Bound for Glory
Directed by Hal Ashby (1976)
Starring the late David Carradine, this is a feature-length biography of radical songwriter Woodie Guthrie. For me its greatest strength is its unflinching portrayal of the brutal poverty and physical violence (by corporate-hired thugs) of the Great Depression.
The film begins with Guthrie’s early married life in rural Oklahoma and his struggle to support a wife a two kids as a sign painter and occasional fiddler for square dances.
Hoping to find work picking fruit, Guthrie, along with thousands of other unemployed men, hitchhikes and hops freights to California. Those who don’t have at least $50 are stopped at the state line by Los Angeles police and turned back.
Penniless, Guthrie finds alternative entry and is sardined into a work camp with thousands of other out-of-state families. The massive worker surplus translates into starvation-level pay.
Guthrie falls in with union organizer Ozark Bule, who recognizes his talent and helps him land a gig with a local radio station. Owing to pressure from sponsors to censor his songs, Guthrie chucks it in (included a gig an agent lands him with CBS) to retain his political and artistic freedom.
Of the songs featured, my favorite is Do Re Mi about the blockade at the California state line.
Although the film can’t be embedded for copyright reasons, it can be viewed free at the following link: