Norwood Pratt (played by country singer Glenn Campbell) is a just a good old boy who has just returned home from serving in the Marines over in Vietnam. After saying goodbye to his Marine buddy, Joe William Reese (played by quarterback Joe Namath), Norwood heads to his hometown of Ralph, Texas. Norwood discovers this his sister (Leigh French) has married an idiot named Bill (Dom DeLuise!)
Norwood gets a job working at the local garage but he’s got his guitar and he’s got his dreams. All he wants to do is play his music on the Louisiana Hayride radio program. But with no money and no connections, how is he going to make it there? When a shady businessman (Pat Hingles) offers to pay him fifty bucks to drive a car and prostitute (Carol Lynley) to New York City, Norwood agrees. When Norwood discovers the car is stolen, he abandons both the vehicle and the girl but he still heads up to New York City.
Norwood has plenty of adventures and he meets plenty of people, like a hippie (Tisha Stirling) who invites him to open mike night at a coffee house in the Village. Later, she invites him to join her in a bathtub by asking him if his guitar plays underwater. “No, ma’m,” Norwood says, “but I do.” He also meets a pregnant teenager (Kim Darby, Campbell’s co-star from True Grit) and a little person (Billy Curtis) who is traveling with a super intelligent chicken.
There have been a lot of very good films made about the struggle of military veterans to transition back to civilian life after their tour of duty comes to an end. Unfortunately, Norwood is not one of those films. Both Norwood and Joe have just returned from Vietnam but neither one of them seems to carry any lingering effects from their time overseas. Neither of them shares any war stories or any thoughts on war in general. (Someone does point out that Norwood has a scar. Norwood says it’s a war wound that he got when he accidentally fell off a water truck.) There’s no hint that the war itself was not going well for the United States in 1970 or that it wasn’t a popular war and that returning veterans often felt as if they had been rejected by the same country that asked (or forced) them to serve. Even when Norwood meets the hippies in the Village, there’s no mention of protests. Instead, Norwood presents 1970 as a time with no real conflicts, which is the perfect era for someone as forgettable as Norwood Pratt to become a star.
Norwood has the same basic and episodic structure as an Elvis movie, except that Elvis could actually act when he wanted to. No one can deny Glenn Campbell’s talent as a singer but as an actor, he had very little screen presence. In True Grit and this movie, the best that he could come up with was an amiable dullness. In True Grit, it didn’t matter because John Wayne was in the movie. But in Norwood, Campbell had to carry the story and his acting limitations were much more obvious. Campbell even managed to get outacted by Joe Namath, who, as far as pro football player-turned-actors were concerned, was no Alex Karras. Wisely, Campbell didn’t further pursue a career as an actor and instead concentrated on singing. When Campbell died in 2017, he was praised for both his musical legacy and his honesty and courage while facing Alzheimer’s. He may not have made it as an actor but he still touched a lot of lives.