A hard but mediocre cop is assigned to escort a prostitute into custody from Las Vegas to Phoenix, so that she can testify in a mob trial. But a lot of people are literally betting that they won't make it into town alive.
As the film opens on an Oklahoma farm during the depression, two simultaneous visitors literally hit the Wagoneer home: a ruinous dust storm and a convertible crazily driven by Red, the missus' brother. A roguish country-western musician, he has just been invited to audition for the Grand Ole Opry, his chance of a lifetime to become a success. However, this is way back in Nashville, Red clearly drives terribly, and he's broke and sick with tuberculosis to boot. Whit, 14, seeing his own chance of a lifetime to avoid "growing up to be a cotton picker all my life," begs Ma to let him go with Uncle Red as driver and protege. Thus begins a picaresque journey both hilarious and poignant.Written by
Paul Emmons <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The guitar Red Stovall is playing is a Gibson L-5C manufactured around the 1970s. Although Gibson launched the L-5 in 1922, the particular instrument Red plays in the movie is definitely not from the era the movie was set in. The L-5P was launched in 1939 and was superseded by the L-5C in 1948. The letter "C" in L-5C stands for "cutaway" whereas the letter "P" in L-5P stands for "premiere". The tuners and the "Gibson" logo on the guitar's headstock are distinctly 1970s. See more »
You don't think he should be doing this, do you?
Do you? Knowing it might kill him?
Want me to level with you, pal? He's going to die anyway, and he knows it. And he knows that this is his last chance.
Last chance? For what?
To be somebody. Did you ever feel like you wanted to be somebody? If he makes these recordings - who knows?
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ABC edited 7 minutes from this film for its 1986 network television premiere. See more »
Set in Depression era Oklahoma, this film tells the story of a dirt poor, alcoholic singer named Red Stovall (Clint Eastwood), who heads out for Nashville, in hopes of making it big as a country singer. The story begins on a dilapidated farm composed mostly of dust, where Red's sister hesitatingly allows her son Whit (Kyle Eastwood) to go with Red to Nashville. The kid's Grandpa (John McIntire) also wants to go, to return to his native Tennessee. The film's beginning is dreary and depressing, but wonderfully realistic of the dust bowl days of the 1930s.
Much of the plot takes place on the road, as the three travelers encounter an assortment of characters and problems along the way. The most important character they meet is a young girl named Marlene (the late Alexa Kenin), who yearns to be a country singer. It's one of many plot contrivances, but at least this contrivance offers some humor, especially when Marlene ... "sings". Other plot contrivances include a jailbreak, an angry bull, an aborted robbery, and an incident involving a chicken coop.
If the film's weakness is excess contrivances, the film's strength is the portrayal of Red as an interestingly complex character. He coughs a lot, a symptom of tuberculosis. And the TB is getting worse. The question is ... will Red be able to reach the promise land before the disease affects his ability to sing? And, in a long monologue aimed at Whit, Red talks about his long-ago love affair with Mary Sims.
The film's acting is credible, if not outstanding. Kyle Eastwood does a nice job as Whit. The film also features cameos by several then-current country singers. At the end, there's some sad real-life irony as Marty Robbins helps Red.
"Honkytonk Man" has some good atmosphere. Arguably, the best segment is at the Top Hat Club on Beale Street in Memphis, where the great Linda Hopkins belts out a blues number. If the film's writer had ditched some of those hokey "on the road" contrivances, and focused the plot more in smoky old bar rooms with low light levels and mournful music, the film would have been a lot better. As is, "Honkytonk Man" is still worth a look, if for no other reason than to see a low-key character study, in contrast to the brash and gaudy big ticket films of that cinematic era, like "Raiders Of The Lost Ark" and "Star Wars".
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