In 1936 Woody (David Carradine), his wife and two small daughters live in Texas. He does work now and then as a sign painter, but he never looks for real steady work. He seems to have an artists mentality and wants to work more for the satisfaction of helping others, rather than money. After the huge dust storm sweeps through town, one by one people start to leave. With talk that California is full of jobs, Woody departs as well, leaving his family behind.
The road west is long and unwelcoming. Woody hitchhikes for a while and then hops aboard trains, but each as their risks. If you get caught riding the rails, it’s back to walking and hitchhiking again. And the Arizona desert isn’t very forgiving.
Along the way, Woody pairs up with a young family, traveling from one plantation to the other looking for picking jobs. The camps setup outside the plantations are such a sad sight, people of all ages are stuck in a dusty limbo and of the thousands willing to work, only about thirty are picked every day and their pay is pitiful.
One day at the camp, a man with a guitar shows up and starts rallying the people, urging them to form a union. This is Ozark Bule (Ronny Cox), he sings songs to boost the camps moral half the night, but is run off by the plantation bosses. When he has to flee, Ozark takes Woody with him to record his songs.
Well, it’s been over an hour into the film, and we finally get to Woody’s folk singing career. That may bother some people, but in order to understand the importance of Woody’s career, we need to see where he’s been and what is happening all around him. The journey is much more important than the destination.
Anyway, so Woody starts recording, making good money and brings his family out west now that he can finally support them. But the radio bosses won’t let him sing anything about the Dust Bowl, poor fruit pickers or anything to do with the hard times he came from. Somewhere along the line Woody will have to decide if he’s a musician for the money or for the people.
The film won Best Music and Best Cinematography. The way the film is shot gives it a kinda foggy look or vintage feel, like old photographs of your grandparents. I really enjoyed it though, it makes the film feel authentic, but not gritty. It’s like the sun is hazing through the dust that has never settled.
Bound for Glory is very enjoyable if you’re up for something that feels like The Grapes of Wrath with a folk music story. The thing to remember is that the story comes first and the music is secondary, but I think that’s the way to go with this film. It has its priorities straight.
“Don’tcha ever get embarrassed that you have so much when so many people have nothing?”