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Gram Parsons: Fallen Angel (2004)

On September 19, 1973, the musician and heir to a million-dollar fortune died under the influence of drugs and alcohol near his favourite place - the Joshua Tree National Monument in the ... See full summary »




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Credited cast:
Tracey MacLeod ...
Herself - Narrator (voice)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Himself - R.E.M.
Gretchen Carpenter ...
Herself - Gram's Widow
Herself - Writer
Herself - Musician
Chris Hillman ...
Himself - Musician
Phil Kaufman ...
Himself - Road Manager
Bernie Leadon ...
Himself - Musician
John Nuese ...
Becky Parsons Gottsegen ...
Herself - Gram's Stepsister
Diane Parsons ...
Herself - Gram's Sister
Gram Parsons ...
Himself (archive footage)
Himself - Musician


On September 19, 1973, the musician and heir to a million-dollar fortune died under the influence of drugs and alcohol near his favourite place - the Joshua Tree National Monument in the Californian desert. As the founder of the Flying Burrito Brothers, a member of the hit-making, legendary Byrds, an important influence on the Rolling Stones and the man who catapulted Emmylou Harris to fame, Gram Parsons made music history in only a few years. The film was made on location by director and musician Gandulf Hennig and American music journalist, musician and biographer Sid Griffin. Friends, contemporaries and devotees of Gram Parsons talk about the importance of his work and the bizarre circumstances of his early death. Rare footage of his performances shows why Gram Parsons has become a legend. Interviewees include Gram's wife Gretchen, his sister and his daughter, Keith Richards, Emmylou Harris, Chris Hillman and "Road Manager" Phil Kaufman. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Feature length documentary on the musician and million-dollar-heir Gram Parsons, his exceptional life, his bizarre death, and his deep impact on music history.


Documentary | Music






Release Date:

29 April 2004 (USA)  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs



Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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User Reviews

good documentary
15 June 2006 | by (jamesdamnbrown.com) – See all my reviews

A very worthwhile documentary about musician Gram Parsons of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers. Originally filmed for British and German television, the movie is a very detailed portrait of Parsons' life, albeit at arm's length—there would appear to be very little footage of Gram available, most of it performance clips, many of amateurish home movie quality. I don't recall even one shot of Gram on screen talking, although his voice is heard in a few sound snippets from an audio interview of indeterminate origin. The movie instead relies on extensive usage of still photographs and, most impressively, interviews with just about anyone still alive who was involved in Parson's life, including bandmates Chris Hillman and Emmylou Harris, Keith Richards, the surviving members of Gram's family, blustery former road manager Phil Kaufman who stole Gram's body at LAX and drunkenly drove it out to the desert and burned it, and even the girlfriend who checked into room number 8 at the Joshua Tree Inn with Parsons and watched him die of an overdose. The dynamics of Parsons' dysfunctional family and the impact it had on him are well documented, perhaps maybe a little too well documented, but the recollections of the musicians who played with him provide the most illuminating commentary on the allure and difficulties of Parsons' self-destructive talent. Overall, I had two main criticisms. One, the filmmakers' melodramatic animation of cartoon flames that rise from the bottom of the screen as Kaufman describes striking a match and throwing it into Parsons' gasoline soaked coffin—not to mention the aerial shot of a bonfire burning in the desert, obviously supposed to emblematic of Gram's burning corpse—is especially cheesy, and really tacky. But my larger complaint is that despite the effluent praise of Parsons' talent, the film never establishes a broader historical context for his musical accomplishments that would allow the casual viewer to understand why he was so important, which was that he almost single-handedly invented the genre of country-rock. Pamela Des Barres alludes to it somewhat when she describes Gram playing records by Lefty Frizzell and Willie and Waylon for her, turning her on to a rich, vibrant side of country music that most rock music fans were unaware of at the time. But with the Byrd's Sweetheart Of The Rodeo and his injection of flashy Nudie suit glam rock star attitude into his fairly traditional but definitely non-Nashville brand of country songwriting, he broke through to the rock crowd with an updated take on country music that paved the way for the Eagles and every country-rock outfit that followed. You maybe wouldn't quite understand how revolutionary that was from this film—some obscure family friends could've been replaced by a perceptive rock critic or two—but all in all it's a really good documentary.

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