Walking the Line
Courtesy of Netflix we just had the chance to see "Walk the Line". We thoroughly enjoyed it on many levels. As you probably know by now, Reese Witherspoon won last year's best actress oscar for her enactment of "June Carter Cash"...a role she was born to play. She nailed it in so many ways. In the final credits you can hardly tell the difference between her voice and the real June's voice. She is such a sweet "southern lady" both in real life and the one she plays. Joaquin Phoenix was also nominated for his role as "Johnny Cash" and they say he learned to play the guitar and sing for the role. He certainly had all his mannerisms down. My wife said it must've been hard for him to play the "adictive parts" especially because in real life his brother(?) River Phoenix died from an overdose.
"Among the pantheon of great country singers, Johnny Cash may just be the most enigmatic. James Mangold's film distills Cash's transformation from man to icon -- from his hardscrabble days on an Arkansas farm to Sun Records in Memphis, Tenn. where he finally found a way for his talent to come into its own." His story resonates with me probably because of my roots with my father in rural Kentucky, coal mining country. As a child I visited my grandparents and his home in Wallinscreek, Harlan County. I saw them work the garden and chase a chicken around the yard for our dinner. I remember the wonderful morning bisquits and gravy; the nights on the front porch swing and catching fireflies. We listened to Cash's kind of music before his time. I rarely if ever heard my daddy sing it but his brothers and sisters did, all 10 of them. It was a sweeter, slower time where you got to go barefoot all summer and try to "smoke" "life everlasting weed". He caught and fried frog...legs for us. They tasted "just like chicken".
My first recollection of listening to a Johnny Cash hit was on the small radio always on in the basement/repair shop of the old Glendale Memorial Hospital. It had to be in '56 or '57 just before I graduated from H.S. I had gotten a "Maintenance Man Helper" job there after school because it was near to my house. Muriel Hanson's dad was the administrator there and he went to the L.A. Covenant Church where my folks knew him. I'd have various "clean-up" task in the shop or out in the rooms. The maintenance men, whose names I've forgotten, were country music fans and just had it on in the background. I was atuned to music/singing because I was in the school choir and madrigal singers. This was different music, not "sacred", kind of a "no-no" secular music for our family. What I remember was his distinct baritone sharpness and twang when he sang..."I walk the line"...and..."ring of fire" ("far" as he pronounced it) It had a catchy beat, infectious and easier to do a repetitive task to. One of my most memorable tasks was when they gave me a "hacksaw blade" and I had to go to each bed, table, cart etc. in the hospital that had casters (wheels) and pull that blade along the axles on either side and get out the accumulated gunk and hair and then clean it up. Yuk! Now that I think of it, not good, but then, it was a job and "great experience" for "future jobs and references" (Yes, that job got me an orderly job at the Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago while was a freshman at North Park) Again, our former pastor's wife, Mrs. Honnette was a nurse at that training hospital where the nurses were so young and demonstrably "loving". Anyway, early on I learned one meaning of "walking the line" by all the jobs and bosses I had. If you didn't "care" and do what you were told or expected to do, ie. "walk the line" you were out. I think I only got fired once, selling shoes for C.H. Baker, but then I quit. That was one of the main problems Johnny had, "walking the line"...(eventually it was the cell line in prison...and his big hit album from Folsum Prison) His was not only job related but wife, family and girl friend related. Just once in the movie did she "June" refer to his not "walking the line" or wanting to. His love for her and her eventual friendship and love for him is what saved him. They went on to have a long marriage, children. He died just 4 months after she did in 2003.
It is my belief, contention that many a good, successful man and/or marriage is because of the support of a "good woman". June Carter Cash was that to Johnny, but also a "teammate and friend" (first) He had a load of guilt in his life because his older brother, the favored one, was killed in an accident when he wasn't there. (off fishing and making up songs) His father never forgave him of that and so Johnny couldn't forgive himself. It took June and the Carter family and their "religion" to get him "right" This is what I mean by a "good woman". That was what was "right" back then. Even now, I think that the love and support of your life's mate and lover is "what keeps you going" through the rough spots. You've got to know that they are there for you no matter what. We all have our "flaws" and "hard to love" parts and that's why it is so important to "go the extra mile" for each other, ie. "in sickness and in health" Betty and I are doin' fine with this. Bob!