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Shiftless Jeeter Lester and his family of hillbilly stereotypes live in a rural backwater where their ancestors were once wealthy planters. Their slapstick existence is threatened by a bank's plans to take over the land for more profitable farming; subplots involve the affairs and marriages of son Dude and daughter Ellie May. Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
The Beverly Hillbillies as directed by America's greatest poet
The back side of the same coin whose front is The Grapes of Wrath. It's a Depression piece about a family of Georgia dirt farmers who are about to be driven from their home. Here John Ford stays much in his comedy mode, so most of his detractors will certainly want to stay clear of it. And even I admit that at times it can be obnoxious. Dude Lester, the youngest of the 16 (or 17) children Jeeter and Ada Lester had, and one of only two who still live on the farm, is particularly hard to bear. One wonders whether Jeeter and Ada had the same parents. Dude runs around screeching and imitating his car's horn. He can be funny, but he's certainly the most grating element of the movie. Luckily, he gets his comeuppance, which makes it well worth putting up with him. The other child, a 23 year old girl, Ellie May (Gene Tierney, in a very early appearance and gorgeous as the earthy farmer's daughter Ford really fetishizes her, to tell you the truth), is in love with her brother-in-law, Lov (Ward Bond, whom I didn't even recognize). He chose Ellie May's younger sister because he wanted a young wife 23 is too old and he feared he'd be the laughing stock of Tobacco Road. Most of the movie focuses on Jeeter (Charley Grapewin), who is trying to remain on his land. It's quite amazing. These characters are so stereotypical, and they can certainly be construed as highly offensive. The Beverly Hillbillies probably contains less offensive material about hicks. With any other artist at the helm, it would be completely reprehensible. Yet, in Ford's hands, Jeeter Lester exhibits as much humanity as Tom Joad. We laugh at his ridiculousness, but we care for him very much. His wife (played by Marjorie Rambeau) doesn't get a lot of screen time, but when she does, she reminds me much of Jane Darwell's heartbreaking role as Ma Joad. After Dude tears into his parents about being at death's door, the two have a solemn conversation about their numerous, departed children. `I thought at least one of them would write,' Ada sighs. The film also boasts the greatest number of occurrences of Ford's favorite hymn, `Shall We Gather at the River'. It even serves as the base of the film's score. If the wackiness doesn't put the detractors off, that song very well might! I love it myself. As funny as Tobacco Road is, and it is quite funny almost all of the time, it contains dozens of moments of the greatest American poetry. 9/10.
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