Tobacco Road as a motion picture falls far short of its promises. The sensational pulling elements of the 1933 play by Jack Kirkland from Erskine Caldwell’s saga – the dialog and the low-life manners of its people – have been deleted, altered or attenuated to the point of dullness. What remains of the story is a back-in-the-hills comedy of shiftless folk.
Tobacco Road emerges with a trite comedy theme about the dubious efforts, chiefly larcenous, by which old Jeeter hopes, through act of Providence or dishonest opportunity, to raise $100 for the annual rent of the old farm.
For all of its dehydration Tobacco Road is told with a canny camera. Ford is more intent on story telling than in his recent productions.
Chief load of the acting falls on Charley Grapewin, whose Jeeter is a fine characterization within the revised limitations. He plays the old fellow for comedy and sympathy, revealing also a lazy shrewdness. Elizabeth Patterson is Ma Ada, and brings out the sullen hopelessness of the role.