Bound for Glory (1976)




Director:  Hal Ashby.  

Starring:  David Carradine (Woody Guthrie), Ronny Cox (Ozark Bule), Melinda Dillon (Mary/Memphis Sue), Gail Strickland (Pauline), John Lehne (Locke), Ji-Tu Cumbuka (Slim Snedeger), Randy Quaid (Luther Johnson), Elizabeth Macey (Liz Johnson), Susan Vaill (Gwen Guthrie), Sarah Vaill (Gwen Guthrie), Alexandra Mock (Sue Guthrie), Kimberly Mock (Sue Guthrie).

story of folk singer Woody Guthrie who discovered the misery of the poor and working class in the USA



"Don't  let nothing get you plumb down."

Good movie.  Terrific movie.  It deals mostly with the days before Woody became famous. 

Woody is married with children living in virtual poverty in Texas.  He performs odd jobs to make ends meet: he painted and played in a band for money.  This is the time of the Dust bowl.

A huge dust storm envelops the town.   People are moving out of the neighborhood in search of a better life.  And eventually Woody starts hitchhiking west.  He becomes a hobo riding the rails with other hobos. 

Starts to play the piano and signs for extra money.  He heads out to California where he lives with other poor people in migrant "camps".  Some of them work picking fruit for poverty wages. Listens to a union organizer Ozark Bule who uses music to inspire the crowd.  He sings one based on an old Joe Hill song with the lyrics "there'll be pie in the sky, when you die."  Woody joins in with Bule.  Partly out of fear of any union activity, hired thugs break up the musical group. 

Woody starts broadcasting his music on the radio with singer and labor organizer Ozark Bule.  He also does some union organizing among the farm workers (even gets himself beat up and his guitar smashed).   

Brings his family out to California, but his wife can't take his rambling ways.  He would go off on trips without telling her anything.  She got tired of this and went back to Texas.  . 

Woody was a fighter for the rights and welfare of the poor and downtrodden.  He was so committed to justice and fairness that he couldn't make a decent living because he would not sacrifice his beliefs and commitment to to what he believed.  The rich just did not want him singing protest and labor songs.  And he just couldn't buckle under to them. 

Good movie to use to teach people about the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, the migrations to California and the terrible way these poor people were treated by the rich. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

1912  --  Woodrow "Woody" Wilson Guthrie born in Okemah, Oklahoma.  He was named after President Woodrow Wilson.  His father was a cowboy, land speculator, and local politician.

1931 --  Woody left for Texas.

1933  --  he married Mary Jennings.  They had three children: Gwen, Sue and Bill.  Later he formed the Corn Cob Trio to make money as a musician. 

1935  --  the Great Dust Storm hit the Great Plains and people started moving west, Woody along with them.

1937 --  he moved to Los Angeles to earn a living as a singer/songwriter.  His reception was much that as depicted in the great Steinbeck novel Grapes of Wrath.  This is when he built his social consciousness of and sympathy for the outsider and the poor. 

late 1930s --  he performed at concerts and sang at radio broadcasts.  He was known for his songs about down-and-out people. He partnered with new singing partner Maxine Crissman (or Left Lou). 

1939  --  he moved to New York City.  He joined in with a group of political folk artists who championed labor unions and anti-fascist communism.

1940s  -- he recorded  a lot of music for Moses Asch, founder of Folkways Records.

World War II (1941-1945)  -- during the war Guthrie served in the Merchant Marines and the Army. 

1943  --  publication of his autobiographical novel Bound For Glory.

late 1940s  --  he performed with the politically radical group, the Almanac Singers (some members of which went on to form the famous and commercially successful group the Weavers).

40s and 50s  --  Guthrie, disgusted with the censorship in New York,  traveled the U.S.

1945  --  he married young Martha Graham dancer Marjorie Mazia. Together they had four children: Cathy, who died at age four in a tragic home accident, Arlo, Joady, and Nora Lee.

1947  --  birth of his son Arlo Guthrie in Brooklyn New York.  Arlo grew up in a musical community with such artists as Pete Seeger, Leadbelly and Cisco Houston. 

1953  --  at age 6, Arlo could play the guitar. 

Back in California, Woody married for a third time to Anneke Van Kirk.  They had a daughter, Lorina Lynn.

after 1954  --  Woody was in and out of hospitals.  He suffered from Huntington's Chorea, a degenerative disease.

early 1960s  --  the folk rock movement (including such artists as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez) made Guthrie more famous than he had ever been.

1967  -- he died in Creedmoor State Hospital in Queens, New York. 

His song "Tom Joad" is named for a character in John Steinbeck's novel, The Grapes of Wrath.

His son, Arlo Guthrie, was an icon of the '60s hippie movement.  He wrote the song "The Alice's Restaurant Massacree" (which inspired the 1969 movie Alice's Restaurant).  He is also known for the railroad song "City of New Orleans."




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