American Masters: Season 18, Episode 7

Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues (23 Jun. 2004)

TV Episode  -   -  Documentary | Biography | History
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The authoritative documentary on Country Music's most influential figure.

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Title: Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues (23 Jun 2004)

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Roy Acuff ...
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Tommy Bishop ...
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Rick Bragg ...
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Joe Buck ...
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Charles Carr ...
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Anita Carter ...
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Little Jimmy Dickens ...
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Danny Dill ...
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Himself (archive footage)
Colin Escott ...
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Lewis Fitzgerald ...
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Kira Florita ...
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Tillman B. Franks ...
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The authoritative documentary on Country Music's most influential figure.

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Cold, Cold Heart
1 April 2012 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

In 1950, Hank's wife got pregnant. Unbeknown to him, she had an abortion at home, and ended up in the hospital. As he tried to express his concern and love for her, she scornfully threw him out. In response to his hurt, he proceeded to write a song. That song was "Cold, Cold Heart".

In the film's second half, in B&W archival footage, he sings two full verses. It's the best segment in a fine documentary about the short life of country-western singer-songwriter Hank Williams, a life that had more than its fair share of grief and heartache.

The film starts out with his funeral in 1953, followed by standard bio coverage, including his Southern roots and childhood poverty, his initial success on the Louisiana Hayride radio program, and his stormy relations with The Grand Old Opry in Nashville. Perhaps most fascinating is his even stormier marriage and attendant romantic entanglements. The film contains lots of interviews. And it's clear that his turbulent personal relations exacerbated his heavy, binge drinking that undeniably contributed to his early death. Archival footage shows an adult Hank, only 29 years old, looking more like he's 49.

As I was watching this documentary, it occurred to me that I don't think I have ever seen a picture of Hank Williams without a hat on. In this bio, there is at least one photo of him, hatless. Looks very different. Certainly, with that cowboy hat, and strumming his guitar, this lanky, gawky guy created an identifiable mystique, and proved to be a talent who not only could write heartfelt songs but could sing them too. What a voice!

"Legends don't look like legends when they're being made", comments friend and fellow performer Danny Dill. But in his short life Hank Williams touched an emotional cord during a period in America when common, down-home folks had not yet fully recovered from the Great Depression. His heartfelt songs expressed what they were feeling inwardly.

I could have wished for more uninterrupted Hank Williams stage performances. But nevertheless, this is a fine bio, one that will appeal to viewers, like me, who like country-western music, and to viewers who like learning about the lives of famous people.


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