BOUND FOR GLORY (director: Hal Ashby; screenwriters: Robert Getchell/based on the book by Woody Guthrie; cinematographer: Haskell Wexler; editors: Robert Jones/Pembroke J. Herring; music: Leonard Rosenmann; cast: David Carradine (Woody Guthrie), Ronny Cox (Ozark Bule), Melinda Dillon (Mary/Memphis Sue), Gail Strickland (Pauline), John Lehne (Locke), Randy Quaid (Luther Johnson); Runtime: 148; MPAA Rating: PG; producers: Robert Blumofe/Harold Leventhal; United Artists (MGM); 1976)
“It’s a story that’s truly worth telling, but should have been pruned by 30 minutes and it wouldn’t have lost a thing artistically.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
It’s based on the 1943 autobiography Bound for Glory by the legendary eccentric folk singer Woody Guthrie. Director Hal Ashby(“The Last Detail”/”Shampoo”/”The Landlord”) focuses it on Woody’s young adult life from 1936 to 1940. Writer Robert Getchell keeps it dull and sentimental. If you weren’t familiar with the iconic folksinger, you might not realize he was a radical socialist. What Ashby does really well is give us a richly detailed biopic, while cinematographer Haskell Wexler’s glossy atmospheric photography of the vistas is stunning. Too bad Woody got a biopic that’s so lifeless, as he deserved a better film.
In 1936 the twenty-something Okie born sign painter Woody Guthrie (David Carradine) leaves his impoverished residence of Pampa, Texas, during the dust bowl, and heads for California to find his destiny. Woody left his family with relatives, as he rode the rails with the hobos during the Depression. We catch him living in a migrant worker camp in California, where he observes the brutality of the times. With a raised social and political conscience, he begins writing his own moving protest folk songs such as This Land Is Your Land.” Woody eventually got on the radio and found his way across the country to New York, where he gained a considerable audience.
It’s a story that’s truly worth telling, but should have been pruned by 30 minutes and it wouldn’t have lost a thing artistically. Carradine gives a winning understated performance.
REVIEWED ON 7/8/2015 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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