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Boxcar Bertha (1972)

During the Great Depression, a union leader and a young woman become criminals to exact revenge on the management of a railroad.

Director:

Martin Scorsese

Writers:

Ben L. Reitman (book), Joyce Hooper Corrington (screenplay) (as Joyce H. Corrington) | 1 more credit »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Barbara Hershey ... Boxcar Bertha
David Carradine ... Big Bill Shelly
Barry Primus ... Rake Brown
Bernie Casey ... Von Morton
John Carradine ... H. Buckram Sartoris
Victor Argo ... McIver #1
David Osterhout David Osterhout ... McIver #2 (as David R. Osterhout)
Grahame Pratt Grahame Pratt ... Emeric Pressburger (credit only)
'Chicken' Holleman 'Chicken' Holleman ... M. Powell (credit only)
Harry Northup ... Harvey Hall (as Harry Northrup)
Ann Morell Ann Morell ... Tillie Parr
Marianne Dole Marianne Dole ... Mrs. Mailler
Joe Reynolds Joe Reynolds ... Joe Cox
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Storyline

Based on "Sister of the Road," the fictionalized autobiography of radical and transient Bertha Thompson as written by physician Dr. Ben L. Reitman, 'Boxcar' Bertha Thompson, a woman labor organizer in Arkansas during the violence-filled Depression of the early '30's meets up with rabble-rousing union man 'Big' Bill Shelly and they team up to fight the corrupt railroad establishment and she is eventually sucked into a life of crime with him. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Bertha Loved Lovin'...But There Was More Money in ROBBIN' TRAINS! See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Romance

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

14 June 1972 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Die Faust der Rebellen See more »

Filming Locations:

Camden, Arkansas, USA See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$600,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)| Mono (Ryder Sound Services)

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Martin Scorsese personally drew about 500 storyboards for this film See more »

Goofs

Shortly after the film begins, a very modern trackside railroad signal and control box are shown. These are almost certainly from around 1960 or later. See more »

Quotes

Boxcar Bertha: It looks like it's really over for you now, huh?
'Big' Bill Shelly: Hell no. Until I'm dead.
Boxcar Bertha: You don't have to rush it.
'Big' Bill Shelly: It's appointed, each man to die. Judgement
Boxcar Bertha: You don't have to rush it.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Opening Statement: The following events are adapted from the true experiences of Boxcar Bertha Thompson, as related in the book "Sister of the Road" See more »

Connections

References Wife of General Ling (1937) See more »

Soundtracks

Piano Sonata no. 11 in A, K. 331, Mov. 3
(uncredited)
Written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Fine film with a strong female lead.
5 July 2009 | by sonya90028See all my reviews

Boxcar Bertha was based on the life of times of Bertha Thompson, during the depression era in the 1930s. After her pilot father is killed right before her eyes in a plane-crash, Bertha leaves the family farm, unable to support herself alone. Bertha takes to the road, and soon meets-up with Big Bill Shelly. Bill is a union organizer, who's determined to exact justice from corrupt railroad barons. Bertha and Bill fall in love, and travel together via hopping trains across the south. The two turn to criminal activities, to survive.

Barbara Hershey gives a light-hearted, yet also poignant performance as Bertha. David Carradine conveys the conviction and passion, evident in Big Bill Shelly. His on-screen chemistry with Barbara Hershey, is palpable. Bernie Casey gives a strong, if understated performance as Bill's partner-in-crime, Von Morton. The morality angle of this film, like many made in the 70s, is ambiguous. The viewer knows that the characters clearly commit criminal acts. Yet there's also a sense of righteousness in their lawlessness, due to their quest to overthrow the cruel railroad men.

This is one of the more interesting 70s nostalgia films, and one of the very few to revolve around a strong female character. It is a bit too slow in spots, and could've used more exciting get-a-way scenes. But it makes-up for these minor flaws, by having characters with more emotional depth, than the usual crime drama. Boxcar Bertha is a fine film, that works very well overall.


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