Tobacco Road

Not John Ford at his best, but still full of interest, this somewhat dry-cleaned version of Jack Kirkland’s play adaptation of the famous Erskine Caldwell novel, scripted by Nunnally Johnson, offers a bittersweet view of Georgia hillbillies that doesn’t register fully as either comedy or drama (1941). Reportedly the same thing was true of the original play, which became a comedy only after audiences started laughing at it, but Ford benefits from this ambiguity by putting a wry spin on the populist humanism of The Grapes of Wrath, which he’d recently made for the same studio, Fox. With Charley Grapewin (repeating his stage role as Jeeter Lester), Marjorie Rambeau, Gene Tierney, William Tracy, Elizabeth Patterson, Dana Andrews, and Ward Bond. (JR)

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