Thrown out of the town of Kingsmouth, NC many years before by the wealthy tobacco man Major Singleton (Donald Crisp), Brant Royle (Gary Cooper) returns to make a fortune and stir up trouble. With the aid of John Barton (Jeff Corey), who has invented a machine for making and packaging cigarettes, and the financial help of gal pal Sonia Kovac (Lauren Bacall), he builds the Royle cigarette company into a giant that puts many of his tobacco competitors out of business. Sonia is in love with Brant, but he only has eyes for Singleton's lovely daughter, Margaret (Patricia Neal), and as the years go by he becomes more and more like her father, gaining power and prestige but treating people shabbily. Brant finds out that he may not have a friend left in the world ... Bright Leaf is a pot-boiler that slowly builds in dramatic intensity and features some effective performances. Cooper is better than usual in his portrayal of Royle; Neal is good but not great; and Bacall [Shock Treatment] has one of her best roles in this. Jack Carson and Jeff Corey are fine as Brant's business partners, Elizabeth Patterson [Out of the Blue] is terrific as the major's elderly sister; and Donald Crisp [The Old Maid] nearly steals the show as the implacable major -- one of the movie's best scenes has the major challenging Brant to a duel. As the love rivals, Neal and Cooper haven't any scenes together, unfortunately. A comical aspect of the movie is when Bacall tells Cooper that she's opened a "rooming house" when it is all too obviously a brothel! Smoothly directed by Michael Curtiz.
Verdict: This could be dismissed as a nearly two hour advertisement for cigarettes were it not for its sheer entertainment value. ***.