Full entry on film here
17 comments alsolikelife | --Video Essays, TSPDT Final 100
Enjoyed this. Thanks.
Amazing coincidence: I JUST got back from seeing Tobacco Road at AMMI with my father and stepmother. He’d been asking me to find a copy of that film for years, but no luck. When I saw that AMMI was running it as part of their Ford at Fox program, we had to go. They’d been dying to see it again since they were kids.
We all loved it. Beautiful silvery-black print, great broad comedy. Arthur C. Miller’s photography and Ford’s rock solid-but-graceful mise en scene make this one glide.
William Tracy, Ward Bond and Gene Tierney are the only weak spots for me. It isn’t that they play it broad– everybody in this film does. The problem with those three is that they tend to play it false. Charley Grapewin and Elizabeth Patterson never lie in their performances as Jeeter and Ada, respectively.
I’m glad you mention Preston Sturges in your video essay. To me, this film is no less broad than something like Sturges’s The Lady Eve– and damn sight funnier.
WHen the film gets somber and dark near the end, Ford tosees up some bits of montage as poetic and stirring as anything in TGoW or HGwMV. Those sorrowful skies.
Excellent work per usual, Kev.
Hi Steven – it’s not *that* much of a coincidence as I had meant to review Tobacco Road for the House as part of the Ford at Fox series at MOMI – I had wanted to post this sooner just to raise interest in the screening.
That’s a very interesting distinction you make between Tracy, Bond and Tierney and the rest of the cast. Especially after reading the last quote in my main entry on this film about how Ford made acting easy for everyone. Maybe TOO easy?
I would have never thought to compare Sturges to Ford but this movie really brings that out — how both are fascinated with “low” culture and how to represent it truthfully onscreen, especially in this critical post-Depression period.
“They make me mad!”
Wish I knew more about Ford to say more about your links to Sturges. In a most basic sense you could simply look at how the two of them act as different kinds of witnesses to the Depression. But the thing that will always set Sturges above his peers is his interest in language. It’s probably why I find _The Lady Eve_ funnier than the broad comedy here (except that declaration “They make me mad!” — that’s a hoot!).
Still, this looks interesting. Especially that shot of Tierney running, punctuated by that splash of water. So good. Also good is Love busting through those ramshackle walls. Talk about will. What a metaphor! Guess I’d need to see the full film to see how it plays out. But that, along with the “make me mad!” line, definitely link this to a Sturges sensibility. The speed of it all. Even something like _His Girl Friday_ seems slower than something like _The Lady Eve_, if that’s possible. Or maybe it’s just me.
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Although Tobacco Road was filmed in California, there really is a Tobacco Road, about 11 miles south of Augusta, Georgia crossing U.S. Highway 1 at Fort Gordon, and running to the Savannah River. I grew up 1 mile north of Tobacco Road on Hwy 1 from 1945 to 1957. It was a dirt road when I lived there and I learned to drive a car on it. There were some ‘seedy’ characters living on the road back then. One of them got shot and died while trying to commit a burglary. I knew him. Also, the character in the movie, “Sister Bessie” was a real live woman preacher in the area, who did, in fact, marry a very young man. Our family knew them also. I’m guessing that Erskine Caldwell knew about her, and put her in the book, Tobacco Road. Her real name was Ella. I won’t reveal her last name.
Sentimental and nostalgic. Great.
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