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This is an exceptional musical biography of one of the greatest
singer-songwriters-entertainers of the 20th century. Single handedly
this country boy from the backwoods of Alabama changed American country
music and in the process crossed over and changed popular music as
well. His influence is still felt today from the legacy of Ray Charles
to the driving force of Hank Williams Jr. Surprisingly the lead role in
the movie is done quite well by George Hamilton, usually seen as just
another pretty face in those days. It is amazing that fourteen-year-old
Hank Jr. does such a fantastic job dubbing his dad's music for
Hamilton. In some ways his rendition of Hank Sr.'s most poetic song,
"I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," is better than the original. He almost
captures all the pain and loneliness of his dad's magnificent voice.
Though there are many liberties taken with Hank Sr.'s life story, the film keeps the spirit of the man and the legend alive and burning brightly. One reason for the biographical changes besides poetic license to make the film more dramatic was the forced reliance on the no-talent Miss Audrey, Hank Sr.'s ex, as adviser for the movie and mentor for Hank Jr. who sang for his father. This led to all kinds of omissions and changes such as no mention of Hank Sr.'s new bride to whom he was married just before his untimely passing.
The latest findings on Hank Sr.'s death, that he died from mixing alcohol and pain killers of the early 50's variety, does not conflict all that much with the ending of the movie. He did die in the backseat of his Cadillac while being chauffeured to a New Year's show in Canton, Ohio.
Undoubtedly he died New Year's Eve 1952 but was not pronounced dead until New Year's Day 1953. Hank therefore has the unenviable distinction of having died in two different calendar years. I was nine years old at the time and I remember that my family (poor country folks from the hills of Arkansas) took it as if it were a death in the family. That is how much of an icon he had become during his few short years of stardom.
So even though the facts of Hank's life may be wrong from time to time in the movie, his spirit is captured making this a great tribute to the man and his music.
If you are a songwriter or have ever written a song, you must marvel at
the work of Hank Williams, and this movie shows us the magic of
songwriting. Where do the greatest songs come from? And if we happen to
write one, is it our responsibility to let the world hear it?
Unlike so many other movies based on the lives of legendary musicians, this one is fun to watch (and not just listen). George Hamilton is great as Hank Williams, and it's his performance that saves the biopic from turning to a tiresome melodrama somewhere in the middle. You see, he doesn't seem to be all that serious even when the script calls him to be, and that my friend, however strange it may seem, is the key to success. So many biopics based on the stories of bitter ex wives and rivals suggest that our favorite artists never had a sense of humor.
All the actors do a good job. Beautiful Susan Oliver plays a credible nag, and although the script doesn't put the blame on anyone (which is good), the performance allows us to question her motives from the get go.
All the songs heard in this movie are classics. We hear two different versions of I saw the light, and the later one makes otherwise a sad ending the perfect ending.
Hank Williams was a very complex individual. Like all of us, he struggled
with good and evil.
The movie depicted a very simple man thrust into stardom. The sound track was done by a 14 year old Hank Williams Jr. The movie would have been much better if the songs of Hank Williams were included.
I think the movie could be done better today with better actors. The story line could more true to the actual life of Hank Williams. Back in the 40's and 50's the life of a country singer was rough and rowdy.
When this picture was made, Audrey Williams (Hank's wife) dictated every move. Trying to make Hank a legend. It wasn't necessary, he already was a legend. The movie was also used to launch a young Hank Williams Jr into the national spot light. None of this was necessary. Hank Williams Jr. has become a legend in his own right in spite of his mother trying to make him another Hank Williams.
At any rate, if you are interested in Hank Williams this is a very good movie and deserves your viewing.
I hope to see another movie made about the life of Hank Williams.
The movie is not based on fact, but rather a image spin. For example
the last concert in the movie is to take place at 8 p.m. but people are
arriving at noon -- the truth his Hank missed the 8 p.m. concert and
had a 2 p.m. one the next day, which is the one where they announced
his death. The movie claims he was "clean" or sober at the time of his
death for several months, yet he had been hospitalized just two weeks
before his death trying to sober him and kick his drug habit. The movie
deals with his drinking problems but never mentions the drug habit,
considering he died of a suspected overdose (as many as three shots of
morphine just hours before he died) the movie never mentions it. The
movie also implies he was still with his first wife at the time of his
death, when he had remarried and refused to see his first wife.
If you take it as a work of fiction, it is fun, just no facts about a great singer who hated the stage.
This movie was a real surprise to me. I thought at first it would be a typical Hollywood biopic of a singer - boy starts off poor, is troubled when he hits the big time, starts messing up, picture ends tragically but celebrates his legend... much like a Mad magazine pastiche. "Your Cheatin Heart" seems to gloss over some of the events of Hank William's life. I didn't know all that much about him but I had that impression. Even so, this is a gripping picture. I was transfixed and I don't like country music. George Hamilton can act! He strongly expresses Williams' conflicts over his career and marriage. Susan Oliver is a revelation too. Why wasn't she offered more films? (I knew I saw her somewhere before: she was Vina in Star Trek's "The Cage".) The ending is tragic and the viewer can probably see it coming even if he or she doesn't know about Williams' early death. Still, the scene of the empty stage had me in tears. The film shows deep feeling for Williams' music and his fans. By far the best thing about Your Cheatin' Heart is Williams' songs, especially the rendition of "I'm so Lonesome I could Cry", which was what I was doing.
While watching this 1964 biopic, I constantly drew the conclusion that this story needs and deserves to be updated in our contemporary styles a la 'I Walk the Line' and 'Ray'. Each time we hear Hank's songs and recall in our minds the true story of his life and gifted talent, we know that he deserves an honest portrayal on film with higher than average production values. I liked that this film was in B&W. It made the setting of the '40s and early '50s realistic. Unfortunately, the movie sets looked too incredibly stock studio back lot. The half a dozen seedy bars down the back alley beside the Grand Ole Opry was suddenly too stylized a scene (and consequently, less believable). Hank and Audrey's super-stardom mansion looked like they borrowed it from a David Niven melodrama set. George Hamilton was OK as Hank. Sometimes I believed him as Hank, sometimes I just saw George Hamilton. Often, the seams were showing in this film: Hollywood studio, 1964. The story seemed one-sided (the Audrey Williams story)and with too much standard Hollywood melodrama (Red Buttons: Look off into the distance past the camera and make a speech to Hank. Repeat later.). Based on what we know of Hank's real story, much of it seems to be missing in this movie. We saw Hank fall off a horse and hurt his back but where's the pain killers that contributed to his death? (And I won't mention the fact that in the end he was remarried to a second woman.) The music in this movie often bothered me. Hank's song were great but their renditions (apparently by Hank Williams Jr.) sounded too Nashville studios, hi-fi 1964. (I don't remember Hank Sr. being accompanied by back-up singers...oooh, aaah!) This movie almost felt like the altered version of a great and troubled performer's story...safe to tell to the kids and grandma ('Don't mention the pills, just say he died of a broken heart.'). The ending was fitting for the great Hank, though. A filled theater and an empty stage. The show that he was headed to but didn't make. Because I know of the greatness of his talent and contributions to music, I thought that it was right on the mark. It put tears in my eyes. It was the best and truest part of the movie.
I saw this movie in Scotland around the time of its original release and for the first time in my life, I witnessed a movie audience stand and applaud a film and ... there wasn't a dry eye in the theatre at the ending. A brilliant portrayal of H.W. by George Hamilton I have been trying to buy a copy of this film for years and at last I can see the movie again, 38 years later. Thank You! Jim Reid.
Few today recall or ever knew the MGM biography of Hank Williams was
under development --- on hold --- for 10 years while MGM squabbled with
Audrey Williams over the script, a script which eventually dishonored
country music's greatest-ever star. It's been over 30 years since I saw
this picture, but I remember it was (1) the most anticipated movie I
ever saw, (2) a great disappointment, and (3) a great pleasure to see a
movie about Hank despite the dishonesty and Audrey's self-serving spin
In 1982, a man who really understood Hank Williams and his legacy created a stage play in London, England called "Hank Williams, the Show He Never Gave." In 1983, this was made into a movie, and has been out in both VHS and DVD. The 1983 movie, like Hank's music, is emotional enough to tear your heart out.
People who love Hank Williams seldom explain his legacy to others, as it's too personal and heartfelt; something to be tucked carefully inside one's own heart. Our love for him is intense, internal; never fading with time's passage.
This movie is a warm and touching portrait of the late great Hank Williams, Sr. George Hamilton really makes you feel the heartbreak behind each performance. Susan Oliver is also fine as his long-suffering wife. I remember seeing this film at least twice during the 1960's. In fact, I was inspired to copy one scene, but for modesty's sake, you'll have to see the film.
The sequence before the credits is beautifully acted and filmed. It's
extremely rare that a child playing the younger version of a character
is more impressive than the lead. But the boy playing little Hank
Williams gives a more nuanced performance than George Hamilton.
George Hamilton. He sure does seem like odd casting in this movie. The archetypal suave playboy playing a country and western singer. Hmm. And Susan Oliver as his wife. She's good, and Hamilton is not bad. But again: It seems like casting against type.
Red Buttons and Arthur O'Connell, in the other hand, fit snugly into their supporting roles.
Hamilton lip-syncs the brilliant Williams songs. He is kind of deadpan but maybe that's what the guy was like. I don't pretend to know.
A couple decades later, Jessica Lange did something similar in "Sweet Dreams." She surely wouldn't sound like the great Patsy Cline when she sings but oh! Now there is a movie! This one lacks its warmth and humor. But it's filmed in a noble manner. It strays occasionally, when a Williams song is orchestrated with syrupy strings as background.
All in all, though, it's definitely worth watching, if only to hear the fantastic songs.
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