Bound for Glory
Adapted by Robert Getchell from Woody Guthrie's autobiography, Hal Ashby's biopic portrays a few pivotal years in the life of the celebrated folk singer and social activist. In the Depression 1930s, Midwesterner Guthrie (David Carradine) plays music locally but cannot make enough as a sign painter to support his wife (Melinda Dillon) and children. With only his paintbrushes, Woody joins the migration westward from the Dust Bowl to supposedly greener California pastures via boxcar and hitchhiking. When penniless Woody is turned back from the California border, he sneaks into the state alone and meets Luther (Randy Quaid), who takes Woody to a farm where hundreds of workers scrounge for a few ill-paid harvesting jobs. When singer Ozark Bole (Ronny Cox) arrives both to entertain and to urge the workers to unionize, Woody joins Ozark in song, fleeing with him after thugs break up the assembly. He lands a job singing with Ozark on the radio, and the two become partners in union agitation. Unable to commit in his personal life as he finds his political voice, Woody brings his family west, but his wife can't tolerate Woody's wandering ways. Reluctant to sell out his ideals for a lucrative career, Woody hits the road again, bringing his songs of freedom and protest to a nationwide audience on his own terms. Opting for atmospheric story-telling over strident polemic, the filmmakers present Guthrie as a complex individual with contradictory virtues and faults. Despite critical praise and nominations for several Oscars, including Best Picture, Bound for Glory proved less than glorious at the box office.