O Brother, Where Art Thou?

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

TOBACCO INCIDENTS 209
AVG PER MINUTE 2.05
EDITION Touchstone DVD released June 12, 2001
MOVIE SUMMARY Three escape convicts travel around whilst overcoming obstacles and singing songs.
TOBACCO IN SHORT The governor of Mississippi & his cronies smoke cigars, many smokers in large crowds.
POSSIBLE SMOKESCREENS (?) The cyclops, the strange white devil man with sunglasses, the KKK, the sudden flood.

TOBACCO INCIDENTS: 209

AVG PER MINUTE: 2.05

First frame at 0:58
Last frame at 102:30
Total visual running time: 101:32

# TIME ANGLE DESCRIPTION
1 2:31 ES Three men escaped from the chain gang are running through what appears to be a tobacco field.
It’s strange but somehow that “WHEAT FIELD” from the script magically changed into something else for the actual film.
2 3:00   Song lyrics: “…the sun shines every day on the birds & the bees & the cigarette trees…”
3 4:23 TS Closeup view of the three men’s legs as they run through the tobacco field.
4 4:44 ES Crane shot of the three men running through the tobacco field toward a moving train.
5 4:50 ES Alternate view of the three men as they exit the tobacco field.
6 4:59 TS View of the three mens’ legs running alongside the train; the tobacco field visible in background.
7 5:02   The three men run alongside the train with the tobacco field visible in background.
8 5:07 MD George Clooney hops onto the train and the tobacco field is visible in the background.
9 5:11 MD George Clooney stands up; the tobacco field is visible in the background.
10 5:18 MD Repeat of Clooney with the tobacco field visible in background.
11 5:20   Tim Blake Nelson hops onto the train with the tobacco field visible in background.
12 5:24 LA High shot looking down on the three men with the tobacco field visible in background.
13 5:30   George Clooney is pulled out of the train car; the tobacco field is visible in background.
14 5:34 ES George Clooney stands up near the edge of the tobacco field.
15 5:39 2S Reversal shows John Torturro & Tim Blake Nelson stand up near the edge of the tobacco field.
16 5:41 MD Repeat of George Clooney standing at the edge of the tobacco field.
17 5:43 2S Repeat of John John Torturro & Tim Blake Nelson at the edge of the tobacco field.
18 5:45 MD Repeat of George Clooney at the edge of the tobacco field.
19 5:51 2S Repeat of John Torturro & Tim Blake Nelson at the edge of the tobacco field.
20 5:54 MD Repeat of George Clooney at the edge of the tobacco field.
21 6:02 2S Repeat of John Torturro & Tim Blake Nelson at the edge of the tobacco field.
22 6:05 MD Repeat of George Clooney at the edge of the tobacco field.
23 6:06 2S Repeat of John Torturro & Tim Blake Nelson at the edge of the tobacco field.
24 6:08 MD Repeat of George Clooney at the edge of the tobacco field.
25 6:10 2S Repeat of John Torturro & Tim Blake Nelson at the edge of the tobacco field.
26 6:15 MD Repeat of George Clooney at the edge of the tobacco field.
27 6:17 ES An extremely wide view of the tobacco field & background landscape.
28 6:20 2S Repeat of John Torturro & Tim Blake Nelson at the edge of the tobacco field.
29 6:22 MD Repeat of George Clooney at the edge of the tobacco field.
30 6:26 2S Repeat of John Torturro & Tim Blake Nelson at the edge of the tobacco field.
31 6:33 MD Repeat of George Clooney at the edge of the tobacco field.
32 6:37 Crane Three men boarding the blind man’s handcar with the tobacco field visible in background.
33-34 6:47 TS Riding on the handcar and two tobacco fields are visible divided by the railroad tracks.
35 6:59 MD Closeup of George Clooney with the tobacco field in the background.
36 7:09 MD Repeat of George Clooney with the tobacco field in the background.
37 7:21 MD Closeup of John Torturro & Tim Blake Nelson with the tobacco field in the background.
38 7:26 MD Repeat of George Clooney with the tobacco field in the background.
39 7:46 MD Repeat of John Torturro & Tim Blake Nelson with the tobacco field in the background.
40 7:55 MD Repeat of George Clooney with the tobacco field in the background.
41 8:05 MD Behind the blind man pumping the handcar, the tobacco field is visible.
42-43 8:15 Crane Crane shot lifts up from the railroad tracks showing the tobacco fields on both sides.
* 10:15 CU The young boy is sitting on a stack of books; two Wards catalogs are visible.
* 14:00 CU
44 14:55 ES Another large tobacco field appears in the background.
* 15:15 MD Automobile brand name Ford is mentioned by the shopkeep.
* 15:15 Various Fictional brand names “Fop” and “Dapper Dan” are mentioned several times.
* 19:50 FS A “Piggly Wiggly” grocery store is mentioned by actor Tim Blake Nelson.
45-46 20:30   Similar looking fields of crops (possibly tobacco) are visible in the car’s window.
47-48 21:11 BE A bird’s eye view of Tommy’s crossroads; 2-3 fields (possibly tobacco) are visible.
49 21:18 ES Tommy approaches the car, a field of crops (possibly tobacco) is visible in the background.
50 21:21 ES Reversal of the three men in the car, a field of crops (possibly tobacco) is visible in the background.
51-52 21:23 BE Repeat of bird’s eye view of crossroads; 2-3 fields (possibly tobacco) are visible.
53 21:30 2S View of front seat; a field (possibly tobacco) is visible in the window.
54 21:37 2S View of back seat; a field (possibly tobacco) is visible in the window.
55 21:39 2S Repeat of front seat; a field (possibly tobacco) is visible in the window.
56 21:44 2S Repeat of back seat; a field (possibly tobacco) is visible in the window.
57 22:03 2S Repeat of front seat; a field (possibly tobacco) is visible in the window.
58 22:13 2S Repeat of back seat; a field (possibly tobacco) is visible in the window.
59 22:23 2S Repeat of front seat; a field (possibly tobacco) is visible in the window.
60 22:38 2S Repeat of back seat; a field (possibly tobacco) is visible in the window.
61 22:49 2S Repeat of front seat; a field (possibly tobacco) is visible in the window.
62 22:52 2S Repeat of back seat; a field (possibly tobacco) is visible in the window.
63 22:59 2S Repeat of front seat; a field (possibly tobacco) is visible in the window.
64 23:07 BE A bird’s eye view of the radio station which is surrounded by two fields (possibly tobacco).
65 23:21 ES A closer view of the radio station; a field (possibly tobacco) is visible in the background.
66-67 26:50 ES The men exit the radio station; several fields (possibly tobacco) are visible in the background.
68 27:05 TS Tracking away from the three men; a field (possibly tobacco) is visible in the background.
69 27:08 TS Tracking reversal of the political folks; a field (possibly tobacco) is visible in the background.
70 27:12 TS Continue of earlier tracking shot with same field (possibly tobacco) is visible in the background.
* 27:12   The Ford brand emblem can be seen on the car’s grill.
71 27:15 TS Continue of tracking reversal and field (possibly tobacco) is visible in the background.
72 27:23 WS Wide view of the car and all four men; a field (possibly tobacco) is visible in the background.
73-74 27:27 ES Repeat of political men in front of radio station; two fields (possibly tobacco) are visible in the background.
75 37:44 MD A farmer stands up on his tractor in the middle of a tobacco field.
76 37:46 WS Another wide view of the man plowing his tobacco field.
77 37:53 MD Repeat of farmer and tobacco field in background.
78 37:56   Closer view of truck coming down the road beside the tobacco field.
79 38:05 MD Repeat of farmer and tobacco field in background.
80 38:09   Repeat of truck driving beside the tobacco field.
81 51:15 2S One of Pappy O’Daniel’s political cronies has an unlit cigar in his mouth.
82 51:40 2S Repeat of political cronie with an unlit cigar.
83 51:46 OTS Repeat of political cronie with an unlit cigar.
84 51:50 OTS Repeat of political cronie with an unlit cigar.
85-86 56:24 Crane out George Clooney & Tim Blake Nelson ride in the back of a haytruck driving between two tobacco fields.
87 57:00 POV George Clooney’s POV of the chain gang working beside a tobacco field.
88 57:15 POV Repeat of George Clooney’s POV of the chain gang working beside a tobacco field.
89-90 57:28   View from the truck with tobacco fields on both sides of the road.
91-92 57:32   Repeat of view from truck with tobacco fields on both sides of the road.
93-94 59:51 WS In the background behind the singing girls, two men are seen smoking.
95 60:08 CS George Clooney passes by a man who is smoking a cigar.
96 60:10 CS Continuity: the same man with a cigar appears in the corner of the frame.
* 60:19   A man appears to be bringing a cigarette to his lips.
97 60:22 ES George Clooney shoves by a man smoking a cigarette.
98 60:32 MD Close view of George Clooney; a man in the background is seen smoking a cigarette.
99 60:41 MD Repeat of George Clooney; same man in background is seen holding a cigarette.
100 60:49 MD Repeat of George Clooney; same man in background is seen holding a cigarette.
101 60:57 MD Repeat of George Clooney; same man in background is seen holding a cigarette.
102 61:04 MD Repeat of George Clooney; same man in background is seen holding a cigarette.
103 61:14 MD Repeat of George Clooney; same man in background is seen holding a cigarette.
104 61:25 MD Repeat of George Clooney; same man in background is seen holding a cigarette.
105 61:31 MD Repeat of George Clooney; same man in background is seen holding a cigarette.
106 61:39 MD Repeat of George Clooney; same man in background is seen holding a cigarette.
107-108 64:43 ES View of the movie screen; two people are seen smoking inside the theater.
109-110 65:23 2S Closer view inside the movie theater; one smoker is visible & another is implied.
111 65:37 ES Alternate view inside the movie theater; a man in the background is seen smoking.
112 65:56 WS As the exit door is opened light shines on the theater smoker.
113 66:12 ES Repeat of alternate view and background man smoking.
114-115 66:50 ES Repeat of view toward screen; same two smokers are visible.
116-117 67:05 ES Repeat of view toward screen; same two smokers are visible.
118 67:18 MD Closer view of George Clooney & Tim Blake Nelson; same background smoker is visible.
119 67:49 MD Repeat of closer view; same background smoker is visible.
120 67:57 ES Pappy O’Daniel smokes a cigar on the plantation porch.
121 68:12 2S One of Pappy O’Daniel’s cronies also holds a lit cigar.
122 68:22 ES Repeat of Pappy O’Daniel holding a lit cigar on the plantation porch.
123 68:29 ES Alternate view of Pappy O’Daniel holding a lit cigar on the plantation porch.
124 68:34 ES Repeat of Pappy O’Daniel holding a lit cigar on the plantation porch.
125 68:39 2S Repeat of cronie holding a lit cigar on the plantation porch.
126 68:42 ES Repeat of Pappy O’Daniel holding a lit cigar on the plantation porch.
127 68:45 2S Repeat of cronie holding a lit cigar on the plantation porch.
128 68:54 ES Repeat of Pappy O’Daniel smoking a cigar on the plantation porch.
129 79:13 ES Pappy O’Daniel’s cronie is seen with a cigar in his breast pocket.
130-131 80:58 ES As Homer Stokes & midget enter the rally a man is seen holding a cigar, another man smoking a cigarette.
132 82:32 ES Pappy O’Daniel’s cronie is seen with a cigar in his mouth.
133 83:03 ES A man smokes a tobacco pipe front & center at the dinner table.
134 83:07 ES Repeat of Pappy O’Daniel’s cronie with a cigar in his mouth.
135 83:12 ES Repeat of Pappy O’Daniel’s cronie with a cigar in his mouth.
136 83:46 WS Tobacco pipe man is seen again as Homer Stokes & midget arrive at the stage.
137 83:50 WS Repeat of tobacco pipe man in the background.
138 83:55 WS Repeat of tobacco pipe man in the background.
139 84:08 WS Repeat of tobacco pipe man now pictured near the center of frame.
140 84:31 WS Repeat of tobacco pipe man as the audience stands to cheer.
141 84:59 WS A man in the audience lets out a puff of smoke.
142 85:00 WS Tobacco pipe man is seen just behind Homer Stokes.
143-145 85:21 WS Pappy O’Daniel’s cronie is seen holding a cigar & two tiny ashtrays are visible.
146 85:27 WS Repeat of tobacco pipe man seen behind a dancing George Clooney.
147-149 85:30 WS Repeat of cronie holding a cigar & two tiny ashtrays.
150 85:36 WS Repeat of tobacco pipe man visible behind Homer Stokes.
151 85:38   Closer view of Pappy O’Daniel & son; one of the tiny ashtrays is visible.
152 85:41   Repeat of tobacco pipe man visible behind Homer Stokes.
153 85:47   Repeat of tobacco pipe man visible behind Homer Stokes.
154 85:53 HH Repeat of tobacco pipe man visible behind Homer Stokes.
155 85:59 HH Repeat of tobacco pipe man visible behind Homer Stokes.
Another one of those loose camera-drifty moments that oddly has to keep including the background pipe man within the frame.
156 86:11 HH Repeat of tobacco pipe man visible behind Homer Stokes.
157 86:15 3S Alternate view of Pappy O’Daniel & son; crony is seen with a cigar in his mouth.
158-162 86:17 HH Tobacco pipe man is seen, two tiny ashtrays are visible, Vernon T Waldrip is smoking, and cronie with a cigar.
163 86:21 HH Repeat of tobacco pipe man visible behind Homer Stokes.
164-167 86:32 HH Repeat of tobacco pipe man, two tiny ashtrays, and cronie with a cigar.
168 86:43 HH Repeat of tobacco pipe man visible beside Homer Stokes.
169-172 86:45 HH Repeat of tobacco pipe man, two tiny ashtrays, and cronie with a cigar.
173 87:04 HH Repeat of tobacco pipe man visible just behind Homer Stokes.
174-177 87:07 HH Repeat of tobacco pipe man, two tiny ashtrays, and cronie with a cigar.
178 87:10 ES The radio broadcast man is seen with a smoking ashtray.
179 87:12 ES A husband with a cigar & wife listening to the radio broadcast at home.
180-183 87:16 HH Repeat of tobacco pipe man, two tiny ashtrays, and cronie with a cigar.
184-187 87:19 HH Repeat of tobacco pipe man, two tiny ashtrays, and cronie with a cigar.
188-191 87:23 HH Repeat of tobacco pipe man, two tiny ashtrays, and cronie with a cigar.
192 87:25 HH Repeat of tobacco pipe man seen beside Homer Stokes.
193-195 87:26 HH Repeat of two tiny ashtrays and cronie with a cigar.
196 87:35 HH Repeat of tobacco pipe man seen beside Homer Stokes.
197 87:42 BE Repeat of tobacco pipe man seen in the foreground.
198 87:59 WS Repeat of tobacco pipe man seen near the front of the audience.
199-200 88:29 4S View of Pappy O’Daniel’s crew; same cronie with a cigar & one tiny ashtray are seen.
201 88:50 WS Repeat of tobacco pipe man seen near the front of the audience.
202 89:08 WS Repeat of tobacco pipe man seen near the front of the audience.
203 89:27 WS Repeat of tobacco pipe man but now amongst the crowd.
204 89:53 WS Repeat of tobacco pipe man amongst the crowd.
205 90:24 WS Repeat of tobacco pipe man amongst the crowd.
206 91:21 WS Repeat of tobacco pipe getting deeper in background.
207 91:26 WS Another man is seen holding a tobacco pipe.
208 91:36 WS Repeat of tobacco pipe man but visible in the front row this time.
209 91:46 ES A man smoking a cigar exits the rally after the Soggy Bottom Boys (primary actors George Clooney, John Torturro & Tim Blake Nelson).

Additional Thoughts…

One of the Coen brothers’ most notable films in terms of song, O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) was hugely popular upon its release. This extremely inspired tale takes old timey music and weaves it through a reinvention of Homer’s classic mythology.

In this epic tale however, tobacco appears mainly in the form of cigarettes and cigars, and what appear to be miles and miles of tobacco fields present in the background of many scenes. Using high-tech digital effects, the Coen brothers were also able to give the landscapes a unique color temperature that really drops you into the dustbowl of the Mississippi delta along with the other goofy characters.

Even though the three primary actors (George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson) don’t light up in the film, cigarettes, cigars and tobacco pipes can basically be seen throughout. Cigars are smoked in several scenes such as the Governor and his cronies puffing away out on the plantation house porch. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) also plays on stereotypes like the fact that wealthier, more distinguished gentlemen actually smoke cigars rather than cigarettes.

In some scenes depicting large audiences, the Coen brothers (or their propmasters) always seem to make sure that a good percentage of the background extras are always smoking. If you’re looking for it with a careful eye, you can always see puffs of smoke going up in different areas of the crowds.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), for one reason or another, was one of those films I specifically remember in my brain as being totally 100% free of tobacco. Personally, I just didn’t remember any smoking incidents in this movie whatsoever when I thought back on it. Like I said, the music was totally unforgettable and overall the movie was entertaining, so what more do you need? But when I went back and carefully watched O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) just to scan the movie for tobacco, these products were everywhere. Some directors never hesitate to show a naked pair of woman titties in their film while the Coen brothers never hesitate to advertise tobacco products.

One thing I found especially intriguing while researching the film is, well, actually just one little itty bitty word. It is a single word that appears in the original script for O Brother, Where Art Thou? that actually caught my attention. While reading the original screenplay written by the Coen brothers, I noticed that one particular setting was written as “A WHEAT FIELD”, but what actually appears in the final film more closely resembles — you guessed it — “A TOBACCO FIELD” instead. I mean hey, there are a thousand different types of plantation fields the Coen brothers could have chosen for the opening scene of O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) in which to have the three main characters run through as they are escaping the prison chain gang… But guess which one they landed on despite their own script suggesting otherwise.

But a tobacco field doesn’t even necessarily advertise cigarettes to viewers, does it? So why did they even bother? I’m not sure… Unless they wanted to visit a tobacco plantation first hand just to see what all of their hard work over the years is really about. Anyways, this same kind of thing happened in the Coens’ next film Raising Arizona (1987) as well. Remember when that doctor’s pencil magically morphed into a cigar? The addition of tobacco obviously happens during the production phase if not sooner. Whether it’s used as a joke or not, the Coen brothers always seem to lean toward tobacco-related items.

Another interesting theme within O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) is that thing I mentioned about paying for sins, making a deal with the devil, searching for redemption, etc. While watching this movie you do get that strange notion on occasion… Listening to the music and lyrics especially. Either way, it’s hard to nail down what the real intended message is sometimes but the more I ponder it the more I think the Coen brothers might be trying to absolve themselves.

In some cases, the Coen brothers even reached into real life for some inspirational tales. It is well known that legendary blues artist Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the devil at a crossroads, similar to what happens in O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000). When the fellas pick up the character Tommy Johnson at the crossroads, he tells them all about a similar agreement he made with the devil…


Tommy: You boys going past Tishamingo?

Delmar: Sure, hop in.

Tommy: Thanks for the lift, sir. My name’s Tommy. Tommy Johnson.

Everett: How ya doing, boy? Name’s Everett, and these two soggy sonsabitches are Pete and Delmar. Keep your fingers away from Pete’s mouth-he ain’t had nothing to eat for the last thirteen years but prison food, gopher, and a little greasy horse.

Delmar: How you doing, Tommy? Say, I haven’t seen a house out here for miles. What’re you doing out here in the middle of nowhere?

Tommy: I had to be at that there crossroads last midnight, sell my soul to the devil.

Everett: Well ain’t it a small world, spiritually speaking. Pete and Delmar just been baptized and saved, I guess I’m the only one here who remains unaffiliated.

Delmar: This ain’t no laughing matter, Everett.

Everett: What’d the devil give you for your soul, Tommy?

Tommy: He taught me to play this guitar real good.

Delmar: Oh, son! For that you traded your everlasting soul?

Tommy: Well, I wasn’t using it.


See what I mean? The Coen brothers even make a small joke out of it. Either way, it seems like every film after Forrest Gump (1998) takes random events from history and finds a way to weave them into a fictional story. Did Forrest Gump (1998) somehow make it acceptable to rewrite history? Errr, I guess this kind of thing has been going on since the beginning of Hollywood.

I think a slightly different version of this movie could have probably changed the world… For the better, I mean. And maybe this particular film still did change the world in terms of musical synergy. With the help of renowned producer T Bone Burnett, the Coen brothers chose old traditional folk songs that perfectly complimented their bleak storylines. Ultimately, the music from the movie was so well-received and so popular that a live concert of the songs was performed and released on a DVD called Down from the Mountain (2001). The soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou? (2000) is just one of those totally unmistakable and unforgettable things.

Say what you will about the tobacco thing, but I’ll be the first one to admit that the Coen brothers are some of the most talented directors in the business… And yet that’s part of the problem here. Were the Coens using their gifts for creating wholesome pictures that influenced young people to do good things rather than simply lighting up a cigarette, well, I would be praising them rather than condemning them.

From what I have read about the Coen brothers in interviews, I get the impression that, to Joel & Ethan, making a film is like creating a piece of art — they are essentially trying to paint some kind of abstract portrait that resembles real life very closely, but not quite. Many things seem quite familiar however something is always just a little off. On the other hand, the Coen brothers always seem super dodgey about their true intended messages behind each individual movie which ultimately leads me to believe that my big secret long-term tobacco agenda is actually alive and kicking. These guys are always the smartest motherfuckers in the room, trust me. Their passion and knowledge of literature (not to mention film & film history) is absolutely undeniable… As I said, I imagine that the Coen brothers have seen or heard of every trick in the book, so to speak. And that just makes them that much more diabolical when it comes to making films and embedding tobacco products.