Monday, September 26, 2016

Chart Song Cinema: Norwood (1970)

Like True GritNorwood featured Glen Campbell and Kim Darby and used a Glen Portis novel as source material. Unlike True Grit, an esteemed classic, Norwood is a forgotten trifle. It tells the story of hayseed guitar picker Campbell who's come back home to Ralph, Texas, from the Marine Corps, and is fixated on getting a spot on the Louisiana Hayride radio show (which had actually stopped airing by 1969.)

A post-Midnight Cowboy rube-in-New York subplot plays itself out (Portis's novel, by the way, predated Midnight Cowboy by three years), while quirky characters come and go. Campbell, along the way, carries around a fancy Ovation with no case (Campbell was one of the carbon fiber guitar model's first endorsers) and serenades his co-stars to fully orchestrated soundtracks. Joe Namath, the Pennsylvania native who took his New York Jets to a 1969 Super Bowl victory, plays a marine buddy of Campbell who throws a football around at a fish fry and imitates the southern accents he heard as a college player at Alabama.

Of most interest here is the transitional bigger-picture awkwardness of the sixties turning into the seventies and of the old, isolated South morphing into a newer, mainstream version. Glen Campbell was a poster child for this process, hosting his Goodtime Hour on TV from 1969 to 1972, playing with the Beach Boys and the Wrecking Crew in the sixties, popularizing a more sophisticated brand of country song ("Gentle on My Mind," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," and "Wichita Lineman"), wearing a peace symbol on his album with Bobbie Gentry, covering the black gospel song "Oh Happy Day," and endorsing non-standard acoustic guitars.

Equally awkward, but typical of 1970, are the real world complexities that - in a film that attempts to come off as a Disney live action film for adults - serve as glaring sexual revolution signifiers. Campbell's sister has shacked up with the effeminate moocher Dom DeLuise, Campbell racks up a shameless one night stand with his Big Apple host, and his eventual "right girl" Kim Darby, who dresses like the Flying Nun, is pregnant with another marine's child - a non-issue compared to Campbell getting to the Hayride.

Director Jack Haley, Jr. was the son of the same Jack Haley who played the Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz (and who appears in Norwood, in his final role, as Joe Namath's dad). Haley Jr.'s best loved movie moment came in 1974 when he put together the Hollywood musical retrospective That's Entertainment. (The other Wizard of Oz connection: he was married to Liza Minneli, daughter of Judy Garland, from 1974 to 1979.)

Two songs from Norwood made the charts thanks to their appearance in the film:

Glen Campbell - "Everything a Man Could Ever Need" (Billboard #54, entered 7/4/70; country #5).

Mac Davis - "I'll Paint You a Song" (Billboard #110, entered 7/18/70; country #68).

No comments:

Post a Comment