Bright Leaf, a sprawling saga of the tobacco industry in North Carolina, began as a novel by Foster Fitzsimmons, a native Carolinian who for many years taught at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill's theatre department. The film version of Bright Leaf has been simplified and reshaped to serve as a traditional Gary Cooper vehicle. Cooper stars as tenant farmer Brant Royle, who after being driven from his home town by autocratic tobacco tycoon Major Singleton (Donald Crisp) returns in triumph with a revolutionary cigarette-making machine. Royle's streamlined techniques soon drive Singleton out of business. Margaret Singleton (Patricia Neal), Royle's old flame, agrees to marry him to save her father from ruin--whereupon the Major commits suicide. The vengeful Margaret then does everything she can to destroy Royle. The question remaining: can Brant Royle save himself and find ultimate happiness with his true love, Sonia Kovac (Lauren Bacall)? Also appearing in Bright Leaf are Jack Carson as Royle's flamboyant business partner Chris Malley and Jeff Corey as John Barton, the inventor of the "miracle" cigarette-making apparatus.
by Hal Erickson synopsis