The Road Movie Book

By Steven Cohan; Ina Rae Hark | Go to book overview

6

WANDERLUST AND WIRE WHEELS

The existential search of Route 66

Mark Alvey

“Tod says I got unrest, ” muses Buz Murdock (George Maharis) in the 1960 pilot of Route 66 (“Black November”), explaining to an old mechanic in a small Southern town the reasons he and his buddy Tod Stiles (Martin Milner) climbed into a Corvette and set out on the road a few months earlier. “So what's wrong with unrest? It's as good as anything. Besides, we're all stuck with it”. 1 In 115 subsequent episodes over four seasons, that unrest pushed Tod and Buz (and, later, Tod and Linc Case [Glenn Corbett]) down untold miles of highway, through most of the continental US, into countless encounters with troubled souls. Television's seminal road series, Route 66 was remarkable for thoughtful character drama, its blending of series and anthology forms, and a groundbreaking cross-country location agenda. Unrelentingly restless and habitually bleak, Route 66 was the early 1960s' answer to both Kerouac and the Joads - not the usual stuff of prime-time adventure, to be sure. Shunning domesticity on a medium - and network - loaded with family comedies, echoing On the Road and anticipating Easy Rider, premiering at the dawn of the New Frontier and ending in the shadow of the Vietnam War, Route 66 occupies a unique place in both the television terrain of the 1960s and the popular culture of the road. In the following pages I examine Route 66 in an attempt to explain its distinctive use of the road as a story-telling device and thematic trope, and illuminate its singular search for meaning in 1960s America. Route 66's peculiar approach to series drama, and its employment of the road as a dramatic principle, were the product of a specific industrial moment, the essential starting point for our discussion.


“A Peripatetic Playhouse 90”: The Anthology Hits the Road

Route 66's narrative design emerges directly from the conditions shaping Hollywood television circa 1960. The series draws on two somewhat antithetical trends prevailing in prime-time drama during that period, action-adventure and

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The Road Movie Book
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Plates ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Works Cited 14
  • Part I - Mapping Boundaries 15
  • 1 - “hitler Can't Keep 'Em That Long” 17
  • 2 - Western Meets Eastwood 45
  • 3 - Mad Love, Mobile Homes, and Dysfunctional Dicks 70
  • Notes 86
  • Works Cited 89
  • 4 - On the Run and on the Road 90
  • Works Cited 107
  • Part II - American Roads 111
  • 5 - Almost like Being at Home 113
  • 6 - Wanderlust and Wire Wheels 143
  • 7 - Exposing Intimacy in Russ Meyer's Motorpsycho! and Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! 165
  • 8 - The Road to Dystopia 179
  • Works Cited 202
  • 9 - Fear of Flying 204
  • Notes 227
  • Works Cited 228
  • Part III - Alternative Routes 231
  • 10 - The Nation, the Body, and the Autostrada 233
  • 11 - “we Don't Need to Know the Way Home” 249
  • 12 - Hom E and Away 271
  • 13 - Race on the Road 287
  • 14 - Revitalizing the Road Genre 307
  • 15 - My Own Private Idaho and the New Queer Road Movies 330
  • 16 - Disassociated Masculinities and Geographies of the Road 349
  • Index of Films 371
  • General Index 375
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