• U.S.

Cinema: Heavy Weather

2 minute read
Christopher Porterfield


There is undoubtedly a good movie to be made about the Alaska pipeline —the rigors of construction, the boomtown atmosphere, the struggle between the exploiters and the exploited. But Pipe Dreams is not it. The old Yukon hands would have had a word for this pallid melodrama: mush.

A painfully nice Atlanta schoolteacher (Gladys Knight) journeys to Alaska in pursuit of her ex-husband (Barry Hankerson), who has been enjoying the high wages and low life that go with working on the pipeline. His boss is a sneering meanie who owns half the town, runs a prostitute colony on the side and periodically sabotages construction work in order to prolong the rake-offs he and his colleagues are taking.

Cheerful Smile. The teacher stands up to the boss and wins back her man, but not before making moral weather as heavy as a tundra blizzard out of it. “Like a lot of people, I came up here chasing a dream,” she says. “Unlike a lot of people, I won’t sell my soul to get it.”

Gladys Knight, lead singer of the Pips, here makes what might loosely be called her acting debut. She moves through her role with an unfailingly cheerful, nose-crinkling smile but with almost none of the slick exuberance and sensuality of her musical performances. Occasionally, when the script calls for her to ride somewhere in a plane or car, the camera dwells on the passing snowscapes and Gladys and the

Pips can be heard crooning on the sound track. These interludes completely halt the action, but in view of what the action is, they are something of a relief. Christophjer Porterfield

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com