- Walk the Line
name = Walk the Line
James Keach Cathy Konrad
Gill Dennis James Mangold
Reese Witherspoon Ginnifer Goodwin Robert Patrick
20th Century Fox
November 18, 2005
runtime = 135 min.
budget = $28,000,000
gross = $186,438,883
language = English
amg_id = 1:306598
imdb_id = 0358273
"Walk the Line" is a 2005 American biographical
drama film, directed by James Mangoldand based on the life of country singer-songwriter Johnny Cash. The film stars Joaquin Phoenix, Reese Witherspoon, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Robert Patrick.
The film focuses on Cash's younger life, his romance with June Carter, and his ascent to the country music scene, with material taken from his autobiographies. "Walk the Line's" production budget is estimated to have been US$28,000,000. [ [http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=walktheline.htm Walk the Line (2005) ] ]
The film previewed at the
Telluride Film Festivalon September 4, 2005, and went into wide release on November 18. This film was nominated for five Academy Awardsincluding Best Actor ( Joaquin Phoenix) and Best Actress ( Reese Witherspoon). Witherspoon won the Oscar for Best Actress, the film's sole Oscar winner.
August 22, 2006, the film had grossed a total of $186,438,883 worldwide. On February 28, 2006, a single-disc DVDand a two-disc collector edition DVD were released; these editions sold three million copies on their first day of release. [ [http://www.movieweb.com/dvd/news/39/11339.php Walk the Line Sells 3 Million it's First Day ] ] On March 25, 2008 a two-disc 'extended cut' DVD was released for region one. The feature on disc one is 17 minutes longer than the theatrical release, and disc two features eight extended musical sequences with introductions and documentaries about the making of the film.
The film details
Johnny Cash's life from his growing up as the son of a cottonpicker in Dyess, Arkansas, dealing with the death of his brother, his drug addiction, subsequent rescue by future wife June Carter, and his famous concert at Folsom State Prison.
The film opens
in medias reswith an exterior shot of Folsom Prison in 1968. The grounds are quiet except for the faint sound of music. Two guards on their tower peer at the main building. As we slowly approach the main building, the music begins to increase in volume. The camera tracks past empty cells and halls as the music becomes louder and more distinct; now cheering can be heard. Finally we see the source of the cheering: an audience of inmates for Johnny Cash's band, which is playing a vamp. In the next shot, a table sawrests on a table as a hand casually strokes the blade. After repeated calls, we are made aware that the hand is that of Johnny Cash. (Later we learn that the voice calling him onstage is that of the prison warden.)
In the next scene, it's 1944 and Cash is a boy. (His legal name was "J. R. Cash", as he did not adopt the name "John" until entering the Air Force.) He and his brother Jack are listening to the radio; the 15-year-old
June Carteris singing.
Early in the movie, Cash and Jack discuss their respective strengths and weaknesses with regard to the
Bibleand hymns. Jack, who is training to become a pastor, and therefore "needs to know the Bible front to back," is much better at recalling the words and stories of the Bible. J.R., who can sing well like his mother, is adept with the hymns they sing at church. A few scenes later, Jack is sawing wood on a job for a neighbor with J.R. when J.R. abruptly announces that the task is boring. With Jack's permission, he leaves to go fishing. As he walks home later, he is intercepted by his father, Ray, who has visibly fresh blood stains on his overalls. "Where you been?" asks Ray. Jack has been fatally injured in an accident with the saw. J.R.'s relationship with Ray, already strained, becomes much more difficult after Jack's death. He often yells at J.R., telling him that "the devil took the wrong son."
In 1952, J.R. joins the United States Air Force and is posted to
Germany. He seems not to enjoy his time there, but finds solace in playing a guitar he buys and writing songs - one of which will become " Folsom Prison Blues," inspired by a B-movie shown to the troops, " Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison". Following his discharge, he marries his girlfriend Vivian Liberto.
In 1955, Vivian and John (as he is now generally known) live in Memphis in relative poverty while John works as a
door-to-door salesmanto support his growing family (Cash's eldest daughter Rosanne is an infant, and Vivian mentions "another one on the way"). One day, he walks past a recording studioand has an inspiration to organize a band (made up of guitarist Luther Perkinsand bassist Marshall Grant, whom his wife describes as "two mechanics who can't hardly play") to play gospel music.
Cash's band auditions for
Sam Phillips, the owner of Sun Records. As they play a pedestrian gospel song ("I Was There When It Happened"), Phillips interrupts and asks Cash to play a song that he really "feels." Although his bandmates do not know the tune, he strikes up " Folsom Prison Blues." Cash begins the song hesitantly in the style of a slow, mournful blues tune, the way that he originally wrote it. However, as the song progresses and Cash gains confidence, the song picks up and the familiar "freight train" rhythm begins to assert itself as he picks up the tempo. Everyone in the room brightens as they realize that Cash now has something good and potentially marketable. The performance results in a contract, in fulfilment of which Cash begins touring in 1955 (as Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two) with other young Sun artists. Among those he meets on the tour - along with Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins(no relation to Luther Perkins), Waylon Jenningsand Elvis Presley- is June Carter, who performs as both a singer (although she claims to have no talent) and a comedienne.
Cash's career goes from strength to strength, and he finds himself spending more time with June, who divorces her husband at this time. After his romantic intentions are rebuffed one night in rural Texas in 1956, Cash is offered drugs and alcohol and soon begins to behave erratically.
On a subsequent tour, in 1958, June tells him (and many of the other artists on the tour) at one point that they cannot "walk the line," prompting Cash to write "
I Walk the Line." The erratic behaviour peaks one night when Cash invites June on stage to sing a duet. Cash suggests a love song ("Time's A Wastin'") which June recorded with her first husband Carl Smith(whom she has recently divorced). She feels uncomfortable performing it with Cash, but he ignores her protests and kisses her in the middle of the performance. She storms off the stage and they go their separate ways, despite Cash's protest that "it was only a song."
In 1964, the still addicted Cash (his father tells him that he would do well to start "sleeping at night...or eating...or both") takes his wife to an awards program which June also attends. Despite his wife's objections to the level of interest he is paying her, Cash persuades June (who is divorcing her second husband, a stock car driver) to come out of semi-retirement and tour with him.
The tour is a great success (June is shown performing "
Wildwood Flower" solo, and, with Cash, the hits "Jackson" and " It Ain't Me Babe"), but backstage Cash's wife is critical of June's influence. After one Las Vegas performance in 1965, Cash and June sleep together in her hotel room. The next morning, as June is on the phone with one of her daughters, she notices Cash taking several pills and begins to doubt the wisdom of continuing the previous night's relationship. At that evening's concert, Cash, upset by Carter's apparent rejection, is incoherent during his customary "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash" opening, forgets the lyrics to the song "I Got Stripes," loses control of the microphone stand, kicks out the footlights, and ultimately passes out. The remainder of the tour is cancelled. The distraught June disposes of Cash's drugs and begins to write "Ring of Fire", describing her feelings for Cash and her pain at watching him descend into addiction.
On his way home, Cash travels to Mexico to purchase more drugs and is busted in
El Paso, Texas. Vivian is not pleased, however, and between his substance abuse and her awareness of his interest in June, the tensions in Cash's marriage rise when he tries to put up "pictures of my band" (most of which seem to be of June) at home over his wife's objections. After a final violent dispute, the pair separate and Cash moves to Nashville, where he shares living quarters with Waylon Jennings( Shooter Jennings) in 1966.
Cash tries to reconcile with June, which involves a long walk to her house (his car is in the shop and he has no cash to reclaim it). He is sent on his way, with June informing him that she misses her "old friend John" and doesn't like "this new guy, Cash." On the way back he collapses in the rain. After coming round the next day he sees a large house near a lake in
Hendersonville, Tennesseeand promptly buys it. His parents, and the extended Carter family (June, her daughters and her parents, Maybelle and Ezra) arrive for Thanksgiving, at which time the ever-critical Cash Sr. dismisses Cash's achievements and behavior, citing as an example of Cash's carelessness an expensive tractor stuck in the mud in view of the house. After a tense meal, Cash decides to prove his father wrong by freeing the tractor. June and her family watch in concern as Cash struggles with the machine; June's mother, apparently aware of her daughter's true feelings toward Cash, encourages her to go help him, because "he's mixed up." June at first refuses, but runs to Cash's aid when the tractor, in reverse, goes into the lake. Under the influence of the Carters (which extends to June's parents, shotgunsin hand, chasing away Cash's drug dealer), Cash cleans himself up.
Stabilized, Cash notices in fan mail that many of his fans are prisoners, dresses in his customary black, visits his recording company (now
Columbia Records) and makes a proposal to record an album live inside Folsom Prison. His record company is doubtful, arguing that the musical world has changed in the time Cash was rehabilitating, but he says bluntly that he will perform on a given date and the label can use the tapes if they think the music is any good.
At this point the film returns to the opening scene with the warden speaking to Cash in 1968. The warden requests that Cash not play any more songs that would remind the inmates that they are in prison. Cash laughs wryly and replies, "You think they forgot?"
At the Folsom Prison concert Cash tells how he always admired prisoners, explaining that his brief prison stay after his drug bust really made him "feel like I'd seen a thing or two, you know?" But, he continues, he now realizes his experiences really can't compare because "I ain't never had to drink this yellow water you got here at Folsom!" Performing "
Cocaine Blues" to great acclaim from the prisoners, the concert is a great success, and Cash embarks on a tour with June and his old band.
The scene changes to a tour bus in the dead of night - still 1968. Cash, disturbed by "bad dreams...memories," goes to see June in the back of the bus. (On his way he removes a cigarette from the mouth of a sleeping
Luther Perkins, who in real life died around this time when his house caught fire; in his biography Cash said he believed Luther Perkins' house fire was caused by a cigarette.) Waking June at 2 AM, he proposes to her, but she turns him down. Cash tells her that that was the last time; June tersely replies, "Good." and that she doesn't like "re-runs". At the concert, June tells Cash that he is allowed to speak to her only on stage.
The concert features "Ring of Fire", for which Cash acknowledges June. He then persuades her to join him in a duet of "Jackson". In the middle of the song, Cash breaks off; June looks concerned. Cash explains that he "just can't sing this song any more" unless she agrees to marry him. June is reluctant to give an answer, but Cash continues with his proposal::"Now I've asked you forty different ways and it's time you come up with a fresh answer...I'm asking you to marry me. I love you, June. Now I know I said and done a lotta things—that I hurt you—but I promise, I'll never do that again. I only want to take care of you. I will not leave you like that Dutch boy with your finger in the dam...You're my best friend. "Marry me"."June tearfully agrees, and after a long embrace the scene fades to the deck of Cash's home in Hendersonville. Cash watches his father interact with his newest daughters Rosie and Carlene. He jokes with his father, their tense relationship having apparently begun to heal. The final shot shows Cash continuing down the stairs to the pier, looking up, and meeting June's eyes where she is fishing with her father. They look at each other and Cash smiles and the frame freezes; the scene then changes to footage of the couple performing together, with brief biographical information about
Johnny Cashand June Carter Cashsuperimposed over it.
Critics generally responded with positive reviews, garnering an 83% on
Rotten Tomatoes[ [http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/walk_the_line/ Walk the Line - Movie Reviews, Trailers, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes ] ] , almost exactly the same score received by "Ray" [ [http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/ray/ Ray - Movie Reviews, Trailers, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes ] ] , a biopicabout Ray Charles, to which the film is often compared.
Baltimore Sun" reviewer Michael Sragowwrote, "What Phoenix and Witherspoon accomplish in this movie is transcendent. They act with every bone and inch of flesh and facial plane, and each tone and waver of their voice. They do their own singing with a startling mastery of country music's narrative musicianship." [cite news|title=A 'Walk' to see and remember|author=Michael Sragow|publisher=Baltimore Sun|date= November 18, 2005]
Phoenix's performance inspired notable film critic
Roger Ebertto write, "Knowing Johnny Cash's albums more or less by heart, I closed my eyes to focus on the soundtrack and decided that, yes, that was the voice of Johnny Cash I was listening to. The closing credits make it clear it's Joaquin Phoenix doing the singing, and I was gob-smacked." [cite news|title=Reviews: Walk the Line|url=http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051117/REVIEWS/51107006/1023|author=Roger Ebert|date= November 18, 2005|publisher=Chicago Sun-Times]
Some, including "Las Vegas Weekly" reviewer Jeffrey M. Anderson, believed the film suffered from having important events distilled into meaningless and unrealistic circumstances. Anderson also accused director Mangold of "stretch [ing] and dilut [ing] the core story until it resembles less a great man's life than a TV movie of the week." [cite news|title=Cash on Demand |url=http://www.lasvegasweekly.com/content/fileadmin/oldsite/2005/11/17/screen.html|author=Jeffrey M. Anderson|publisher=Las Vegas Weekly|date=2005-11-17] [see also Harsin "Walking the Fine Line" http://www.brightlightsfilm.com/52/walk.htm]
Some events in the film were compressed or altered when compared with those described in :
*Some critics have disputedFact|date=February 2007 the extent of the enmity between Johnny Cash and his father. The film portrays his father as blaming Johnny for going fishing the day Jack had his fatal accident. In his autobiography, Johnny wrote that he, Jack, and their mother all had a premonition earlier that day. Both Johnny and his mother urged Jack to go fishing with Johnny, but Jack insisted on going to work, as the family needed the money. It is true that Ray picked Johnny up along the road as shown in the film. Johnny only said that his father ordered him into the car, not with an accusatory "Where you been?" However, Johnny actually had only a couple of pages in his book that talked about his father, whom he called an "
enigma" and described some incidents of near-physical violence. He also said that his father became a much gentler man as he got older, which is suggested in one of the final scenes in the film in which he plays with his grandchildren. Also, Ray was actually in attendance and introduced to the audience at the famous Folsom Prisonconcert, which was not shown in the film.
*Cash actually created the song "Folsom Prison Blues" based on both the film "Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison" and musician-arranger- conductor
Gordon Jenkinscomposition "Crescent City Blues," appropriating the melody and some of the lyrics. During his Air Forcestint, Cash owned the Jenkins LP "Seven Dreams" that included the song. In 1969, Jenkins, admired for his orchestrations and arrangements for Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatraand others, prepared to sue for copyright infringement but a settlement was reached in which they shared composer credit.
*The scene in which
Tennessee Twobass player Marshall Grantdetonates a home-made bomb on a tree was a condensation of the pre-drug abuse carrying-on of Cash and his musicians during long tours. In addition to pyrotechnics, the group also rearranged motel furniture. Cash was known to paint hotel rooms black and saw the legs off tables and chairs, cheerfully paying the damages when caught.
*The film did not explain that Cash wrote the song "Rock and Roll Ruby" (recorded by Sun artist
Warren Smith). It also ignored the fact that Cash suggested to his friend Carl Perkinsthat he write the song "Blue Suede Shoes," based on a black airman Cash knew in Germany who jokingly claimed his Air Force standard issue shoes were really suede shoes while speaking to Cash about going out dancing during his weekend off base.
*As bad as Cash's addiction to
amphetamineswas portrayed in the film, it only hints at how bad it got over his 10-year binge. His actual detoxification, presided over by June and her family, occurred after Cash had emerged from a cave into which he had wandered, hoping to die and never be found. In the film he is often shown drinking beer as a "chaser" to the pills, which was true, as the beer tempered the effect of the pills to an extent.
*The film did not credit the man who supervised June's and her family's oversight of Cash's detoxification:
Nat Winston, who was Tennessee Mental Health Commissioner at the time. Cash credited Winston as well as June's family for overseeing his treatment though he later relapsed.
*According to Cash, his first marriage was on the rocks before he became seriously involved with June. He was very candid about having "wrecked" his first marriage due largely to his addiction to pills. Vivian refused to grant him a divorce for a number of years, but after the bizarre cave incident she decided that she had had enough.
*Cash's prison concerts were not a novelty in 1968, as he had been doing such shows at prisons since the late 1950s. It is true that there was a dispute among his record producers about doing a live concert album on his next visit to Folsom Prison, although some of them were supportive. The movie did not mention Columbia Records producer
Bob Johnston, who was the person Cash consulted to record a prison concert, and who lined up the recording session at Folsom
*During his first audition for
Sam Phillips' Sun Records, Phillips rejects the song "I Was There When It Happened" explaining "Sorry, I can't market gospel anymore". Two years later, however, Phillips relented and allowed the band to record that song. Yet, Sam Phillips' refusal to allow Cash to record the amount of gospel that he desired to was one of the major factors that led to him moving to Columbia (as can be read in "Cash: The Autobiography"). Also, this same scene depicts the band as having no other prepared material besides the gospel number, which was not true. "Hey Porter" was the song Phillips first liked, then backed the single with "Cry, Cry, Cry". "Folsom Prison Blues" was recorded later that same year.
*The framing device of using the table saw in the Folsom Prison wood shop to inspire Cash's memories of his brother's death (and thereby showing that most of the movie is told as a
flashback) was not accurate, as the performers waited in the prison's kitchen before coming on stage.
*While Cash did several mid-50s package tours with
Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkinsand Jerry Lee Lewis, he never toured with all of them on the same bill. Elvis left Sun Recordswell before Jerry Lee Lewis arrived in 1957.
*The existence of
The Statler Brothersis apparently ignored completely. Cash hired them in the mid-'60s to travel with his show, and they were present at the Folsom Concert (just not in the film.)
There is also some debate over the origins of the song "I Walk The Line". According to the sleeve notes in "Ring Of Fire: The Legend of Johnny Cash", written by
Rich Kienzle, the song was actually written in response to his wife's jealousy over the threat of groupies.
Witherspoon's performance was repeatedly recognized, including an
Academy Award for Best Actressand awards such as the following:
BAFTA Awardas Best Actress
*Broadcast Film Critic Award as Best Actress
Golden Globe Awardas Best Actress - Musical or Comedy
National Society of Film CriticsAward as Best Actress
Online Film Critics Societyaward as Best Actress
*Satellite Award as Best Actress - Musical or Comedy
*Screen Actors Guild Award as Best Actress
Man in Black"
* [http://www.walkthelinedvd.com/ Official website]
* [http://www.dvd-forum.at/272/schnittbericht_detail.htm Comparison inbetween the original theatrical release and the extended cut]
*imdb title|id=0358273|title=Walk the Line
*amg title|id=1:306598|title=Walk the Line
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