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Jerry Lee Lewis
This is an exceptional biographical film about a very gifted musician, singer, and songwriter, Hank Williams Jr., who was always in his father's shadow. Miss Audrey Williams, Hank Jr.'s mother, was possibly the worst singer ever to cut a record (with the possible exception of Mrs. Miller and Leonard Nemoy). Yet she was an extremely domineering bitchy woman who thought her talents were at least equal to those of her ex-husband's and their son's. She was also a materialistic person who wanted all that was coming to her and more from the royalties of her late ex, who was a country music icon, and from controlling and managing Hank Jr.'s early career. "Living Proof" partly centers on the efforts of Hank Jr. to live his own life and to sing and make his own music. Stepping from the shadow of Hank Sr. not only involved breaking free from his father's music but also to break free from the "family tradition" of pills, booze, and women.
Richard Thomas had to step out of the shadow of John Boy Walton to make this movie. He succeeds as far as the acting goes--he, in fact, gives an outstanding performance--but he fails as far as the music goes. When he tries to sing Hank Sr.'s songs there is no soul, no feeling to his music. It is as if he is merely singing notes to words on paper. Then when Hank Jr. starts performing his own music rather than his father's, the real Hank Jr. takes over and dubs for Thomas. What a difference and what an improvement! Too bad the producers didn't let Hank Jr. dub the music from the start. I have heard but have been unable to document it that Hank Jr. refused to sing his father's music in the made-for-TV film for it was a time in his life when he was definitely doing his own thing in the music industry. Other than this one flaw, the movie is excellent in its acting and in its presentation of Hank Jr.'s life from the time of his father's untimely death up to the point where he almost dies from a fall while on a mountain climbing venture in Montana. His whole face had to be reconstructed and one of his eyes was nearly gone, hence the reason for the dark glasses and beard. The soundtrack is a gem containing some of Hank Jr.'s best songs, including "The Blues Man."
Not only does Richard Thomas do an admirable acting job, the entire cast is great with Merle Kilgore playing himself. It must have been strange for Merle to reenact what really happened, for example when he found Hank Jr. nearly dead in the pool from a drug overdose.
If you can find "Your Cheatin' Heart" playing on a satellite station, it is interesting to watch it back to back with "Living Proof." They are excellent musical biographies of a father and a son, both gifted and talented performers. I don't think either is available on DVD or VHS.
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