If you have a couple of hours to kill this weekend, I strongly recommend you watch John T. Davis‘ 1985 documentary film “Route 66,” which can be played on the Queen’s Film Theatre IPlayer through Sunday.
The description of the film:
John T. Davis’ Route 66 is an epic road film chronicling the history and closure in 1981 of the iconic highway that, mythologised in music, film and literature, spanned 2,500 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles, traversed eight states and cut through the heart of Middle America. The film features an anonymous sojourner driving a cherry red Chevy Impala ragtop, who travels the highway west. Through his eyes, and through Davis’s camera lens, we encounter the underbelly of the US and the shattering of the American Dream.
“Just like Route 66, America was grinding and cracking at the seams.” – John T. Davis.
A number of documentaries about Route 66 have been released over the decades, but Davis’ gritty film remains the gold standard. It shows Route 66 during an era when the highway was being decertified and the U.S. still was mired in a deep recession. Yet the film, which was shot 40 years ago this year, also shows many people and places that are gone. So “Route 66” also exists as a historical document.
There is a grainy version of “Route 66” on YouTube, but this one is of better quality. You can watch it here. If you can watch it on your TV via Chromecast or some other device that broadcasts it to your TV, I recommend it.
The Queen’s Film Theatre also is showing Davis’ film “Hobo,” which follows a hobo named Beargreese from Minneapolis to Seattle on the rails, through the weekend.
At last report, Davis was playing cowboy music throughout Northern Ireland. Apparently his filmmaking excursions to the U.S. and it Southwest made an indelible impression.
I’ve maintained some contact with him, but he’s turned down requests for interviews about “Route 66.” Maybe someday. Regardless, “Route 66” speaks for itself.
(Screen-capture image from “Route 66” of the long-gone Will Rogers Court in Tulsa)