A cinematic realization, in which British Shakespearean actor Tom Hiddleston portrays an American icon. A refined UK accent is transformed into country drawl in this telling of the iconic, tormented country singer-songwriter Hank Williams.
Williams revolutionized country music with his raw charisma, haunting voice and original songs, most of which are considered American standards today and have been recorded many times over by pop, rock and country artists alike. Hank Williams emerged from the local Alabama music scene after World War II.
Wife Audrey (Elizabeth Olsen) was desperate to sing by his side despite being of lesser talent, which inflamed an extremely turbulent home life. But Williams’ ability to write songs covering a wide range of emotions, using his own personal troubles as inspiration, became the essence of country music. In the end, he realized his dreams: hit records, a place on Nashville’s prestigious stage and radio show the Grand Ole Opry and even guest spots on the then-new medium of TV.
Refusing to hide his longtime alcoholism and dependency on painkillers behind the wholesome facade Nashville and the Opry expect of its stars, Hank remained prolific and immensely popular until the very end of his life. Like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, Hank’s star
burned brightly, but briefly over the six years before he died on New Year’s Day 1953 at the age of 29.
His meteoric rise and fall during the 1940’s and early 50’s has become part of American folklore. Writer-director Marc Abraham has created a compelling, historically accurate narrative of Hank’s career that examines his tormented creative genius and the blustery domestic life that inspired him to write some of his best-known songs. By literally going back in time, you see Hank as he was, living his life on his terms, battling his demons and ultimately creating music for the ages.
Abraham has been a fan of country music since the age of eight growing up in Kentucky. “When I was a college student I wrote a paper about the influence of the genre on American culture. It focused on Hank Williams, a man many have called one of America’s greatest poets as well as the first “rock star”; even to the point of living hard and dying young. His indelible imprint on today’s music world has not diminished in over 60 years.”
Today, country is immensely popular, and Williams had much to do with that. His enduring qualities explain his inductions into the Country Music Hall of Fame (1961), the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1970) and the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame (1987). Williams had 33 hit country singles during his life. Thirty reached the Top Ten; eight hit Number One. Seven more Top Tens came after his death with three going to Number One.
Of star Tom Hiddleston, who actually sings every note in the film, director Abraham says, “He’s an amazing actor and truly I cannot imagine anyone, anywhere more dedicated. For me, I just cast the guy I thought could do it.”
“He was such an extraordinary man”, Tom Hiddleston says of Hank Williams. “In my mind, I always think of him like a firework, a firework that was burning brightly, made people gasp in awe, and gave people delight, but then blazed and burned out very fast.”
Speaking of a Williams classic (“I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”), the actor adds, “You can’t just say it. You can’t just sing the notes. You can’t even just sing the words. You have to feel it. You have to know what that means to say that. In order to sing that song, and for it to have the impact that Hank had, you have to connect to it with your whole soul. You have to just get yourself behind it and mean it and express yourself through it. That was really the key to playing the part.” It’s obvious the actor adopted a Shakespearean attitude in developing the role.
Holly Williams, granddaughter of Hank Williams endorses the biopic, adding “I am so proud of this film of my granddaddy’s life.”
Tom Hiddleston is currently starring in the acclaimed six part British television series “The Night Manager” showing on AMC Canada.
“I Saw The Light” is on screen in selected markets.
HOT TIME IN THE OLD TOWN TONIGHT
Fisherville, in rural South Central Ontario, gets a yearly glitzy makeover when the farming community takes on a Broadway glow staging an all stops-out variety show. The event attracts visitors from extended distances who are feted with three nights of entertaining delirium.
I’m not sure if Fisherville, on the south shore of Lake Erie, is designated a hamlet, village, town, or even a rural wide spot on the road, but rivals New York’s Great White Way when the Fisherville District Lions Club unleashes its annual (end of March, first of April) fund raising clambake. This year, celebrating its 60th anniversary, the theme was “Looking Back,” with songs, skits, and comedy routines dusted off, to be enjoyed again, or for the first time by millennials.
Talent and enthusiasm ooze from a non-professional cast hardly intimidated by big city showbiz sophistication. The performers, and back stage personnel, all local, donate their time and efforts to mount a show that delights the patrons and benefits the surrounding area. A cohesive community spirit prevails that could be the envy of major urban centres. The evening passes with merriment and mirth.
An Interlocutor introduces the acts. a device borrowed from minstrel, vaudeville and music hall traditions. In a light hearted and jocular manner, he announces the line-up of comedy bits and skits (with a lot of groaners), solos, duets, trios, barbershop and group singing, a jug band twanging toe-tapping bluegrass and hoe down ditties. A unique component of the yearly shows is the introduction of young talent who strut their stuff, sharing the spotlight with the veterans, thereby assuring future cast requirements.
The Club built the Fisherville Community Centre, a large, modern, well equipped facility (the site of the yearly Variety Show) which is also home to many area events. Big city entertainment comes to the heart of rich farm land, fullfilling the aim of the Fisherville District Lions Club which roars with its slogan, “Help Lions Help Others”.
I’ll be there next year!
Written by: Alex Reynolds