(director/writer: Delmer Daves; screenwriter: from the novel by Mildred Savage; cinematographer: Harry Stradling Jr.; editor: Owen Marks; music: Max Steiner; cast: Troy Donahue (Parrish McLean), Claudette Colbert (Ellen McLean), Karl Malden (Judd Raike), Dean Jagger (Sala Post), Connie Stevens (Lucy), Diane McBain (Alison Post), Sharon Hugueny (Paige Raike), Dub Taylor (Teet Howie), Hampton Fancher (Edgar Raike), David Knapp (Wiley Raike); Runtime: 140; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Delmer Daves; Warner Bros.; 1961)
“This Peyton Place meets Tobacco Road pic might be scenic, but its dialogue is risible and its dreary story line is as noxious as smoking.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A below-average soap opera adapted by director/writer/producer Delmer Daves (“Destination Tokyo”/”Pride of the Marines”/”Cowboy”) from the bestselling novel by Mildred Savage.The heavy-handed, predictable and overlong melodrama is about rival tobacco farmers inthe Connecticut River Valley and a handsome young newcomer to the area conflicted over romancing three different women.After absent from movies the past six years the 58-year-old Claudette Colbert returns for her last role in films, playing the role of mother to heart-throb Troy Donahue.
The sentimental melodrama is a load of crap, as Donahue makes for a stiff lead, the usually reliable Karl Malden goes too far over-the-top playing the heavy to be more than one dimensional and the three women of romantic interest to pretty boy Donahue are all uninteresting and forgettable. This Peyton Place meets Tobacco Road pic might be scenic, but its dialogue is risible and its dreary story line is as noxious as smoking.
Twenty-something poor momma’s boy hunk Parrish McLean (Donahue) and his cheerful widow mother Ellen (Claudette Colbert) leave Boston for rural Connecticut, where she is hired by the virtuous widow tobacco farmer Sala Post (Dean Jagger) to watch over his rebellious and wild living college student daughter Alison (Diane McBain) while she returns to the quiet farm she hates for the summer break. Meanwhile Parrish gets hired to work as a field-hand for Sala, and hooks up with loose but good-natured field-hand Lucy (Connie Stevens) and also with Sala’s attractive but troubled and slutty daughter Alison.
Even though her boss is being driven out of business by the monopoly-minded, greedy, uptight, volatile and ruthless Judd Raike (Karl Malden), a neighbor tobacco farmer, Ellen marries him (she says she sees his good side) and gets Parrish to work for him as his heir apparent. Judd’s nitwit sons Edgar (Hampton Fancher) and Wiley (David Knapp) resent Parrish, and do everything they can to make his life miserable. But their college student sister Paige (Sharon Hugueny) is as sweet as pie and is chaste and interested in tobacco farming, and if you can’t guess let me assure you that by the end she will win the heart of Parrish.
The ethical Parrish quits working for the unethical Judd and in the climax works for the ethical Sala, who is at least more ethical than Judd, to see if he can save his farm from his arch-rival and his unsavory ways of always trying to get everything he wants.
It works for those interested in wanting to know something about cultivating a tobacco crop, but there are things this tawdry plodding film can’t explain: Troy’s nice mother’s marriage to a tyrant like Malden; why pin-up boy in his first leading role is so dull playing a part James Dean would have worked wonders with; and why is such an unconvincing melodrama getting laughs where none were intended. But don’t ask me why, it’s watchable.
REVIEWED ON 3/12/2012 GRADE: C+