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Friday, March 6, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 26.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Tobacco Road
Rated
John Ford's bizarre, shaggily amusing follow-up to The Grapes of Wrath (on which he and scenarist Nunnally Johnson had collaborated the year before). Charley Grapewin - great as Grandpa Joad in Grapes - here plays the roughly similar Jeeter Lester, a Georgia redneck who's an imperviously lazy and dissolute sharecropper. Tobacco Road tends to deflate where The Grapes of Wrath exalted; it shows us a similar milieu, a similar journey by car, and similar impoverished desperation, but here the emphasis is on rough-hewn slapstick, and the cynical social observations of novelist Erkine Caldwell (minus Caldwell's famous sexual frankness, which is what made the novel and play popular in the first place). Yet, Ford, much as he seems to relish Jeeter's roguishness, paradoxically lavishes all his skill for elegiac composition on Tobacco Road. The climactic sequence is one of the most poetic in his entire oeuvre.
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