Bob Dylan and More Movies of Despair

Details of the other articles so far published in this series are given at the end.

By Larry Fyffe

Singer/singwriter Bob Dylan, in a number of his song lyrics, makes references to movies that, more often than not, present a cynical view of human nature.

In one that he alludes to a southern belle named Regina Giddens, played by actress Bette Davis, who relies on her husband for financial support. She tells her sick husband:

‘It wasn’t what I wanted, but it didn’t take me long to find out my mistake’.

The movie is referred to in the following song lyrics:

What was it you wanted
Tell me again so I’ll know
What’s happening in there
What’s going on in your show
(Bob Dylan: What Was It You Wanted)

In the film noir, Regina says to her husband:

‘ I hope that you die. I hope you die soon. I’ll be waiting for you to die’
(The Little Foxes)

The singer/songerwriter makes a reference to the film in one of his early songs:

I hope that you die
And your death will come soon
I will follow your casket
On a pale afternoon
(Bob Dylan: Master’s Of War)

In a wartime drama, Humphrey Bogart plays ‘Steve’ Morgan, a captain of a fishing vessel. He ends up smuggling a couple of French resistance fighters with the help of his girl friend ‘Slim’ (Lauren BaCall). When ‘Steve’ asks a member of the French resistence if it’s fishermen who want to hire his boat, the reply is:

‘No, some friends of friends of mine’

A tribute is paid the movie in the song lyrics below:

Seems like only yesterday
I left my mind behind
Down in the Gypsy Cafe
With a friend of a friend of mine
(Bob Dylan: Love Is Just A Four-letter Word)

The movie ‘To Have And To Have Not’ is based on an Ernest Hemingway novel. In the film, the fishing captain says to ‘Slim’:

‘Stick around, we’re not through yet’
(To Have And To Have Not)

Dylan uses the line with irony in the following song:

Stick around, baby, we’re not through
Don’t look for me, I’ll see you
(Bob Dylan: When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky)

In these movies and in the song lyrics by Dylan, there be a beleaguered search for a way to escape from a world that is morally dark to one that radiates the light of love, a theme characteristic of the Romantic Transendentalist poets.

Some of the movies lighten up the darkness more than others. In a movie of adventure, Clark Gable, as Jack Thornton, heads to the Yukon in the Canadian North in search of gold, and finds love. Jack claims to follow the natural law of the wild:

‘If you want something, take it’
(The Call Of The Wild)

The movie is loosely based on a short novel written by Jack London:

Well it’s the nature of man
Is to beg and to steal
I do it myself
It’s not so unreal
The call of the wild’s
Forever at my door
(Bob Dylan: You Changed My Life)

Bob Dylan is an artist who follows the law – he begs and steals from classic movies.

What else is on the site?

Untold Dylan contains a review of every Dylan musical composition of which we can find a copy (around 500) and over 300 other articles on Dylan, his work and the impact of his work.

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 alphabetical index to the 552 song reviews can be found here.  If you know of anything we have missed please do write in.  The index of the songs in chronological order can be found here.

We also now 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. Hemingway: A Farewell To Arms –

    Catherine: “But life isn’t hard to manage when you’ve got nothing to lose”

  2. When you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose
    (Bob Dylan: Like A Rolling Stone)

  3. When The Night Comes Falling From The Sky:
    “Don’t look for me, I’ll see you” alludes to a line spoken by private detective Sam Spade’s partner:

    “You don’t have to look for me, I’ll see you all right”
    (The Maltese Falcon)

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