You can’t be anything but excited to hear that a major motion picture on Hank Williams with significant funding and the involvement of Universal Studios is in the works.
Two companies, 821 Entertainment Group and Striker Entertainment will produce the biopic which will be offered to Universal for actual production.
This sounds like the kind of financial heft and depth which could see Hank Williams get the same treatment recently offered to Ray Charles and Johnny Cash.
The key to putting the deal together appears to be the support of the Hank Williams’ estate represented by Hank Williams Jr and Jett Williams. Of course the two came together to bring the ‘Unreleased Recordings’ based on the Mother’s Best radio shows to the public for the first time last fall, and that was a respectful, classy, impressive 3 CD release.
Personally, I’m disappointed that the intellectual and artistic control of the picture will be under handed over to Colin Escott. Escott is doubtless the number one scholar and author on the life and works of Hank Williams. He’s written the most comprehensive biography: ‘Hank Williams: The Biography’ on which the movie will be based. Escott has also written liner notes for numerous Hank Albums includingt the recent ‘Unreleased’ and other articles, books, and TV shows including the PBS special. Escott will be associate producer of the new film.
My problem is that, in my opinion, Escott has greatly overplayed the negative aspects of Hank Williams’ life. Everybody and their uncle was apparently more than willing to tell an unsavory, salacious story about Hank. Every single one seems to have made it into Escott’s books. I prefer the statement from Don Helms who said he did not recognize the Hank Williams he knew for so many years, in any of the Hank Williams biographies he read.
Hank Jr has also stated that he doesn’t believe it was all gloom and doom portrayed in the Hank Biographies. I like this quote from, ironically, Colin Escott’s book ‘Snapshots from the Lost Highway’:
Some people had the misconception that Daddy was rolling and lolling in sorrow, or lived with the whiskey bottle in his hand 24 hours a day, and that’s not the way it was. . . . You can hear anything, you can read anything, but if you sit down and listen to his albums, you will know him and you can make own analysis. Just listen, you don’t need anyone to explain anything to you.
To me the tide is starting to turn: The debauchery trumps artistry portrayal is diminishing. I hope Hank’s status as an artist will triumph over the endless stories in this new movie.
I am hopeful that the involvement and cooperaton of the Hank Williams’ estate willl bring to the project the professionalism and style and class we saw in the ’The Unreleased Recordings’. The involvement of the Hank Williams’ estate also means the original Hank Williams recordings can be used in the production.
That being said, I like the quotes from one of the producers, Marc Abraham:
“It is hard to measure the excitement I feel and. . . the sense of responsibility,” he said. He added, “I have loved Hank Williams’ music from the time I was a small kid growing up in Kentucky. I truly believe that a story based on the pain and glory of Hank Williams’ life – one of America’s greatest artists – can be a thrilling motion picture and at the same time, it can examine the power and influence of art and music in our lives.
The offical press release quotes Colin Escott but it’s hard to make much from his quote:
Hank Williams’ life and career almost demand to be made into a movie, and I feel that the team associated with this production can deliver the Hank Williams movie we’ve always wanted to see.”
As I reported earlier a film maker from Alabama is also planning Hank Williams movie.
And of course I recall watching a film called ‘Your Cheatin Heart’ way back in 1964 starring George Hamilton which soon disappeared from sight due to legal wrangling within the Hank Williams’ estate. I see the movie is apparently for sale on the internet in DVD format.
The tell the truth at the time I thought George did a pretty good job of portraying Hank. No accounting for taste I guess.
But seriously, this is all good, and will do wonders for Hank Williams’ place in musical history if it is done well. But I still wish they werre using the late Paul Hemphill biography ‘Lovesick Blues’ plus some of the memoirs left by Don Helms and others to portray the real Hank Williams.
Oh well, now we can settle back and speculate who among the current crop of Hollywood stars would make the best Hank Williams. And how will Audrey, Billy Jean, and Hank’s mother be treated in the latest version of Hank’s life, and the one that will, for better or worse, become the official version of Hank’s life for millions of people and will endure for years into the future?