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Tobacco Road

(1941 b 84')

En: 5 Ed: 6

Based on Erskine Caldwell's novel and Kirkland's play, poor parents try to survive in poverty after their children leave home.

Jeeter Lester (Charley Grapewin) returns home with wood still in his old car. Lov Bensey (Ward Bond) says that his wife Pearl won't talk to him no matter how much he punishes her. Jeeter suggests Lov take her sister Ellie Mae Lester (Gene Tierney) as a wife, and Jeeter's family attacks Lov for his turnips. Bessie Rice (Marjorie Rambeau) tells Jeeter he sinned. Neighbor Henry (Slim Summerville) tells Jeeter that Captain Tim is going to give farmers credit. Ada Lester (Elizabeth Patterson) tells her husband Jeeter that he won't have a crop, because he sinned in stealing the turnips. After a rain storm, Jeeter confesses to Bessie, who prays for Dude Lester (William Tracy). Captain Tim (Dana Andrews) arrives with George Payne (Grant Mitchell) from the bank to collect money. Captain Tim says he lost his land, and Jeeter must go. Payne says he must have $100 by Sunday. Captain Tim gives Jeeter some corn.

Dude says that Bessie is going to buy him a new car, because they are getting married to go preach. Religious singing helps older Bessie get a marriage license and a new car. Dude drives into things. Jeeter welcomes Bessie into the family; but she spent her $800 on the new car. Dude tells his parents they will die and drives off. Jeeter and Ada discuss their many children. Jeeter prays for help, and he asks Bessie to lend him her car so he can haul wood to sell. Dude and Bessie go with Jeeter to Augusta. Jeeter goes to a bank but finds Payne there and leaves. Dude says no one is buying wood. Jeeter has them sell the spare tire so they can stay in a hotel. Jeeter takes the car key and drives off. He tries to sell the car to the chief of police, who tells the three to get out of the police station. Dude drops off Jeeter at home, and they quarrel. Lov tell Jeeter that Pearl left him, and Jeeter offers to give him Ellie Mae. Dude drives off the road and fights Lov, who rolls the car over. Ellie Mae washes up and runs off. Payne arrives for the money and suggests they work in the mill. Jeeter prefers the poor farm, and Ada goes with him. They walk, and Captain Tim gives them a ride back to their home, saying he paid for six months and giving them $10 for seed. In the final scene Jeeter plans to work next week, maybe.

Although not nearly as dark as the original novel and play, in this film version the futility of Jeeter's hopes still comes across. The poverty and ignorance of the rural South is portrayed in its bleakness, buoyed only by religious faith and singing.

Copyright © 2002 by Sanderson Beck

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