Tobacco Road (John Ford, 1941)
Posted: Fri Oct 17, 2008 6:59 pm
I've been musing some nonsense on Tobacco Road while out with my dogs. What to make of it? And what does it make of you?
It's the doolally disrespectful brother of The Grapes of Wrath and kept in the closet. Over in England there's a posh potty distant cousin, Sir Henry at Rawlinson End. Is Gummo an inbred great nephew? Its setting is a hillbilly funny farm, and the poor farm's on the horizon. It lasts 84 minutes and at 20 that seems an eternity. Dudeboy's yeehaw shenanigans grate like hell. Dumb casting this- it's made for Daffy Duck. Ward Bond may pack a wallop but he's a witless whiner, and get this, Gene Tierney is a goofy gawky grubby girl who gambols through the grass . (Laura's a long way off.)
But wait. This rickety old banger, these shacks and yawshucks, are they subversive not stupid? It's now sidling up with a ramshackle charm. It bursts into hymns at the drop of a bonnet. Grizzly Charley Grapewin makes a mighty fine Jeeter; this crusty old couple will sure warm your cockles. They throw rocks at a car though she hardly knows why. Barmy it may be, but beautiful too. Ford's got his eye in and there's a pooch on the porch. Mid the ruins and wisteria, the leaves are now rustling, and there on the ivy a kind light is falling. It's turned tender and lovely, and over too soon.