (Elizabeth Patterson) have again to pack their things and leave their farm..
The only character in this who is a little bit more cultivated, mannered and nice is a minor character played by Dana Andrews - but his character isn't that poor - so maybe that's the cause for that..

~ Charley Grapewin as Jeeter Lester ~

If you’re okay with partly overacting characters (I won’t blame the actors because I think this is caused in the story) and a very much cynical way to look at live: I highly recommend this film – people who prefer good manners and lovely personas will be deeply disappointed. 

Enjoy the show, please!




  1. Sweet post! I haven't seen it but it's cool that's it set near my hometown of Augusta, GA. Very cool. Great post Irene!

  2. Thank you, Monty! In the film Augusta isn't mentioned - I think for film selling reasons.. About the accents and dialects I can't say anything whether they are authentic or not I fear.. It's always kind of fascinating to watch a film which is kind of related to one's own life, isn't it? Hope the people in Augusta are much nicer these days.. ;")