(1950)2.5Craig ButlerBright Leaf is a moderately engaging would-be epic about old guard vs. new guard forces in the tobacco industry. It clearly wants to be a "big" picture, but it ends up feeling like a run-of-the-mill melodrama blown out of proportion. Much of the problem is that it can't find a way to reconcile its "personal" storyline with its "ambition" storyline. Oh, the two plots intersect nicely, and the characters move between them with ease -- but somehow the pieces don't seem to fit together just right. It also doesn't help that the melodramatics amount to just so much shouting. Director Michael Curtiz is an experienced old pro at pulling off movies like this, but he doesn't seem to have been able to get a real grip on this one. Fortunately, he has a first rate cast to work with, even if most are not quite operating at the top of their form. Gary Cooper is a treat, as usual; he's not ideally cast and can't quite convince us of his vengeful nature, but his charisma carries him through this. Lauren Bacall is quite good, though the period styles keep her from looking her best, and though Patricia Neal overdoes things a bit, she's still fascinating to watch. Donald Crips, in a supporting role, gives the best performance, filling out a part that could easily become a one-note caricature. And mention must be made of Karl Freund's gorgeous cinematography, which practically spills off the screen.