HWY: An American Pastoral

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HWY: An American Pastoral
Directed by
Produced byJim Morrison
Written byJim Morrison
Story byJim Morrison
Based onJim Morrison's creative and literal lifestyle
StarringJim Morrison
Music byFred Myrow and Bruce Botnik
CinematographyPaul Ferrara
Edited byFrank Lisciandro
Distributed byPrivate sphere
Release date
March, 1970
Running time
52 minutes
CountryUnited States

HWY: An American Pastoral is a short film by Jim Morrison, Frank Lisciandro, Paul Ferrara, and Babe Hill and stars Morrison as a hitchhiker. It is a 50-minute experimental film in Direct Cinema style. It was shot during the spring and summer of 1969 in the Mojave Desert and in Los Angeles.

In the informal 1971 interview Morrison gave to Ben Fong Torres, Morrison states the film "...was more of an exercise for me and a warm-up for something bigger."[1][2]

Apart from select excerpts used in the 2009 documentary When You're Strange, the complete 35mm movie has yet to be released commercially.


The opening sequence shows the hitchhiker (Jim Morrison) coming out of a pond, and putting his clothes on over whatever he is already wearing. He proceeds to walk up the mountain from the pond. He starts walking down the highway and a voice-over of Morrison talks about his incident with dead Indians as a child. He is shown emerging from a car stuck in the sand. He successfully tries to pull a car over. The next sequence shows landscape and then turns to a clip of the hitchhiker looking for a book with the car parked outside a gas station (visible through the window). The hitchhiker is shown back on the highway together with two other people and a police officer. He gets into the car and drives off. He looks for directions on a map at night. The cars are shown driving into the sunset. Finally, the hitchhiker makes a phone call to American poet Michael McClure and explains with disimpassioned voice why the original driver was not with him for much of the journey. The hitchhiker killed him. The final shots show the hitchhiker at The Whiskey A Go Go on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles.

Screenplay, production and public screening[edit]

The original, barely structured HWY screenplay, published in 1990,[3] contained many differences to the actual 1969 film version. The film was based on Morrison's experiences as a hitchhiker during his student days. As a college student Morrison had regularly been commuting as a hitchhiker from Tallahassee 280 miles to meet his then girlfriend Mary Werbelow in Clearwater.[4][5][6] Morrison financed the low-budget film project through his company “HiWay Productions”. The production of HWY was supported by Morrison's friends Paul Ferrara, Frank Lisciandro and Babe Hill. The soundtrack was produced by composer Fred Myrow; with additional material from ethnic and world music recordings.

Parts of the movie were meant to be used for fundraising purposes in order to complete the whole project.[7] As soon as October 1969 the film story was outpaced, though, by the Tate-Labianca murders which were carried out by members of the Manson Family in Los Angeles and shattered the American public. Morrison showed HWY during his second stay in Paris in early 1971. The film was publicly shown only once in Vancouver in 1970 and again in Paris in 1993. An audio sequence from the film was published on The Doors' spoken word album An American Prayer in 1978.

It has been suggested that the inspiration for the Protagonist in the film, played by Morrison, with the script name 'Billy' was inspired by the very real Hitchhiker serial killer Billy Cook who murdered six people on a 22-day rampage between Missouri and California in 1950–51.[8]

When You're Strange[edit]

In 2009, restored and re-mastered excerpts from "HWY" were featured in Tom DiCillo's documentary When You're Strange. However, the complete film was not included in the Special Features on the When You're Strange DVD, and there have been no further announcements regarding a DVD release for the film. Bootleg copies of the film (with a visible timecode at the bottom of the screen) can be found on the internet.

Production history[edit]

In his 2007 book, Flash of Eden, co-director Paul Ferrara details Jim Morrison's originally grander over-arching vision for the film, anecdotes from the days shooting and finally his eventual satisfaction with the 'unfinished' work.[9] Similarly, Paul Ferrara's YouTube channel hosts behind the scenes footage of the making of The Hitchhiker, which was the working title for what would later become HWY,[10] together with a video described as Jim Morrison/"HWY" (directors cut) which includes an opening crawl of text that describes the historical context during which the film was shot.[11]

The film was shot on a 35mm,[12] Arriflex camera.[1] A list of filming locations are available.[13] The film's music credits are given to Fred Myrow and sound engineer Bruce Botnick.[13]


Paul & Georgia Ferrara – Bald Mountain.[14][15]


  1. ^ a b The Doors Guide. HWY: An American Pastoral April 2–6, 1969[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ "Ben-Fong Torres & Jim Morrison 1971 Interview". YouTube. Retrieved July 25, 2020.
  3. ^ Jim Morrison: The Hitchhiker (An American Pastoral). In: The American Night. The Writings of Jim Morrison. Viking, London 1990, p. 69–82.
  4. ^ "Doors: Mary Werbelow, Jim Morrison and the Doors". Sptimes.com. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  5. ^ "Jim Morrison: Pamela Courson". Jim-morrison.livejournal.com. April 27, 2007. Archived from the original on April 25, 2012. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
  6. ^ Davis, Stephen (2004). Jim Morrison – Life, Death, Legend. Gotham Books. p. 35. ISBN 978-1-59240-099-7.
  7. ^ The American Night. The Writings of Jim Morrison. London: Viking. 1990. p. 207.
  8. ^ "HWY: An American Pastoral". Doorsguide.com.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ Ferrara, Paul (2007). Flash of Eden. AuthorHouse. ISBN 978-1-4343-4070-2.
  10. ^ "MAKING HWY (NEWmusic), 2010, Paul Ferrara". YouTube. Retrieved September 15, 2020.
  11. ^ "Jim Morrison/Hitchiker: The Thrill is Gone". YouTube. Retrieved September 15, 2020.
  12. ^ "Bringing Jim Morrison back to life in the long-lost "HWY"". Retrieved August 16, 2020.
  13. ^ a b "HWY: An American Pastoral BY JIM MORRISON, FRANK LISCIANDRO, PAUL FERRARA, BABE HILL". Retrieved July 25, 2020.
  14. ^ https://myspace.com/paulgeorgiaferrara/music/songs
  15. ^ "JIM MORRISON: BALD MOUNTAIN.mov". YouTube. 2010. Retrieved September 15, 2020.

External links[edit]