13 Devilish Facts About Rosemary’s Baby

Paramount Home Video
Paramount Home Video

In the late 1960s, a B-movie producer, a filmmaker untested in America, and a TV star untested on the big screen got together to make a horror movie. They produced a classic.

Rosemary’s Baby is a kind of godmother to all of the Satan-themed horror films that followed it, from The Exorcist to The Omen to The Exorcism of Emily Rose. It’s scary yet elegant, eerie yet oddly romantic, horrifying yet beautiful in its design. It’s the product of a meticulous director who went over his shooting schedule, a young star who persevered even in the midst of a divorce, and a cast and crew who may have ultimately suffered a curse for their part in it.

As the film nears its 50th anniversary, here are 13 facts about Rosemary’s Baby.

1. WILLIAM CASTLE ORIGINALLY WANTED TO DIRECT IT.

Even before Ira Levin’s novel hit bookstores, Rosemary’s Baby became a hot property in Hollywood. The galleys of the novel caught the eye of director/producer William Castle, best known for B-movie horror films like The Tingler and House On Haunted Hill. Castle, eager to make a prestigious film, snapped up the rights to the book, and sought a deal with Paramount Pictures to get the film made. Producer Robert Evans also saw potential in the novel and agreed to adapt it for the screen, but insisted that Castle only work on the film as a producer. Castle, who’d hoped to direct the film himself, reluctantly agreed.

“It was too good for Bill Castle,” Evans later said

Evans ultimately decided on Roman Polanski, who made his American debut with the film, to direct Rosemary’s Baby.

2. ROMAN POLANSKI MADE ONE VERY SIGNIFICANT STORYTELLING DECISION.

Roman Polanski and Sharon State attend the premiere of 'Rosemary's Baby.'
William Milsom/Evening Standard/Getty Images

When Evans offered him the film, Polanski was immediately engaged by Levin’s novel, and decided to write the screenplay himself. He had little difficultly, but as an agnostic, there was one particular aspect he wanted to remain intact onscreen: ambiguity. He set out to tell a story where, in theory, you could perceive everything that happened to Rosemary as something she was imagining.

“Being an agnostic, however, I no more believed in Satan as evil incarnate than I believed in a personal god; the whole idea conflicted with my rational view of the world,” Polanski later said. “For credibility's sake, I decided that there would have to be a loophole: the possibility that Rosemary's supernatural experiences were figments of her imagination. The entire story, as seen through her eyes, could have been a chain of only superficially sinister coincidences, a product of her feverish fancies ... That is why a thread of deliberate ambiguity runs throughout the film.”

3. IRA LEVIN MADE DRAWINGS OF THE BRAMFORD APARTMENTS.

Prior to shooting Rosemary’s Baby, Polanski gathered the cast for rehearsals on soundstages, complete with taped-off layouts of each apartment (the interiors were all shot on constructed sets) to give the actors an idea of how their movements would work within the eventual sets. Helping that process along was Levin himself, who provided detailed layouts of the apartments.

4. POLANSKI MADE SKETCHES TO CHOOSE THE SUPPORTING CAST.

Ruth Gordon in 'Rosemary's Baby.'
Paramount Home Video

When it came time to choose the supporting cast, Polanski did something a little unorthodox: He drew them. Feeling that each resident of the Bramford needed a very particular look, he felt that it would actually be easier if he simply showed those looks to the Paramount casting director. So, he made sketches of each Bramford resident and turned them over to the studios. That’s how actors like Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer made their way into the film.

5. ROBERT REDFORD WAS THE FIRST CHOICE FOR GUY WOODHOUSE. 

In casting Rosemary’s Baby, Evans and Polanski didn’t always agree from the start, so several different incarnations of the cast were possible. They did, however, agree that Robert Redford would be perfect for the role of Guy Woodhouse, Rosemary’s ambitious actor husband. Unfortunately, Paramount and Redford were locked in a contractual dispute at the time, so he wasn’t available. So the studio went searching, and other choices included Robert Wagner, Richard Chamberlain, James Fox, Laurence Harvey, and Jack Nicholson (who actually tested for the role). Ultimately, Polanski decided on John Cassavetes, a talented filmmaker he was already familiar with.

6. MIA FARROW WAS NOT POLANSKI’S FIRST CHOICE FOR ROSEMARY.

Mia Farrow on the set of 'Rosemary's Baby.'
Harry Benson/Express/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

For the role of Rosemary Woodhouse, Polanski set out to find an “All-American” actress. His choice was Tuesday Weld, then known for her work in films like The Cincinnati Kid. Evans and Castle had a different idea: Mia Farrow, then best-known for the TV series Peyton Place. After auditioning a few actresses, Polanski ended up agreeing that Farrow was right for the role.

“Mia was a little left-of-center. That’s the reason we wanted her,” Evans said. “She wasn’t just another pretty face.

“She had another dimension. And what she didn’t have, Roman got out of her.”

7. POLANSKI CLASHED WITH THE STUDIO DURING PRODUCTION.

Rosemary’s Baby was Polanski’s first American film, and his attention to detail ultimately created some problems with Paramount. According to Evans, the director fell behind his shooting schedule very quickly, to the point that Castle was calling and warning him that problems were ahead. Evans and Castle, according to Polanski, stood by their director, and it also didn’t hurt that the footage coming back from the film was impressive. In Polanski’s recollection, it took a fellow director—the great Otto Preminger (Laura, Anatomy of a Murder)—to convince him he had nothing to worry about. In a chance meeting on the Paramount lot, Polanski explained his schedule problems to the legend. Preminger asked him about the “rushes,” the raw footage screened for studio executives. When Polanski explained that Paramount seemed to love his footage, Preminger put him at ease.

“‘So what do you care?’ he says,” Polanski recalled. “‘They never fired anyone because of schedule, because of lagging behind, but if they don’t like the rushes, you’re out very soon.’ So, that was the case. They really liked the material very much.”

8. POLANSKI AND JOHN CASSAVETES CLASHED DURING PRODUCTION, TOO. 

John Cassavetes and Mia Farrow in 'Rosemary's Baby.'
Harry Benson/Express/Getty Images

John Cassavetes is still remembered as a titan of independent film, known for his freewheeling, improvisational productions like A Woman Under the Influence. Polanski is a different kind of director, known for his precision. Though Cassavetes was only working as an actor on Rosemary’s Baby, their respective filmmaking styles still clashed. According to Farrow, Cassavetes longed to improvise and let the moment carry him through the scene, while Polanski would be annoyed if an actor lifted a glass mere inches from where he imagined it to be. Though Polanski and Cassavetes knew each other, and apparently liked each other, prior to filming, their working relationship became a bit strained.

“John Cassavetes was not my best experience, I must say,” Polanski recalled.

9. FARROW REALLY WALKED OUT INTO NEW YORK TRAFFIC.

According to Farrow, Polanski’s directing style often involved him acting out the scenes himself to show the actors what he wanted, and this apparently had the effect of convincing Farrow to do a few outrageous things. For example, she ate raw liver on camera through several takes, even though she was a strict vegetarian. The most extreme instance of this, though, came during the sequence when Rosemary is attempting to flee the Bramford and walks out into traffic in an effort to quickly cross the street. This was not a carefully orchestrated sequence in which streets were blocked off and stunt drivers were employed. According to Farrow, she really did just simply walk out into a New York street and hoped the oncoming cars would stop. This was Polanski’s idea, and he assured Farrow that “Nobody will hit a pregnant woman.” He was right, and the scene was shot several times, with one caveat: Polanski himself had to operate the camera, because no one else dared to.

10. FRANK SINATRA FILED FOR DIVORCE FROM FARROW DURING PRODUCTION.

The wedding of Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow.
Keystone/Getty Images

At the time of Rosemary’s Baby’s production, Farrow was famous for two things: starring in Peyton Place and being married to legendary singer Frank Sinatra. When Farrow got the script for Rosemary’s Baby, she asked Sinatra to read it, and after he finished he turned to her and said “I can’t see you in it.” Farrow agreed to do the film anyway, but as Polanski’s shooting schedule stretched out it began to conflict with a planned role in Sinatra’s own film, The Detective. Farrow hoped she could make the schedules work and do both films, flying coast-to-coast in the process, but ultimately Rosemary won out, and Sinatra issued a demand that she choose between the movie or her husband. When she decided to finish Rosemary’s Baby, he sent his lawyer to the set to deliver divorce papers. Farrow signed them in “a blur of tears,” then continued shooting.

The incident created such tension that Sinatra and Evans didn’t speak for several years, to the point that Evans would call restaurants and ask if Sinatra was dining there before he decided to go. According to Farrow, she and Sinatra remained friends until his death in 1998.

11. WILLIAM CASTLE THOUGHT THE FILM WAS CURSED.

According to Farrow, actor Sidney Blackmer (who played coven leader Roman Castevet) once said on set “No good will come of all this ‘Hail Satan’ business,” and apparently he wasn’t the only one who thought so. William Castle later became convinced the film was cursed. Shortly after production he suffered gallstones to such a severe extent that he required surgery. As he recovered from that illness, Rosemary’s Baby composer Krzysztof Komeda suffered an accidental fall that led to a coma and, eventually, his death. Then, in the summer of 1969, actress Sharon Tate—Polanski’s wife—was infamously murdered by the Manson Family. For Castle, it all added up.

"The story of Rosemary's Baby was happening in real life. Witches, all of them, were casting their spell, and I was becoming one of the principal players,” he later recalled.

12. CASTLE MADE A CAMEO.

Castle initially wanted to direct Rosemary’s Baby himself, and had to settle for a producer’s role instead. He did also get to act a little in the film. When Rosemary goes to the phone booth to call Dr. Hill’s office, a man with a cigar comes up and waits outside. Because the paranoia level in the film is so intense at this point, the viewer initially wonders if the man is part of the conspiracy against Rosemary. Ultimately, he’s a man just waiting to use the phone. The man is Castle.

13. THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT SEQUELS.

Rosemary’s Baby was an instant hit, and the Satanism woven into its plot ultimately started a craze that led to other hits like The Omen and The Exorcist. So, naturally, a sequel was in the cards. In 1976 a made-for-TV movie titled Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby aired on ABC during the Halloween season. It stars Patty Duke as Rosemary, was directed by Rosemary’s Baby co-editor Sam O’Steen, and even features the return of Ruth Gordon as Minnie Castevet.

In 1997, Levin himself produced a sequel, a novel titled Son of Rosemary. The film was also remade as an NBC miniseries in 2014, starring Zoe Saldana as Rosemary.

15 Clever Breaking Bad Easter Eggs Hiding in Better Call Saul

Patrick Fabian, Rhea Seehorn, Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Michael Mando, Giancarlo Esposito, and Tony Dalton in Better Call Saul.
Patrick Fabian, Rhea Seehorn, Bob Odenkirk, Jonathan Banks, Michael Mando, Giancarlo Esposito, and Tony Dalton in Better Call Saul.
James Minchin/AMC

As evidenced by Breaking Bad, Vince Gilligan and his cohorts have an eye for detail that’s nearly unrivaled. If anything, Better Call Saul—which is originally set several years before the events of Breaking Bad—only proves the point. The series, which is about to kick off its fifth season, focuses on Jimmy McGill (soon to become Saul Goodman) and is full of references to its progenitor, some of which are pure fun, and some of which add a deeper meaning to what we already know. Here are 15 clever Breaking Bad Easter eggs hiding in Better Call Saul.

**Warning: Plenty of spoilers ahead for both series.**

1. Being Kevin Costner

In a throwaway moment in Breaking Bad, Saul mentions to Walt that he once convinced a woman he was Kevin Costner (“If you’re committed enough, you can make any story work”), and in the finale of the first season of Better Call Saul, we see the exact moment he was referring to. In case we thought that Saul was just making the story up for the sake of a pep talk, here’s the proof otherwise.

2. Neighborhood mainstay

If the diner where Jimmy first meets with the Kettlemans looked familiar to you, it’s for good reason. Loyola’s Diner featured in Breaking Bad as a mainstay of Mike’s—he met with Jesse there, as well as Lydia. It’s also, incidentally, a very real restaurant in Albuquerque. And while we’re on the subject of Mike and food, he’s been shown to be fond of pimento cheese sandwiches in both series.

3. Address unknown

David Costabile as Gale Boetticher in 'Breaking Bad'
Ursula Coyote, AMC

In Better Call Saul, it’s shown that Jimmy's office is at 160 Juan Tabo Boulevard (which is a real nail salon). Those of you with a head for directions might also recall that that’s the same street that the ill-fated chemist Gale Boetticher lives on, at 6353 Juan Tabo Boulevard. Breaking Bad fans were thrilled when the karaoke-loving chemist appeared in Season 4 of Better Call Saul (with hopefully more to come).

4. The Ignacio connection

Michael Mando as Nacho Varga in Better Call Saul
Michael Mando as Nacho Varga in Better Call Saul.
Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

When he’s kidnapped by Walt and Jesse after refusing to help a busted Badger, Saul spits out a variety of nonsense in an attempt to stay alive. He also drops a name: Ignacio. So who is he talking about? As we learn in Better Call Saul, this refers to Nacho, who’s become one of the secondary leads on the show. “Nacho” is a nickname, short for Ignacio, which makes sense as a connection given how closely he’s been working with Jimmy/Saul.

5. Cheap tricks

Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn in 'Better Call Saul'
Michele K. Short, AMC/Sony Pictures

There’s another callback to the first time that Walt, Jesse, and Saul meet. Despite still having his hands tied behind his back, when Saul agrees to help Walt and Jesse, he tells them to each put a dollar in his pocket in order to secure attorney-client privilege. It seems that Saul got that idea from Kim, who, when she decides to help Jimmy after discovering he’s falsified evidence, tells him to give her a dollar for exactly the same reason.

6. Old afflictions

Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill and Mel Rodriguez as Marco Pasternak in 'Better Call Saul'
Bob Odenkirk as Jimmy McGill and Mel Rodriguez as Marco Pasternak in Better Call Saul.
Michele K. Short/AMC/Sony Pictures Television

In yet another reference to that fateful first meeting, we learn that Saul isn’t bluffing when he tells Walt and Jesse that he has bad knees. He says the same thing when cops apprehend him in the first season of Better Call Saul. As to why he’s got bad knees to begin with, it all comes from his time as “Slippin’ Jimmy,” when he used to stage falls in order to earn a little bit of money.

7. Car talk

Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul in 'Breaking Bad'
Ursula Coyote, AMC

Saul Goodman drives a white 1997 Cadillac DeVille with the vanity plate “LWYRUP.” Jimmy McGill’s ride is much more modest: a yellow Suzuki Esteem with a red door. That said, in the pilot of Better Call Saul, we very briefly see a white Cadillac DeVille—Jimmy parks his car next to it, in a truly blink-and-you-miss-it allusion to what’s to come. (Gus, notably, is driving the same blue Volvo in both shows.)

8. Home sweet home

In Better Call Saul, one of the retirement homes that Jimmy visits in his quest to find new clients for his growing elder law business is Casa Tranquila. If it sounds familiar, that's because it's a key location in Breaking Bad as the home of Hector Salamanca, and the place where he kills his longtime nemesis Gus Fring. It’s a nice touch to revisit the location, especially given the fact that Better Call Saul gives us the story as to how Hector wound up in a wheelchair in the first place.

9. What's your poison?

There’s also a nice bit of brand continuity with the made-up tequila Zafiro Añejo. Gus poisons a bottle to get back at Don Eladio in Breaking Bad, and we see the same blue bottle pop up in Better Call Saul when Jimmy and Kim scam a cocky stock broker named Ken. Ken, for his part, seems to be reaping a constant stream of bad karma, as he’s also in Breaking Bad as a victim of Heisenberg’s wrath. He swipes Walt’s parking spot—and has his car set on fire for his trouble.

10. The little piggy

Though Mike is hard as nails, he’s got a soft spot the size of Texas for his granddaughter Kaylee. He gifts her a pink pig plush in Better Call Saul, which crops up again in Breaking Bad under slightly less cute circumstances. He uses the doll as a distraction when an assassination attempt is made on his life.

11. Word games

Giancarlo Esposito as Gus Fring in 'Breaking Bad'
Ursula Coyote, AMC

The first letters of the episode titles of the second season of Better Call Saul are an anagram for “FRING’S BACK.” It’s a granular sort of trick that the creators have pulled off before: four of the episodes of season two of Breaking Bad spell out “Seven Thirty-Seven Down Over ABQ.” In the season finale, a 737 plane does indeed go down over Albuquerque, or ABQ.

12. Sentimental value

Given that Saul’s Breaking Bad office has a lot of strange objects in it, it’d be easy to miss the octagonal desk. As it turns out, the offices of Saul Goodman aren’t the desk’s first home: it’s seen in the background of Kim’s office in Better Call Saul. It’s retroactive, sure, but it’s still nice to know that Saul has some mementos around.

13. Movie night

Bob Odenkirk and Rhea Seehorn in 'Better Call Saul'
Ursula Coyote, AMC/Sony Pictures Television

There’s also a little sentimental value in the name of Saul’s holding company, Ice Station Zebra Associates, which he uses to help Walt launder money in Breaking Bad. As we discover in Better Call Saul, Ice Station Zebra is Kim’s favorite movie, due to her father’s affection for it. Though Kim is physically absent from Breaking Bad, small details seem to tie back to her all the time.

14. Set dressing

Krazy-8, may he rest in peace, also shows up in Better Call Saul. The van that he drives has the logo for Tampico Furniture on it, and he’s wearing a uniform with the logo as well. Tampico is where Walt, as he recalls in Breaking Bad, bought Walter Jr.’s crib. Unfortunately, those fond memories aren’t quite enough to save Krazy-8’s skin.

15. Beware of bugs

Before Mike leaves Philly for Albuquerque, a bartender tells him to be mindful of tarantulas. The spider plays a key role in Breaking Bad later on, as a young boy’s pursuit of the bug puts him in Walt’s path—and Todd’s path, by proxy. Determined to make a good impression on Walt, and knowing that there can’t be any witnesses to what they’re doing, Todd shoots the boy in one of the most shocking and cold-blooded moments in the entire series.

An earlier version of this story ran in 2018.

This Land Is Your Land: The Story Behind America's Best-Known Protest Song

American singer Woody Guthrie, circa 1960.
American singer Woody Guthrie, circa 1960.
Woody Guthrie: Getty Images. Landscape: iStock/mammuth

Few songs are more ingrained in the American psyche than "This Land Is Your Land," the greatest and best-known work by folk icon Woody Guthrie. For decades, it's been a staple of kindergarten classrooms "from California to the New York island," as the lyrics go. It's the musical equivalent of apple pie, though the flavor varies wildly depending on who's doing the singing.

On its most basic level, "This Land Is Your Land" is a song about inclusion and equality—the American ideal broken down into simple, eloquent language and set to a melody you memorize on first listen. The underlying message, repeated throughout the song, makes the heart swell: "This land was made for you and me."

But there's more to "This Land Is Your Land" than many people realize—two verses more, in fact. Guthrie's original 1940 draft of the song contains six verses, two of which carry progressive political messages that add nuance to the song's overt patriotism. These controversial verses are generally omitted from children's songbooks and the like, but they speak volumes about Guthrie's mindset when he put pen to paper 80 years ago.

 

Guthrie wrote "This Land Is Your Land" in a divey hotel room in New York City. He'd just landed in Manhattan after years of rambling across the country and meeting impoverished people affected by the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. Throughout his travels in the late '30s, Guthrie was haunted by Kate Smith's hit recording of Irving Berlin's "God Bless America." Guthrie found Berlin's song to be jingoistic and out of touch with the reality facing many of his fellow citizens. So he set about writing a response.

Guthrie originally titled his rejoinder "God Blessed America"—emphasis on the past tense—but eventually changed his tone. Instead of doing a sarcastic parody, he wrote a song that pulls double-duty, celebrating America's natural splendor while criticizing the nation for falling short of its promise. In the "lost" fourth verse, Guthrie decries the notion of private property, suggesting America is being carved up by the wealthy:

There was a big high wall there that tried to stop me.
The sign was painted, said: 'Private Property.'
But on the backside, it didn't say nothing.
This land was made for you and me.

The sixth and final verse in the original manuscript references the poor folks Guthrie saw living on government assistance during the Great Depression:

One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple,
By the relief office I saw my people;
As they stood there hungry, I stood there wondering if
God blessed America for me?

When Guthrie first recorded the song in 1944, he included the verse about private property but left out the one about the relief office. That original recording was lost until the '90s, however, so for years, all anyone knew was the version Guthrie recorded for 1951's Songs to Grow On. Guthrie's rendition on that album features neither the "no trespassing" verse nor the one about the relief office, which he never actually recorded.

It's unclear why the 1944 recording with the "private property" verse was never released, or why Guthrie edited out the radical stuff for the 1951 version. (He also chopped out both controversial verses when he first published the lyrics in the 1945 pamphlet Ten of Woody Guthrie's Songs.) It may have had something to do with the mounting anti-communist furor that would lead to the Red Scare of the late '40s and early '50s. As a pro-union communist sympathizer, Guthrie and his fellow rabble-rousing folky buddy Pete Seeger had already faced industry blacklisting in the early '40s.

"We did one program on CBS Radio, and a newspaper reported out, said, 'Red minstrels try to get on the networks,'" Seeger told NPR. "And that was the last job we got."

Woody Guthrie, circa March 1943.
Woody Guthrie, circa March 1943.
Penn State, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Regardless of which verses are included, "This Land Is Your Land" is terrific for singing. That was by design. Guthrie likely stole the melody from the Carter Family's 1935 tune "Little Darling, Pal of Mine," which itself was patterned after an old gospel hymn titled "When the World's On Fire" (sometimes called "Oh, My Loving Brother"). "This Land" was a perfect fit for classrooms and campsites, where the song would take on new life.

 

In the early '50s, famed American folklorist Alan Lomax came up with a nifty plan for preserving the nation's musical heritage. He approached legendary music publisher Howie Richmond with the idea of including rural folk songs—the kind he'd been documenting for the Library of Congress—in school music textbooks. Richmond, who had become Guthrie's publisher in 1950, loved the idea, and to sweeten the deal for textbook publishers, he lowered his usual licensing rates and offered "This Land Is Your Land" for just $1.

That's how "This Land Is Your Land" went viral and became nearly as ubiquitous as the national anthem, even without the radio play and jukebox real estate of Smith's "God Bless America." While the versions distributed to America's impressionable youth lacked "no trespassing" and "relief office" verses, the song's original lyrics were never forgotten. Following Guthrie's death in 1967, artists like Seeger continued performing the "lost verses," lest people forget the anger that inspired the song.

But regardless of Guthrie's intentions, "This Land Is Your Land" has come to mean different things to different people. That's part of what makes it so timeless. When President Ronald Reagan used the song at his victory party in 1984, after it had been used by Walter Mondale's campaign, both sides were probably trying to evoke feel-good patriotism. The same goes for Reagan's advisors and allies who were invoking Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." during rallies and in newspaper articles. Reagan himself name-checked Springsteen and his "message of hope" during a rally in Hammonton, New Jersey. The president either didn't know or didn't care that "Born in the U.S.A." was another song about loving your country but hating how poorly it treats some of its citizens.

Ironically, the Boss had begun performing "This Land Is Your Land" in the early '80s. On the version included on the Live 1975–85 box set, Springsteen gives his audience the backstory about Irving Berlin and refers to "This Land" as "just about one of the most beautiful songs ever written." And, when given the opportunity to perform the song with Pete Seeger at Barack Obama's pre-inauguration concert in 2009, he readily agreed to sing all the verses at Seeger's insistence.

Over the years, "This Land Is Your Land" has been covered by everyone from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello, who performed the song in Zuccotti Park during an Occupy Wall Street protest in 2011. Lady Gaga sang a snippet to open her Super Bowl halftime show in 2017, causing fans and critics to speculate about whether she was making a political statement. She mashed it up with "God Bless America," so it's a safe bet she knew the history of the song.

 

There may be even more officially recorded versions in years to come. Much like what has been done with ubiquitous songs like "Happy Birthday" and "We Shall Overcome" (which Seeger toured with and taught across the country at rallies and protests throughout the '50s and '60s), there is a push to have "This Land Is Your Land" enter the public domain. The Brooklyn rock band Satorii filed a lawsuit in 2016 challenging the copyrights held by the Richmond Organization and its subsidiary, Ludlow Music, and maintain that since Guthrie only wrote the lyrics and not that pilfered melody, he shouldn't have been able to register the song in the first place, nor should Ludlow have been able to own the copyright. The suit is ongoing.

Whether it enters the public domain, as one imagines Guthrie would have wanted, or doesn't, "This Land Is Your Land" isn't going anywhere. The song has been adopted and modified by Native Americans, Swedish anti-Nazi troubadours, and people all over the globe who find truth and comfort in Guthrie's words, however they choose to interpret them.

"The whole idea of a land is your spot on Earth, you know," Woody's daughter Nora told NPR. "A spot where you can claim safety, sanity."

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