Bound for Glory

Directed by Hal Ashby


Bound for Glory is a biopic that takes its name and main character (and little else) from Woody Guthrie’s 1943 autobiography. Bound for Glory intermittently understands Woody Guthrie’s greatness. His songs are well integrated, but there could be more of them. The film benefits by not covering his whole life, but it fulfills almost every other cliché of the genre.

Would see.


One thought on “Bound for Glory

  1. Bob Dylan’s “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie” concludes:

    You can either go to the church of your choice
    Or you can go to Brooklyn State Hospital
    You’ll find God in the church of your choice
    You’ll find Woody Guthrie in Brooklyn State Hospital

    And though it’s only my opinion
    I may be right or wrong
    You’ll find them both
    In the Grand Canyon
    At sundown

    The sublimity of Woody Guthrie’s singing, the unexpected perfection of what is nearly propaganda, is rarely understood. His greatness does not lie in his voice, or in his biography, or in his skill in playing the guitar or the harmonica. He is undiminished, and perhaps heightened, by the scratchy quality to any surviving record of his singing. His greatness does not even lie in his songwriting. When you hear Woody Guthrie, even for only a second, you can immediately hear his inimitability, his raw conviction, his incongruous power. His sincerity seethes through his songs. He sings about unions with a messianic fervor that altogether transcends his circumstances, and strikes, as all great art strikes, at the heart of what it is to be human.

    Guthrie was not a self-consciously sublime writer. He was not even a self-serious writer. He was as capable of writing:

    I’m a gonna let you blow the horn;
    I’m a gonna let you blow the horn;
    A oorah, a oorah, a oogah, oogah,
    I’ll take you riding in my car.


    I worked in the Garden of Eden, that was the year of two,
    Joined the apple pickers union, I always paid my due;
    I’m the man that signed the contract to raise the rising sun,
    And that was about the biggest thing that man had ever done.


    There once was a union maid, she never was afraid
    Of goons and ginks and company finks and the deputy sheriffs who made the raid.
    She went to the union hall when a meeting it was called,
    And when the Legion boys come ‘round
    She always stood her ground.


    Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union,
    I’m sticking to the union, I’m sticking to the union.
    Oh, you can’t scare me, I’m sticking to the union,
    I’m sticking to the union ‘til the day I die.


    Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,
    Our work contract’s out and we have to move on;
    Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
    They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.

    We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,
    We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
    We died ‘neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
    Both sides of the river, we died just the same.


    “Well, you say that I’m an outlaw,
    You say that I’m a thief.
    Here’s a Christmas dinner
    For the families on relief.”

    Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered
    I’ve seen lots of funny men;
    Some will rob you with a six-gun,
    And some with a fountain pen.

    And as through your life you travel,
    Yes, as through your life you roam,
    You won’t never see an outlaw
    Drive a family from their home.

    The literal truth of his writing is, of course, unimportant. It’s true in a deeper, and possibly un(-or-barely-or-even-subterraneanly-)intended sense.

    “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie” understands this about the Oklahoma-born author of “This Land is Your Land” and “Joe DiMaggio Done It Again”: that standing next to God, Woody Guthrie looks no smaller.


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