Bound for Glory
Theatrical release poster by Tom Jung
Directed byHal Ashby
Screenplay byRobert Getchell
Based onBound for Glory
1943 book
by Woody Guthrie
Produced byRobert F. Blumofe
Harold Leventhal
StarringDavid Carradine
Ronny Cox
Melinda Dillon
Gail Strickland
Randy Quaid
CinematographyHaskell Wexler
Edited byPembroke J. Herring
Robert C. Jones
Music byLeonard Rosenman (conductor and music adaptor)
George Brand
Joan Biel
Guthrie Thomas
Ralph Ferraro
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • December 5, 1976 (1976-12-05) (United States)
Running time
147 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$10 million[1] or $7 million[2]

Bound for Glory is a 1976 American biographical film directed by Hal Ashby and loosely adapted by Robert Getchell from Woody Guthrie's 1943 partly fictionalized autobiography Bound for Glory. The film stars David Carradine as folk singer Woody Guthrie, with Ronny Cox, Melinda Dillon, Gail Strickland, John Lehne, Ji-Tu Cumbuka and Randy Quaid.[3] Much of the film is based on Guthrie's attempt to humanize the desperate Okie Dust Bowl refugees in California during the Great Depression.

Bound for Glory was the first motion picture in which inventor/operator Garrett Brown used his new Steadicam for filming moving scenes.[4] Director of photography Haskell Wexler won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography at the 49th Academy Awards.

All of the main events and characters, except for Guthrie and his first wife, Mary, are entirely fictional. The film ends with Guthrie singing his most famous song, "God Blessed America for Me" (subsequently retitled "This Land Is Your Land"), on his way to New York, but, in fact, the song was composed in New York in 1940 and forgotten by him until five years later.


In 1936, Great Depression, Woody Guthrie sits at a gas station, playing guitar as other men talk about leaving town for California or the Texas Gulf Coast. When a customer named Collister offers $1 to anyone who can tell him something Woody wins the dollar by figuring out Collister's worries about the future. Later, as Woody paints a store sign, his wife, Mary, encourages him to keep painting because it is his only skill that makes money, but he annoys her by putting down his brushes and picking up his guitar. Two ladies take Woody to a despondent woman who refuses to drink, and he uses psychology to get her to swallow a glass of water. At the dinner table, Mary complains that Woody should look for work, so he walks around town, offering to paint signs. When a store owner hires him to paint a white-on-black sign, Woody paints it white-on-red instead, so the owner refuses to pay him.

At a bar, Woody sings a song for a young woman named Sue Ann, then goes home with her. Later, as Woody sits on his porch, Heavy Chandler, recently released from the state hospital, stops to talk to him about being crazy and having pictures in his head. Woody gives him paint brushes and paint and tells him to put his thoughts on paper. As Woody plays fiddle with a local band at a square dance, children rush in to warn about a dust storm. Huge clouds of dust roll in, blinding and choking everyone, forcing them into their houses. Lying in bed with Mary, Woody hints that it is time for him to go elsewhere for work. Later, Woody leaves a note for Mary, puts on his coat and hat, and hails a ride with a passing truck driver. After hitchhiking for several days, he climbs aboard a train with a couple of African American hobos, including Slim Snedeger, but when a brawl breaks out inside their crowded boxcar, Woody and Slim jump off and grab onto a ladder leading to the top of another freight car. Later, the train stops for a group of railroad men hired to round up vagrants, force those with money to pay for a passenger train, and send the rest walking. Slim has money for the train, but Woody is broke, so they agree halfheartedly to meet someday in California.

Woody hitches a ride with a middle-class couple, but insults them and they stop to let him out. At a bar, he gets a free meal by playing the piano and singing his songs, then spends the night with a waitress. Heading west, he gets a steady ride with a family in a truck packed with furniture, but police stop them, along with dozens of other destitute people, at the California border. The police require that families have $50 before they are allowed to proceed, so Woody leaves the caravan and walks to a nearby camp, where a hobo shares his blanket. Later, Woody hops a train with another hobo, but a train guard shoots the man off the top of a boxcar and Woody hides between two cars until the train reaches the outskirts of Los Angeles. There, he works for his dinner at a chili café, and meets Luther and Liz Johnson, a young migrant couple with children, looking for work picking fruit. They drive from camp to camp, but find the camps have more workers than they need, and the few jobs open pay only four cents a bushel. Woody goes to town and stops at a soup kitchen, offering to paint a sign in exchange for soup. The server, Pauline, says they only have soup, but she would accept a painted sign as a favor.

The next day, a fruit company hires only a few extra day workers, leaving hundreds of people without work. Luther tells Woody all the camps are the same, so there is no sense leaving. Woody returns to the soup kitchen, paints a professional sign, and asks Pauline for dinner at her place, but she refuses. Back at the camp, a popular union organizer and radio entertainer, Ozark Bule, drives in with his guitar, stands on his car, and sings union songs. As night falls, Ozark's impromptu show turns into a hoedown, as Woody and other musicians join in, singing folk songs. Company goons break up the hoedown and start a brawl, Woody jumps into Ozark's car and escapes with him. Ozark takes Woody to the radio station where he works and introduces him to the owner, Mr. Locke. Locke hires Woody at $20 a week to play on Ozark's Thursday program, and Woody becomes popular by singing personal songs that relate to Depression woes. He drives to the fields with Ozark to preach about the union, but company thugs chase them off. The two also sing at union halls, where provocateurs start fights. When Pauline finally invites Woody for a home-cooked meal, he learns she is a rich widow living in luxury, and he asks if she is embarrassed about having so much while others have nothing. He tells her about the down-and-out people he met on the road, and how generous they are, whereas people with money are defensive.

Still, he says, Pauline is the only rich person who ever looked back at him. He spends a few nights with her, but when she expresses her happiness, he confesses that he has a wife and kids in Pampa, Texas, then leaves. With stacks of fan mail arriving at the radio station, Woody and singer Memphis Sue get a show of their own, with a higher salary, but Locke insists that new sponsors want Woody to refrain from singing about unions and down-trodden workers. Though Woody resists, Ozark tells him his radio job is to entertain and stay popular, not to preach. At first Woody goes along, but soon performs his hard-edged songs, and Locke demands a song list ahead of time. In the meantime, Woody brings Mary and their children to Los Angeles, where he has rented a house, but he feels uncomfortable with the greed and wealth around him and says it was easier when everybody was poor back in Texas. Mary is worried about his rebelliousness because she does not want to go back to Luther, bruised from a beating, visits Woody at the station to tell him how much his songs inspire people in the field, and asks him to keep it up.

After delivering a list of safe songs to Locke, Woody tears up a studio room in frustration. Carrying his guitar, he hops a train, leaves Los Angeles, and visits migrant camps, factories, and packing houses, singing protest songs. At a fruit packing plant, company men beat him and smash his guitar. Woody lives in boxcar riding, talking to people he meets, including a runaway boy. When Woody returns to Los Angeles, Locke gives him one last chance, then fires him for dedicating a song to farm workers. As Woody leaves, Ozark tells him that Baker, an agent, booked him on a coast-to-coast CBS radio show and at an audition for the Ambassador Hotel's Coconut Grove. Woody buys toys for his children, but when he gets home, Mary and the girls are gone. At the hotel audition, the owner likes Woody but wants to dress him in overalls and put him in a hillbilly band. Woody walks out, telling Ozark he does not want to sing for the rich and lose touch with real people. He goes to the railroad yard, jumps on a train, and sings his songs from the top of a boxcar.


with appearances by


Arthur Krim of United Artists agreed to finance the film on the basis of Ashby's reputation, even before a star had signed on.[2]

Dustin Hoffman and Jack Nicholson both turned down the role. Richard Dreyfuss was considered. Tim Buckley was going to be offered the part but died of a drug overdose. Ashby interviewed David Carradine but turned him down, in part because he felt Carradine was too tall. However over time he reconsidered. "He had the right rural look and the musicianship," said Ashby. "And he had a ‘to hell with you’ attitude."[2]

Ashby later said Carradine's "to hell with you" attitude did cause him some problems during filming. "Once, when we were doing a scene, some migrant workers marched by. David started marching with them. By the time we found him, he was two miles away; and he had held up shooting for three hours.”[2]

The railroad scenes were filmed on the Sierra Railroad. Ashby wanted a "big" freight train for the movie, as opposed to the shorter trains commonly used in filmmaking. The railroad assembled a train of 34 freight cars. Scenes taking place on the Texas panhandle that did not include views of a locomotive were filmed near Stockton, California, using diesel locomotives. Scenes showing locomotives utilized three steam locomotives owned by the Sierra Railroad, and were filmed in and around Oakdale, California, and the roundhouse scenes were filmed at what is now Railtown 1897 in Jamestown, California.[5]


As of January 2024, Bound for Glory holds a rating of 81% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 26 reviews. The consensus summarizes: "Bound for Glory brings the Dust Bowl era to authentic life thanks to Haskell Wexler's opulent cinematography and Woody Guthrie's resonant music, capturing the American mood at the time as much as it does the folk singer's life."[6] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 70 out of 100 based on reviews from 4 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".

Film critic Roger Ebert praised the film, calling it "one of the best-looking films ever made." However, Ebert claimed the beauty of the film was often achieved at the cost of the tone.[7]


Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Picture Robert F. Blumofe and Harold Leventhal Nominated [8]
Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium Robert Getchell Nominated
Best Cinematography Haskell Wexler Won
Best Costume Design William Ware Theiss Nominated
Best Film Editing Robert C. Jones and Pembroke J. Herring Nominated
Best Original Song Score and Its Adaptation or Adaptation Score Leonard Rosenman Won
Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Hal Ashby Nominated [9]
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated [10]
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama David Carradine Nominated
Best Director – Motion Picture Hal Ashby Nominated
New Star of the Year – Actress Melinda Dillon Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Best Cinematography Haskell Wexler Won [11]
National Board of Review Awards Best Actor David Carradine Won [12]
National Society of Film Critics Awards Best Cinematography Haskell Wexler Won [13]
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Actor David Carradine Runner-up [14]
Society of Camera Operators Awards Historical Shot Garrett Brown Won [15]
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium Robert Getchell Nominated [16]

American Film Institute


The Academy Award-winning score was released internationally in 1976 by United Artists Records, in an album containing Leonard Rosenman's music and Woody Guthrie's songs with David Carradine in the vocals. In 2012, it was also released as a CD by Intrada Records, with some of the incidental cues remixed into four orchestral suites.[18]

Home media

On February 29, 2000 "Bound for Glory" was released on DVD by MGM. It included dialog dubbed in French, and subtitles in French and Spanish, but no English subtitles. [19]

In January 2016, Bound for Glory was released in Blu-ray format, in a limited edition, by Twilight Time.[20] In April 2022, another Blu-ray was released by Sandpiper Pictures.[21] Both versions have English subtitles.


  1. ^ "The Films of Hal Ashby". Beach, Christopher (2009). Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press, p. 176, ISBN 978-0-8143-3415-7.
  2. ^ a b c d Harmetz, Aljean (5 December 1976). "Gambling on a Film About the Great Depression". New York Times.
  3. ^ Bound for Glory at IMDb Edit this at Wikidata
  4. ^ "Steadicam 30th anniversary press release". Archived from the original on 2014-04-30.
  5. ^ Jensen, Larry (2018). Hollywood's RailroadsE: Sierra Railroad. Vol. Two. Sequim, WashinSgton: Cochetopa Press. pp. 54–55. ISBN 9780692064726.
  6. ^ "Bound for Glory". Rotten Tomatoes.
  7. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Bound for Glory movie review & film summary (1977) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 2021-10-01.
  8. ^ "The 49th Academy Awards (1977) Nominees and Winners". Archived from the original on 2015-01-11. Retrieved 2011-10-03.
  9. ^ "Official Selection 1977: All the Selection". Archived from the original on 26 December 2013.
  10. ^ "Bound for Glory – Golden Globes". HFPA. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  11. ^ "The 2nd Annual Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards". Los Angeles Film Critics Association. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  12. ^ "1976 Award Winners". National Board of Review. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  13. ^ "Past Awards". National Society of Film Critics. 19 December 2009. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  14. ^ "1976 New York Film Critics Circle Awards". New York Film Critics Circle. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  15. ^ "Past SOC Lifetime Achievement Awards". Society of Operating Cameramen. 6 December 2014. Retrieved March 4, 2022.
  16. ^ "Awards Winners". Writers Guild of America. Archived from the original on 2012-12-05. Retrieved 2010-06-06.
  17. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-07-30.
  18. ^ "Woody Guthrie, Leonard Rosenman, David Carradine – Bound For Glory - Original Motion Picture Score". Discogs (published 2022). 1976. Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  19. ^ " Bound for Glory [DVD] : David Carradine, Ronny Cox, Melinda Dillon, Gail Strickland, John Lehne, Ji-Tu Cumbuka, Randy Quaid, Elizabeth Macey, Susan Vaill, Sarah Vaill, Alexandra Mock, Kimberly Mock, Hal Ashby, Robert Getchell, Woody Guthrie: Movies & TV". Retrieved May 23, 2024.
  20. ^ "Bound for Glory Blu-ray Limited Edition to 3000". January 19, 2016. Retrieved June 28, 2022.
  21. ^ "Bound for Glory Blu-ray". April 19, 2022. Retrieved June 28, 2022.