Boxcar Bertha  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Boxcar Bertha (1972), one of acclaimed director Martin Scorsese's earliest films, is an extremely loose adaptation of Sister of the Road, the fictionalized autobiography of radical and transient Bertha Thompson as written by physician Dr. Ben L. Reitman. One of producer Roger Corman's famous exploitation films, the movie was made with a minuscule $600,000 budget and taught Scorsese how to make films quickly and economically.

Besides the name of the heroine and her freight riding, very little of the film bears any resemblance to the original story written in Sister of the Road. The film tells the story of Bertha Thompson (played by Barbara Hershey) and "Big" Bill Shelley (played by David Carradine), two train robbers and lovers who are caught up in the plight of railroad workers in the American South. When Bertha is implicated in the murder of a wealthy gambler, the pair become fugitives from justice. While this story adheres to certain conventions of exploitation narrative, it also offers a surprisingly frank look at race and gender issues in the 1930s.

The character Bertha Thompson, long popularly thought to have been a real person, was actually Reitman's creation. In fashioning the character of Bertha, Reitman combined own life story with those of various female acquaintances.

Actors Barbara Hershey and David Carradine have both stated that their sex scenes in the film were unsimulated.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Boxcar Bertha" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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