The country music-loving American public has been feeling a mite dubious about Tom Hiddleston, an admitted British person, playing Hank Williams in the upcoming biopic I Saw the Light. But a full trailer came out Tuesday, and now I very much fear I’m going to be forced to see this thing 15 times and cry every time.
The doubt over Hiddleston’s ability stemmed both from his essential Limey-ness, and also from this clip of him in character, singing “Hey Good Lookin’” after the movie premiered in Nasvhile back in October.
Hiddleston looks like a movie star, see: glowing with the good health only millions of dollars can provide, his tie unknotted artfully, his voice leaping playfully from his natural accent to a higher, smoother, less nasal intonation than the one Williams was famous for.
But then we have to revisit clips of Williams actually singing, and force ourselves to remember: Oh yeah, his stage act looked pretty cheesy for awhile there, didn’t it? We’re all used to seeing one particularly famous image of Williams, dressed in a sober brown suit, behind the microphone at Nashville radio station WSM, looking like the stonefaced patron saint of country.
But like a lot of Nashville stars of the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, Williams’ stage show was significantly glitzier, in the manner demanded at the time: blinding, rhinestoned, music-note-decorated white suits that hung awkwardly on his painfully thin frame, a set of knee-swiveling dance moves he never seemed quite at home in.
From the looks of the trailer, I Saw The Light might just get at that contrast, between the smooth-faced star on the rise, a family man playing for a genteel audience of wholesome young fans, and his drug problems, his marital problems, his lonely death in the back of a Cadillac, somewhere in West Virginia, sometime in the small hours of New Years Day 1953.
It’s an old song, yes, and one we’ve heard many times, from Johnny Cash to Tammy Wynette to Patsy Cline and even Elvis. But maybe we can listen to it just one more time.
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