Bound for Glory (1976)    1 Stars


Bound for Glory (1976)
Bound for Glory (1976)


Director: Hal Ashby

Cast: David Carradine, Ronny Cox, Melinda Dillon

Synopsis: The early life of Woody Guthrie.








David Carradine (Death Race 2000), in possibly a career-best performance, gives a charismatic, laid-back interpretation of American depression-era folk-singing legend Woody Guthrie in Hal Ashby’s slow-moving biopic Bound for Glory. The movie follows only a short period of his life. We first meet him in his home town, eking out a living as a sign-painter. Not sure where exactly his home-town is, but it’s presumably in the Dust Bowl, given that everything is dusty, and even when the dust isn’t in evidence Haskell Wexler’s sumptuous cinematography paints everything a shade of brown.

Guthrie hits the road, leaving his wife and kids behind as he heads for California, the supposed golden land of opportunity. He arrives only to find a land of ramshackle camps and exploited farm workers. To be honest, the film doesn’t really offer too much insight into Guthrie’s character and certainly doesn’t sit in judgement of his shortcomings – such as his infidelity with a wealthy aid worker whom he swiftly leaves when she shows signs of growing serious over him. It’s kind of ambiguous – are we supposed to admire him for rejecting the capitalist trappings she represents or condemn him for cheating on his wife?

Anyway, Bound for Glory is still a beautifully filmed, thoughtful reflection on not only a particular individual, but the unique circumstances that permitted his brand of song-writing to reach (and influence) a far wider audience than it might otherwise have done. The period detail is faultless, but to be honest the story isn’t too captivating. Watch it instead for the atmosphere and the superb evocation of a bygone era.

(Reviewed 29th February 2012)

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