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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.
For realistic images of the 1930s dust bowl in Oklahoma and Texas, this
is the film to see ... the shabby, frame houses, the dilapidated autos,
the dreary clothes, the grinding poverty, and all that dust. Although
the film was shot in color, the lighting is muted, even in daylight. I
suspect that was on purpose, to show how the dust blotted out much of
the sunlight, and thematically much of the optimism.
"Bound For Glory" is the story of folksinger Woody Guthrie (David Carradine), whose life as a sign painter and hobo during tough times led him to write many songs, the most famous being "This Land Is Your Land". The story begins in Texas, with Woody already married and with children. Eventually, all that dust and dreariness causes him to forsake his wife and kids, as he hitchhikes and rides the rails westward to the promised land.
But the promised land doesn't want any more Okies. And Guthrie ends up eating in free soup kitchens and living in ugly migrant worker camps. He writes music about life as a poor man. He identifies with the problems of migrant workers, stuck with poverty wages, if they're lucky enough even to get a job. He and them resent the cruelty of their arrogant bosses and rich, powerful corporations, which leads him to write songs of protest.
Despite the film's lengthy run-time, only a small part of Guthrie's life is shown here. We never learn anything about him once he becomes famous. Nor do we learn anything about his upbringing in rural Oklahoma. The film is more of a year-in-the-life-of, rather than a comprehensive bio.
"Bound For Glory" looks good, visually, with terrific period piece production design and costumes. And the cinematography is impressive. But the plot pace is very, very slow and deliberate. Everything is understated. And not until the film's end do we get to hear his most famous song. David Carradine is reasonably persuasive as Guthrie. Other performances are fairly standard.
For all the great visuals, the script is somewhat of a letdown. I would have preferred a more conventional biography, with a faster clip. As is, genuinely certified fans of Woody Guthrie are the only viewers likely to have the patience and forbearance to sit through this toilsome and sluggish, though realistic, story.
Bound for Glory breaks the trends of the usual bio-pics on musicians
because Woody Guthrie, unlike most, sincerely wasn't out for fame in
the usual sense. He liked recognition from time to time, and to be able
to get his voice out to as many people as he could. But- and this is
from the looks of the film and from what else has come up about
Guthrie- he never sold out. He wasn't a political figure, but his songs
had that driving force of politics, of something inspirational, that
couldn't be reached through typical rhetoric. When Guthrie goes through
the fields of workers picking artichokes or workers at a factory and he
goes on and on singing his protest songs until the bosses beat him up
and wreck his guitar, it's about as close as a political act as one has
ever seen a singer/musician in a based-on-a-true-story picture. But at
the same time Hal Ashby isn't out to make an entirely explicit
'message' heavy movie, even if there is, of course, messages to be
taken to heart.
It's about the man himself, and the times and circumstances that drove Woody Guthrie on his own, apart from his family, in mid 1930s depression era America. One could look at the film as an examination of a man caught in such dire times, of a country where the line between rich and poor was so significant there was barely any middle ground. But one can also look at it as the story of a wanderer, someone who- as his protégée Bob Dylan would later make as his proclamation in Like a Rolling Stone "with no direction home"- always felt a little restless. His journey is what really counts and shapes his music and outlook. It almost comes close to what it must be to have faith; if you want to sing, just sing, as Guthrie tells a bunch of kids (a little simplistic but with a kernel of truth), no matter what it's about. To suddenly find more meaning in the songs from the circumstances becomes part of the narrative, of a man who could be a hero in the historical sense while not being the kind of man who would be entirely one to aspire to be. He's happy to just walk down a road and sing his songs for anyone who will hear, as his family leaves him behind and any chance of conventional success floats by the wayside.
It's hard not to make messages in a film where its character in real life once had the ultimate f***-you to the establishment right on his guitar case ("This machine kills fascists"). But it's the high skill of film-making, and the performance at the lead, that enrich what is already potent, awesome material. Haskell Wexler, the late-great cinematographer behind Cuckoo's Nest and Medium Cool, puts his stamp significantly as a work of Americana of the traditionalist sense: a dust-storm is like something both alien and beautiful, while the train scenes are exciting, lush with vibrancy with dirt all around. Ashby, too, has a mark here from his editing days; there's not one transition from scene to scene that doesn't have a fade, making it a step removed from the usual lot of films at the time (even Ashby's) where just a straight cut-to or a jump-cut would suffice. He could've made this film, in the technical sense, twenty years before and it wouldn't of made much of a difference.
And finally, David Carradine. If Kill Bill is the guiltiest pleasure of his career, Bound for Glory is his serious triumph as an actor. He's got that quality, which may or may not have been like the real Guthrie, that sucks a viewer in even when the character does something or says something that shouldn't feel like it's the thing to do as the protagonist of the story. He's a character led solely by his convictions, and Carradine enriches that through the performances of the songs, and his own self-confidence radiating just walking down a road or going to do something out of the goodness of his soul. From every moment he's on screen, as if in some kind of folk-rhythm mode out of Kung-fu, he's mesmerizing, in a performance that should've been nominated along with De Niro, Finch and Giannini in the best actor race (albeit more low-key than the others). Bound for Glory is a blissful epic of conscience, and a kind of eccentric story a man who lacked any cynicism in his being. Plus, of course, the songs are great, as they're played on the spot without any over-dubbing.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It is 1936 in Pampa, Texas during the oppressive Dust Bowl. Work is
hardly available, even for 24 year-old sign-painter Woody Guthrie
(David Carradine), who doesn't seem to mind as he spends time with his
friends and singing and playing the guitar. Woody's first wife,
long-suffering Mary (Melinda Dillon), is most concerned about the lack
of cash for the growing family (two little girls thus far). After a
dust storm strikes, Woody simply packs up and heads for California,
where jobs are supposedly plentiful. He leaves a note for Mary, "Going
to California. Will send for you all." Constantly struck with
wanderlust (as we shall see), Woody is really a drifter.
So Woody, along with many hobos of the Great Depression, hitchhikes and rides the rails on his journey. By the way, this is the largest migration in US history. Along the way Woody lives in migrant worker camps and "Hoovervilles." Along his travels he meets all kinds of characters, including Slim Snedeger (Ji-Tu Cumbuka) and unionizing folk singer Ozark Bule (Ronny Cox). At a migrant camp Ozark and Woody sing and extort the workers to unionize until thugs arrive and break up the gathering. As Woody observes the miserable plight of many Americans, his social conscience is so raised that he composes and sings many of his folk songs. Note the memorable scene atop a boxcar where Woody plunks away at his guitar while he composes the words to "This Land Is Your Land." Later on there is another set where Woody waltzes into a factory and exhorts the workers to unionize; he is promptly beaten up by security folks.
Ozark Bule helps Woody to get a radio job at KTNS for twenty dollars a week. Most of the mail from listeners is positive, and Woody and singing partner Memphis Sue (Melinda Dillon again) get an offer of thirty-five dollars weekly. Station manager Locke (John Lehne), concerned about his new sponsors, tells Woody not to sing any controversial songs. After all, the sponsors pay for what they want to hear, and they do not want provocative subject matter. But there really is no compromise for Woody. Note that this scene is really inaccurate, as Woody was really advocating support of the Soviet Union. (Then when Russia's Stalin signed the August 1939 non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany, the leftists were stunned and . . . Oh, never mind!)
An agent, Baker (Bernie Kopell), plans on getting Woody an offer to play for CBS as long as his songs are not controversial. No thanks! And as there is no middle ground, it is time for the detached Woody to move on. Ultimately Woody will work his way to New York where there are many people and unions who will hear the message of his music. Woody is destined to gain even greater acclaim than previously.
The movie focus is on a slice of Woody's life (1936-1940), loosely based upon his 1943 autobiography. The famous folk singer-songwriter and musician is flawed and neglectful of his family, even after he relocates them to California. Although married, he was a notorious womanizer. In his real life the detached Woody had three wives and seven children (son Arlo was not born until 1947). But Woody inspired folks who had nothing except hope; he said one's skin color is not important. Despite his defects he remained idealistic and gave up various monetary offers. Still, he was not an easy man to live with.
The songs, performed by David Carradine, include "This Train Is Bound for Glory," "Talking Dust Bowl Blues," "I Ain't Got No Home," and of course the famous "This Land Is Your Land." The feature may be slow-paced, but there are also impressive golden-colored cinematography and scenic views. There are also authentic and stunning period details, like the shabby frame houses and jalopies. The acting is natural; Carradine is very good as the folk singer who never surrenders his deeply felt convictions. In fact in this movie Carradine is Woody. "Bound for Glory" received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture, but understandably lost out to "Rocky," a "top 100 of all time" movie.
Till I saw this movie, I always viewed 'folk music' as tree hugging save the world hippy happy tunes. But from this movie I now understand the emphasis on 'folk'. And really it's not too different from 'punk'. Woody sang about the people he was singing to. Hardships and hopes. Decency before profit. And how great America is, even when America wasn't doing so great. Hal Ashby put's a 'grit' not only into, but onto the film. I could literally feel the dust and grime on me as I watched. And say what you will about David Carradine being a cantankerous S.O.B., but he was cast and played Woody perfectly. To steal a line from Dr. Strangelove - "Woody is a man of the people. But he's also a 'man', if you follow my meaning..." And Ronny Cox I thought was stellar in his performance. All in all, the movie gives me great appreciation for the depiction of Woody, the depression era, and the unsung brilliance of Hal Ashby and the cast. A must have for anyone that's into music, sociology, history, and/or just great film making!
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