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American Masters: Woody Guthrie
American Masters Woody Guthrie
Actors: Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger, Nora Guthrie, Ed Cray, Joe Klein
Director: Peter Frumkin
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Television, Documentary
NR     2007     1hr 30min

Every American who has listened to the radio knows Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land." The music of the folk singer/songwriter has been recorded by everyone from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to U2. Originally blowing out of...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger, Nora Guthrie, Ed Cray, Joe Klein
Director: Peter Frumkin
Creator: Peter Coyote
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Television, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Country, Springsteen, Bruce, Classic Rock, Other Music, Television, Biography
Studio: Pbs (Direct)
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen
DVD Release Date: 11/13/2007
Original Release Date: 01/01/2007
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2007
Release Year: 2007
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 2
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

American Masters: Woody Guthrie
Michele Alcaraz | Los Angeles CA | 01/08/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Great dvd for teaching about the Great Depression, as well as a groundbreaking American musician."
Eulogy for a legend.
Ted Byrd | 05/02/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This PBS documentary is very worthwhile and informative, especially, if like me, you are unfamiliar with the life of Woodie Guthrie. I'm sure most of us have at least heard the name, and know that his legacy hovers somewhere in the background of American folk-legendry. This program will acquaint you with the chronological and biographical details which you would expect from a casual exposition of his life. So we get glimpses of the formative processes of his childhood, with the tragic mental illness caused by Huntington's chorea which afflicted his mother, being a primary influence. This same illness was to be the cause of his own sad deterioration and death. Woody was a very bright youngster who read many advanced books in the local library, and who had a talent for drawing and painting. He had the potential, evidently, of assuming the life of an intellectual along the lines of the popular conception of such a lifestyle. But whether because of early family tragedies and the concurrent happenings of the Great Depression and socialist political movements which were afoot in his native southwest, or a natural identification with the downtrodden, Woody adopted a radical, populist stance through which he expressed his intelligence and individualism. His persona became that of the hayseed with the twangy voice and rural vernacular whose innate common sense sees through and exposes the hypocrisy and rapacity of the bigshots and fatcats. His songs brought to public attention a side of America that conflicted with the vision of "America The Beautiful". According to Woody's version it was only beautiful for the "haves", and something else entirely for the "have-nots". Woody was eventually adopted by the intelligentsia of New York City as sort of a poster boy for what their conception of an American folk-hero should be, although much of mainstream America rejected him because of his friendliness with the communist party in this country. The PBS special, besides covering the main events of his life, spends a great deal of time with interviews of family, friends, writers, and musical colleagues. The tone of these interviews range from adoring(from his daughter) to mixed(his first wife), but all are generally favorable. It seemed to me that one thing that was lacking in the program was a closer examination of the reasons Woody chose the paths he did. He was appropriated by various non-mainstream groups as a representative or symbol of causes they were promoting. Migrant workers, hobos, labor organizers, communists, and New York intellectuals all had Woody for a symbol, but what motivated the man personally? No doubt he did have a great sympathy for the downtrodden, but the cause of speaking for the oppressed was certainly a vehicle close at hand which Woody could use to showcase his talents. My curiosity was aroused enough to do some web research, and I think anyone interested in Woody Guthrie would do well to do the same to obtain a more complete picture of the man. Two sites which I found very interesting: An article by Thomas Connor in The Woody Guthrie Archives entitled "Tracking Woody"s HD", which contains a discussion of the effects of this disease on Guthries creative life. Another article on the History News Network, "The Christian Left's Vision" discusses Woody's Christian faith and how it was able to co-exist with his Communist association. I applaud Woody Guthrie's standing up for the oppressed, and I am glad that America was free enough to tolerate him as a gadfly. He has been both admired and reviled, but he was a genuine part of the American experience, mainstream or not."
This Land is your Land
Christopher B. Murray | Portland, OR | 01/10/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"This is an excellent PBS documentary about the life of Woody Guthrie, the great American singer/songwriter (and godfather/forerunner of the folk music explosion of the early sixties). The film tells about his upbringing in a fairly well off family--a secure childhood abruptly ruined by his mother's descent into dementia and violence due to Huntington's disease. This tragic turn of events sends Guthrie into foster homes and eventually helps turn him into a prolific and original American hobo-gypsy songwriter. But Guthrie was a man of many talents; he was a gifted draughtsman, writer, radio host, comedian, "ladies' man", and actor (considering the poetic license employed when presenting his unsophisticated "hick" persona). The film is narrated by Peter Coyote and features interviews with Joe Klein (Guthrie's biographer), Pete Seeger, and Bruce Springsteen, as well as family members and friends of Guthrie. Conspicuously absent are Bob Dylan and Arlo Guthrie. Still, the film is well-put together; it features some great images and films of Guthrie as well as many priceless recordings of him talking and singing. The narration explains the social context for Guthrie's often very political songs. Most notably, we are informed that the song "This Land is your Land" was penned as an angry reply to "God Bless America"--Guthrie feeling that it is up to Americans to make this country great, not God (Hallelujah!). Besides being informative, the film is moving in its portrayal of Guthrie's tragic last years as he succumbed to the same disease that had destroyed his mother. Ultimately "Woody Guthrie" depicts the songwriter as a flawed but heroic American musical genius."