Monday, January 02, 2012

Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?

Category:  News

One of the best-kept secrets of late 2011 was the fact that there was a movie released dealing with the final hours of Hank Williams' life.  After watching the trailer, I'm inclined to believe that's not a bad thing.

The film, The Last Ride, was given a limited release in October.  A wider release is promised for early 2012.  Maybe a better way to put it is, "A wider release is threatened for early 2012."  One of the comments about the film at the Hank Williams Journal blog site said, "This trailer appears to allude to a film that would be best served debuting on the Lifetime Channel."

We should never expect fact when dealing with a biopic.  I learned that at a very early age after seeing Houdini starring Tony Curtis:  the conclusion of the film shows Houdini drowning in an unsuccessful attempt to escape a Chinese water torture chamber, when in reality Houdini died of peritonitis.  Peritonitis apparently isn't as cinematic as drowning, so throw reality out the window.

Having said that, when a company claims a movie is "fact-based," they need to either (a) make things factual or (b) clarify with an asterisk that their definition of "fact-based" means that one character in the film actually existed.  Based on the trailer (and that is all I have to go on at the moment, I will admit) I think the latter is the case.  It has been well-documented that Hank had to be dragged out of his hotel room at the Andrew Johnson Hotel in Knoxville for the trip to Canton, Ohio for a New Year's day show with Homer & Jethro and Hawkshaw Hawkins, leading many to speculate that Williams was already dead before he left Knoxville.  (A number of friends of mine, all far more educated in all things Hiram K. Williams than I'll ever be, all dispute this fact.)  If he was in various stages of unconsciousness in Knoxville it's a safe bet he wasn't sitting in the back seat, firing guns at pick-up trucks as they passed.

The movie really seems to be more of the story of the driver (Charles Carr) than Hank Williams, and Hank is just part of the backdrop, like the car or the scenery.  And let me emphasize story, as in fiction.  Reading Charles Carr's account of the real "last ride," there were no guns being shot, no threats of violence, and definitely no time to stop and dance, drink and put in the obligatory sex scenes.  The reason Carr was hired in the first place was to get Hank to two shows, one in Charleston, West Virginia and the other in Canton, Ohio.  The weather was bad and they were on a strict deadline -- and this was before the advent of the interstate highway system that makes getting from point A to point B a breeze.

So, based on comments and the trailer, I have to say Hank Williams has yet again been dealt a dirty hand by a "biopic."  He deserves better.  So do the fans.


busgal said...

Can you say
Walk the Line or The Buddy Holly Story?

Will this be worse then the 1965 Kutzman(?) bomb Your Cheatin Heart?

Raizor's Edge said...

There are factual errors in both but they're both so grounded in the truth that the errors (e.g., everybody knows it was the Surf Ballroom where Holly played his last concert) don't overwhelm the movie. If you watch the trailer for The Last Ride you get a sense of a Star Wars-like fantasy world, not a truthful (or close to truthful) representation of Hank's final hours.

And that's the problem. This looks to be more along the lines of the wishful-thinking Hank Williams: The Concert He Never Gave than "a fact-based account" of the final hours Hank was on this earth. If they want a wild man, hell-raising, womanizer for a film they can always do a movie on Faron Young...and they wouldn't have to embellish anything, they'd probably have to tone it down!