Hard Traveling

Director: Dan Bessie
Screenwriters: Dan Bessie, “Bread and Stone”

Institute History

  • 1986 Sundance Film Festival


Set in a small town in the late 1930’s, this is the story of Ed Sloan (J. E. Freeman)—handyman to some, “shiftless no-good” to others, ex-con to the police and an illiterate failure to himself—and Norah Gilbert (Ellen Geer), a well-educated school teacher, widow and mother who falls in love with him.

The relationship is slow to build. He is a lower-class repairer of roofs who always shuns her invitation to coffee. She is a curious loner in her own right who, with intelligence and affection, gradually senses in him a rare kindness and nobility. Their world is shattered when Ed is picked up in the middle of the night for the roadside murder of a prosperous businessman.

Hard Traveling is based on an incident in the filmmaker’s early life, which his father, Alvah Bessie, one of the blacklisted “Hollywood 10,” wrote about in his novel Bread and Stone. It is a touching love story that blossoms against the vivid landscape of social injustice and desperation that characterized the Depression of the 1930’s.

Screening Details


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