Bob Dylan, Norman Foster, And Frederico Fellini

By Larry Fyffe

In Norman Foster’s semi-humourous western movie ‘Rachel And The Stranger’, starring Robert Mitchum and William Holden, a purchased wife (Loretta Young) is treated not unkindly, but not lovingly by her husband (Holden); alongs comes a tall, dark stranger (Mitchum) who shows interest in  the wife; the cold-hearted husband realizes that he loves his wife, and he’d best start showing it.

A song from the western movie:

Once was a man, a hateful man
Had a wife, but didn't see the danger
'Til one day, one fateful day
Along came a tall dark stranger

(Robert Mitchum: Tall Dark Stranger ~ Webb/Salt)

Perhaps gathered from coincidence are the following song lyrics:

Oh sister,  when I come to lie in your arms
You should not treat me as a strange
Our father would not like the way that you act
And you must realize the danger

(Bob Dylan: Oh Sister ~ Dylan/Levy)

The movie ‘La Strada’ (The Road) takes place in modern-day Italy. It mixes realism with surrealism; paints the same theme in darker colours –

Circus strongman, the abusive Anthony Quinn, unintentionly kills his circus rival, and only comes to realize that he loved his child-like drum-and-trumpet playing wife after he’s abandoned her, and she dies. She’s associated with  warm ‘air’ from the cosmological mythology of yore; the ‘mighty’ Quinn with cold ‘earth’; the Christ-like tight-rope walker with regenerative ‘water’. As the movie ends, the chain-breaking strongman grasps the wet sand with his hands as he crawls on the beach.

A crooner later sings along with the thematic tune from the ‘La Strada’:

If you would open up your heart
And let my love come shining through
You'd know how much
I wanna walk the road with you

(Perry Como: Travelling Down A Lonely Road ~ Rota/Galdier/Raye)

In his double-edged, often ironic, song lyrics, singer/songwriter/musician Bob Dylan shows the influence of Marcel Carne’s ‘”Children Of Paradise”, and Frederico Fillini’s “La Strada”, films that feature mimes and tight-rope walkers:

Yes, to dance  beneath the diamond sky
With one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea
Circled by the circus sands with memory and fate
Driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

(Bob Dylan: Mr. Tambourine Man)

For the moment at least, the speaker avoids the social command that one’s obligated to serve somebody:

She's got everything she needs, she's an artist
She don't look back ....
For Halloween buy her a trumpet
And for Christmas give her a drum

(Bob Dylan: She Belongs To Me)

In the face of these demands, the independent-minded individual struggles to loosen the chains that bind his destiny:

l don't have the inclination to look back on any mistake
Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break
In the fury of the moment, I can see the master's hand
In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand

(Bob Dylan: Every Grain Of Sand)

Dylan envisions earthly existence metaphorically as a travelling troupe of acrobats and clowns:

They're selling post cards of the hanging, they're painting the passports brown
The beauty parlour is filled with sailors, the circus is in town
Here comes the blind commissioner, they've got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the tight-rope walker, the other is in his pants
And the riot squad, they're restless, they need somewhere to go
As Lady and I look out tonight from Desolation Row

(Bob Dylan: Desolation Row)

What else is on the site

You’ll find an index to our latest posts arranged by themes and subjects on the home page.  You can also see details of our main sections on this site at the top of this page under the picture.

The index to the 500+ Dylan compositions reviewed is now on a new page of its own.  You will find it here.  It contains reviews of every Dylan composition that we can find a recording of – if you know of anything we have missed please do write in.

We also have a discussion group “Untold Dylan” on Facebook.  Just type the phrase “Untold Dylan” in, on your Facebook page or follow this link 

And please do note   The Bob Dylan Project, which lists every Dylan song in alphabetical order, and has links to licensed recordings and performances by Dylan and by other artists, is starting to link back to our reviews.


  1. Sorry -for unknown reason, the format used above likes to chop off the ends of quoted lines – has done it before ( I don’t need any assistance in the making of mistakes !(lol)

    Should be “as a strange(r)”

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