|Page 2 of 5:||    |
|Index||49 reviews in total|
This was one of the first biographies of a music star. Woody Guthrie
was also the most famous communist in American history. This made just
doing the movie an act of extreme courage on the part of everybody
The movie is as much about the depression in the 1930's as it is about Guthrie. Evoking the atmosphere of the 1930's Midwestern United States is what the movie does best. "Bonnie and Clyde" is really the only other movie that succeeds as well as this one.
When I saw it thirty-two years ago, I thought it was beautiful, but politically tepid, downplaying much of the politics of Guthrie and the period. It seemed to also show Guthrie as inarticulate, rash, self-destructive, egocentric and foolish.
Looking at it now, the cinematography is not great, some of it is quite grainy. It is fine, but not brilliant.
More importantly, I appreciate now that it does not romanticize Guthrie. No doubt in the coming century, he will become an icon like Che Guevara. One gets a vision of a real flawed and down-to-earth person and not a white-washed myth in Carradine's brooding portrayal. It hurts the drama, but that is something I think Guthrie would have appreciated.
Some have noted that David Carradine never did anything better. This is true. Still, he has worked steadily as an actor, now with over 200 movie and television roles. He is in no less than ten movies this year. If you include over 120 episodes of his two Kung Fu television series, he has been in as many productions as his legendary father, John Carradine (339). It is ironic that his father was best known for his role in "Grapes of Wrath" and he will be best known for his role in "Bound for Glory,"
Altogether this is a beautiful, laid-back, easy-going version of the Woody Guthrie story. One expects that soon, in the future, a much more passionate version will appear.
Woody is hitchhiking to the do-re-mi state of California when he is
picked up by a middle-aged couple in a camper trailer automobile. The
driver, M. Emmet Walsh, babbles incessantly about all the sites he and
his wife have visited across the nation. Woody, in the backseat, is
finally given an opportunity to speak. He blurts out, "The more you
eat, the more you s**t." Immediately, Woody is hitchhiking once more.
This one scene epitomizes Woody's attitude and character. He is the
common man writ large, no pretense, no fabrication, just plain talk.
This movie is based on Woody's book, "Bound for Glory," the title coming from the old spiritual, "This Train is Bound for Glory, This Train." A popular song of the day was "Born to Lose" by the western swing band, Ted Daffan's Texans, much later a big hit for Ray Charles. Woody hated the words to the song, with its pessimistic, fatalistic outlook on life and love. Partly in response to this song, Wood wrote his "Bound for Glory." The book like the movie is a look inside Woody's mind. It's about his philosophy and how it relates to his music and songwriting. It is thereby not much of a biography, dealing with a few episodes in Woody's odyssey across American and his rather brief career as a professional musician.
All Woody's best songs are showcased in "Bound for Glory." "I Ain't Got No Home," "Talking Dust Bowl Blues," "So Long It's Been Good To Know Ya," "They Laid Jesus Christ in His Grave," "Howdjadoo," "Deportees," "Hard Travelin'," "Pastures of Plenty," and his most recorded ditty, "This Land Is Your Land." About the only ones missing are "Pretty Boy Floyd,""Vigilante Man," and "Take Me For a Ride In Your Car-Car (Riding In My Car)."
When one imagines an actor portraying Woody, Preacher Casey (John Carradine) from "The Grapes of Wrath" comes to mind. In 1976, John Carradine would have been too old to fit the part. Why not his lookalike son, David? A good choice. David Carradine not only acts the role, much like George C. Scott in "Patton," he becomes Woody. Added to the believability is David's ability to play the guitar and harmonica and to sing in Woody's style. Modern ears have difficulty listening to the rough, often grating, primitive singing and playing of Woody. Woody wanted it that way. He desired to sound like the common man, not like some radio crooner. The movie highlights this when a cocktail lounge singer is auditioning with "I'm In The Mood For Love." Guthrie follows with a "hillybilly" rendition of "Pastures of Plenty," much more sophisticated than it appears to be. Caradine captures the sound perfectly, without over playing it.
Maverick director, Hal Ashby, and his cinematographer, Haskell Wexler, by studying Dorothea Lange's famous photos of the Great Depression and by utilizing inspiration gained from watching John Ford's "The Grapes of Wrath," are able to capture on film the essence of hopelessness, frustration, and misery of those caught in the maelstrom of starvation and unemployment. One telling scene has a horde of migrant workers slowly walking toward the camera, their heads bent in quiet desperation, having been rejected from fruit-picking work because only thirty hands were needed. In the midst of this swirl of despondency, Woody walks tall against the flow, his head in the air, as much a maverick as Ashby. Only two other Hollywood films equal "Bound for Glory" in their depiction of the Great Depression on the big screen, "The Grapes of Wrath," and Arthur Penn's "Bonnie and Clyde."
Even Woody's ambivalent attitude toward women is not glossed over. Woody was at heart a drifter, unable to stay in one place too long, always breaking free from the ties that bind. Keeping with this accurate presentation of the bard, The film shows Woody's concept of labor unions as being for fair treatment of workers with a decent wage, not the compromising fanaticism of Ozark Bule (Ronny Cox), demanding all or nothing until the chips are down; then backing up on his principles. A similar outlook causes Woody problems with being a professional musician. When agents, managers, and producers--all in it for the money--try to groom Woody for the big time, he throws his guitar over his shoulder and heads for New York Town where he would find, "People going' down to the ground, Buildings going' up to the sky," as Dylan would later sing, in homage to his mentor.
This slow-moving film isn't bad, but it feels rather formless, interested in giving you a sense of what Guthrie saw (even though it turns out it's entirely fictionalized) more than what he did. Perhaps you get a better sense of Guthrie in the second half of the film, but I had trouble keeping with it. I could have kept watching without minding it, but I wasn't remotely invested in it. It didn't help that Guthrie turned out to be pretty selfish early on, and yes, a lot of famous people are flawed, but if you were to watch the first half of this movie without knowing who Guthrie is, you would wonder what the movie was about besides some random guy living through the dust bowl days. And the movie isn't an interesting enough version of that sort of movie.
Rabble-rousing kid from 1930s Oklahoma heads west with his guitar for a better life, using the hardships of the roadside vagrants and field-pickers for his musical material. Talented Hal Ashby directed this Depression-era dramatization of folk singer Woodrow "Woody" Guthrie from a screenplay by the estimable Robert Getchell (adapting Guthrie's autobiography). However, Ashby allows the narrative to drift and ramble; while some may feel this approach appropriate, the lackadaisical overall feel--coupled with David Carradine's somewhat lachrymose lead performance--fails to lend the film the big emotional heart one longs for it to have. There are certainly compensations, particularly Haskell Wexler's cinematography and Leonard Rosenman's music-adaptation, both of which won Oscars. Guthrie's romantic life plays out like a series of rerun episodes (which each of his women seen smiling from the bedroom), yet there's a great deal of beauty in Ashby's presentation and several witty passages in Getchell's script. **1/2 from ****
Forget 'the grasshopper' guy. Carradine outperformed himself and showed
he was truly his father's son. The way he responded to the bullying and
attempts to package him were great. However, he must have interacted or
found a way or an agent to interact with the music business enough to
get his music known all over the world.
The expressions on his face as he listens to the humiliating demands of the show business people mirror the attitudes of the thugs who were trying to get him to stay away from the workers as he tried to unionize them. So much of this is true today, where the media are forced to tell only the 'news' the corporations want out there in our own National Pravda. Actually, the coercion is so profound in this country that either you wouldn't even get hired if you were detected as a liberal, or you would be forced to read the managed news the network prostitutes had written.
As our country becomes more and more corrupt, you can't help but love these movies where Americans actually trusted one another. Woody asks to borrow the worker's car and he says, "Sure, will you come back?" And Woody says, "That's where I've got to sleep." Which isn't an answer as he could steal the truck and still sleep in it on the other side of the country.
The sight of the railroad goons shooting the guy at the moment he's so exhilarated about getting into L.A. was quite a surprise. YOu really expected that to happen at the beginning of Woodie's riding the rails experience, when they lined all those folks up, women and men, and threatened them.
And we're heading for those rough times again, as people begin to wake up from the lies the corporate media have told us about the 'bailout'. At least Rolling Stone has it right: we gave the money to the banks, and it was like giving the bankers an ATM account into the taxpayers pocket. Of course, we'll never see that money again. The bankers and their Congressional goons/whores will see to that. This movie was about a similar time in our country's history.
It is too bad that his own family had to suffer from his wanderings. Although his wife was a nag, one can't blame her. Wonder if Arlo has ever opened up about that, since effectively he chose a very similar lifestyle to his father.
Despite the bad review I read in "The Thousand Best Movies Ever Made", this was a beautifully made film.And in fact, the book itself is quite funny as much of the reviews pan the movies that are 'the best'!!!!! Rent it. Buy it. It gives you a lot about our country to remember and love, even if it's gone forever. Unions forever!!! Organize or the middle class is dead; and so I do what Woody got fired from the station for doing: speak of something controversial that will irritate our corporate 'massas'.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Unravelling at a leisurely pace and featuring some of the best folk
music of the 20th Century, this film takes a look at the early life of
Woody Guthrie, from his days scraping a living painting signs in Texas
to his small-time success on L.A. radio and his labor activism. Thanks
largely to the deft but light hand of director Hal Ashby and a well
modulated performance from David Carradine, the film manages to get its
ideas across without seeming sentimental or cloying.
Guthrie has a complicated relationship with his wife (Melinda Dillon) and forms close friendships with strange men (and women) everywhere he goes. One of his closest friends is Ozark Bule (Ronny Cox), a semi-successful folkie who brings Guthrie along to the radio station and inspires him to help with the union, but who balks at Guthrie's extreme sense of anti-commercialism. The film overall does a pretty good job of showing how Guthrie had some real weaknesses, and that his anti-authoritarian stance wasn't just a case of righteousness but more one of personal conviction.
Haskell Wexler's photography should be applauded, because the film's slow pace allows us to drink in the beauty of so many landscapes and dustbowl worker's camps. The musical selections are excellent. I only wish the film could have gone on longer, and showed us some of his real success that led to him becoming world-famous. It's too bad there wasn't a chance to do another film about his time in NYC and his eventual illness.
If you would've asked me, what I thought of the movie, right after I
saw it, I would've probably gave it a lower rating. But the movie grows
on you. Carradine's performance is mesmerizing to say the least and his
underdog is more than likable. You can see that he has his priorities
straight, even if they get him in all sorts of trouble, be it at home
or at work.
The problem of the movie is, that it tries so hard to depict a historical character in a short period of time. Well "short" might be a stretch here, seeing that the pace of the movie itself is pretty slow, which make you think, the movie is longer than it actually is. Not really much is happening and the same issues get played twice or more times, with almost the same conclusion. The stoic Carradine character remains the same. This might be truthful (I can't say, because I haven't read any bios on the real man portrayed here), but could also become boring after awhile for quite a few people.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Director Hal Ashby's screen presentation of Woody Guthrie's autobiography is cinematic pleasure. Bleak and heartfelt, sympathetic and proud. Guthrie(David Carradine)as a young man was trying to support his wife Mary(Melinda Dillon)and two small children by painting signs during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Just like a multitude of Okies, he left Texas thinking salvation would come from the fields of California. He left his wife and kids with her family and jumped on a west bound freight. Riding the rails with others like him, the protest singer he was gathered more ideas for his mournful and sad songs of protest. As a migrant worker in the San Fernando Valley, he continued writing songs about the sights he had seen and the sorrows he shared. He joined up with Ozark Bule(Ronny Cox)on the radio. He not only sang his songs of union organizing, he was proud of his share of brawling against union-busters. His radio job in shambles, Guthrie hit the rails again heading east to New York and a bigger audience to present his songs of protest to. If anything good came from the Great Depression it was Woody Guthrie. Carradine did his own singing which is impressing itself. This movie captured the feel of America and her people during a deliberate and testing time. Also in the cast: John Lehne, Gail Strickland, Ji-Tu Cumbuka, Elizabeth Macey and Randy Quaid.
How did I miss this movie all those years ago?Beautifully photographed,and too,a story of a Great American;acted simply and straight-forwardly...it has production values that makes the movies of today pale in comparison.Could have used a little more editing in some scenes,particularly in the first half.Still a fine film.AMC or some movie channel should be showing this every 6 months or so.The thing that struck me as genius was,at the very outset of the film,the storyline has Woody leaving his guitar behind as he begins his adventure west.How true to life that he finds it again,only much later,by observing its powers through the ears and eyes of a listener.Bound For Glory should be viewed by every American,papers or no,rich and poor.In todays world climate,it has relevance.Surely,a movie that needs to be rediscovered and shown often.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
David Carradine, looking suitably gaunt, tattered and worn-out (and
doing his own astonishingly tuneful, subdued, rawboned singing with a
hoarse, but sturdy baritone, plus playing a pretty mean acoustic
guitar), gives a terrifically tenacious, touching and totally
believable performance as legendary folk singer/songwriter Woody
Guthrie in this excellent, engrossing, ruggedly authentic biopic about
Guthrie's tough, but eventful formative years during the Great
Depression. The late, great Hal Ashby does a sterling job directing
this lengthy (it's two and a half hours long), ambitious, prodigiously
expansive, but never dull or meandering film: the meticulously telling
recreation of the downcast, financially and emotionally troubled,
spirit-wrenching Dust Bowl era never strikes a single false note, there
are many acutely observed, often wryly humorous vignettes (Guthrie's
encounter with a likable, allegedly "insane" overweight man is a small
gem), the pacing slogs along at an ingratiatingly insouciant, leisurely
clip that's completely in sync with that decade's intrinsic dreariness,
the hard times of the 30's are neither cloyingly sentimentalized nor
grossly simplified, and the movie overall successfully creates and
maintains a delicate, heart-melting poignancy that's made all the more
affecting because it stems naturally from the characters and the
grueling ordeals they courageously face throughout the film.
Although Carradine's exemplary portrayal -- simple, sincere and sweetly moving while effortlessly radiating a durable, dignified inner strength that's quietly overwhelming in its very humility -- is the main thespian showpiece featured herein all the other actors in parts major and minor alike are equally outstanding: Melinda Dillon as Guthrie's loyal, pushy, long-suffering wife, Ronny Cox as a kindly, willful itinerant minstrel, Randy Quaid as an earnest union organizer, Gail Strickland as a thoughtful, caring soup kitchen proprietor, Ji-Tu Cumbaka as an amiable train-jumping hobo, M. Emmet Walsh as a gabby motorist who ejects Guthrie from his car after he says "s**t" in front of his wife, Brion James as the needy father of several hungry kids, John Lehne as a strict, repressive radio station owner, James Hong as the peppery, peevish chili cook at a roadside diner, and Robert Ginty as an impassive fruit picker. Robert Getchell wrote the fine, colorful script. Both Haskell Wexler's beautifully evocative, golden-hued cinematography and Leonard Rosenman's flavorsome, understated country and western score deservedly won Oscars. A lovely, touching and quite wonderful film.
|Page 2 of 5:||    |
|External reviews||Plot keywords||Main details|
|Your user reviews||Your vote history|