It seems every year during the holidays we're treated to something special out of Hollywood. Last year it was "The Aviator." This year it's "Walk the Line."
What makes bio-pics even more appealing is if you had the good fortune to have lived during the era of the subject matter up on the screen. I've lived for 61Ú2 decades, so I'm sure more good stuff is coming my way.
After seeing "Walk The Line," I found myself wanting to e-mail the Academy of Arts & Science and telling them to just go ahead and send Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon their Oscars right now. Why wait until next March? That's how good this film is.
Strong acting performances by Phoenix as Johnny Cash and Witherspoon as June Carter make the film exceptional, but their singing ability will have you believing you're really watching those famous icons of country music.
The film documents the early years in Cash's life as a dirt poor kid growing up in Arkansas during the Great Depression. After a stint in the U.S. Air Force, Cash marries his first wife, Vivian, and then the kids start arriving. Living in Memphis at the time, Cash was selling door to door to make ends meet, but the ends don't meet by a mile - Cash is a horrible salesman.
And then comes that memorable day while hawking his goods he sees Elvis Presley, Scotty Moore and Bill Black enter a small recording studio named Sun at 706 Union St. In this building was born the blend of rock, gospel and country music, an incredible sound that became known as rockabilly, making Johnny Cash one of the founding members of that sound when he entered the building in 1955.
Cash pleads with Sun owner Sam Phillips to give him a shot to record a song and maybe make a few bucks to cover the rent as he and his family are about to be evicted. Phillips relents, and Cash starts in on a slow gospel number that's badly off key, making Phillips regret he'd wasted his time with this guy.
After admonishing Cash about his song selection, Cash starts in slowly with ""hear .. the ..train ..a comin' .. it's rollin' .. round ..the ..bend."
In the studio that day with Cash were Luther Perkins on guitar and Marshall Grant on bass. As Cash struggled with the rhythm, the two men began to pick up the beat with a boom, chicka boom, chicka boom. Thus was born Johnny Cash and The Tennessee Two and the sound that would be the signature of his recording career.
While this is all bone-chilling in recreating that special time at Sun when Cash helped usher in the new sound, some of the dates are not historically accurate. But who cares? It doesn't diminish the fine acting and music in this film.
Phillips had a stable of talent at Sun when Cash was there. Elvis, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison all recorded for Sun and went on to become legends of their own, and all are portrayed in the film.
Cash, like the others of the time, traveled by car from gig to gig, and as the hours grew longer he began relying on amphetamines to keep going. His consumption of pills grew until he became a full-blown addict, which almost ended his life. Unlike the Hank Williams' film "Your Cheatin' Heart," which glossed over Williams' drug addiction, this film confronts the problem head on.
Cash was already married when he fell in love with June Carter, and there are some sticky wickets here as the film deals realistically with the relationship they had.
I guarantee this movie will have you tapping your feet and slapping your knee - the music is that good. I'd like to tell you more, but why ruin it? Shell out the bucks and enjoy a great piece of musical Americana.
- Chic DiFrancia, a Virginia City resident, writes from time to time for the Nevada Appeal.
'Walk the Line'
When: 12:40 p.m., 3:40 p.m., 6:40 p.m. (9:30 p.m. today only)
Where: Wallace Theaters, 2571 N. Carson St.
When: 11:30 a.m., 3 p.m., 6:30 p.m. (9:40 p.m. today only)
Where: Ironwood Cinema, 1760 Highway 395