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Tobacco Road (1941)

Approved | | Comedy, Drama | 7 March 1941 (USA)
Hillbilly family life in 1941 rural Georgia.



(based on the novel by), (stage play) | 1 more credit »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
William Tracy ...
Dude Lester
Ada Lester
Captain Tim
George Payne
Zeffie Tilbury ...
Chief of Police
Spencer Charters ...
County Clerk
Auto Dealer


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 <puffinus@u.washington.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Comedy | Drama


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

7 March 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El camino del tabaco  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The Broadway play by Jack Kirkland based on Erskine Caldwell's novel opened 4 December 1933 and set a record for longevity on Broadway when it closed on 31 May 1941 after 3,281 performances. It was revived on Broadway twice in the next two years, bring its total running time there to nearly ten years (1933-1943). Opened at the Theatre Masque and then moved to the 48th Street Theatre followed by the Forrest Theatre for the original production. The play was revived in 1942, 1943 and 1950. The original Broadway production is the seventeenth longest running show ever as of February, 2013. See more »


The morning following a torrential rain storm, dirt roads are absolutely dry. See more »


Lov Bensey: I want a young wife. I ain't gonna take no 23 year old woman for a wife, have everybody laughin' at me.
See more »


Spoofed in Tabasco Road (1957) See more »


Bringing in the Sheaves
Music by George A. Minor
Lyrics by Knowles Shaw
Sung a cappella by Marjorie Rambeau, William Tracy, Charles Halton and others at the marriage bureau
Played as background music often
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User Reviews

Altered State
1 June 2012 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Tobacco Road as was written by Erskine Caldwell and dramatized on Broadway for 8 years was brought to the screen by 20th Century Fox in a considerably altered state. It was thought of probably by Darryl Zanuck as a great property for John Ford seeing what he did with The Grapes Of Wrath.

The Grapes Of Wrath by John Steinbeck is a great piece of social commentary, an immortal work whether in print or on the big or small screen. Ford kept the spirit of Steinbeck's work completely intact and got a well deserved Best Director Oscar. In this one because Caldwell's Jeeters are not quite as noble as the Joads of The Grapes Of Wrath, they're not prototype rural proletarians. The changes took a lot of the drama and commentary and left the film not too far above the Weaver Family films and Ma and Pa Kettle.

Charley Grapewin and Bessie Patterson are Mr.&Mrs. Jeeter Lester and Jeeter is a guy determined to get by doing as little as possible. The whole family has his spirit. He's married most of his children off. One of the daughters in serious trouble of being an old maid at 23 and that was Gene Tierney if you can believe that. Her character in the book and play has a cleft palate and you can understand why she's not married off. Here she's just gorgeous Gene Tierney and a crucial element is missing.

There's another daughter Pearl whom we never see, but who's married to the loutish Ward Bond. She keeps running off and Bond just doesn't get it. Here he's just rustic lout, I suspect that the 13 year old Pearl figures she can do a whole lot better. That one I'm sure the Code was breathing hot and heavy over 20th Century Fox.

There's another physically deformed character and that's Marjorie Rambeau who has in the book a nose like a pig's snout. Grapewin palms off his 16 year old son as a new husband for Rambeau to get his hands on the insurance money her old husband left her. William Tracy as the kid who's no prize figures she's experienced and eager even if she's a psalm singer which she is.

The rough house comedy that typifies many a Ford film is funny, but hardly in the spirit of what Caldwell was writing. In the end I have to say that the film is not good John Ford, though he's done worse.

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