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Laramie Movie Scope: I Saw the Light

Loki Sings Hank Williams songs pretty well

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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October 29, 2021 – Hank Williams was one of the great American musical geniuses of the 20th Century, so who better to play him than a British actor best known for playing the trickster god Loki in a Marvel series and six movies? It turns out Tom Hiddleston (AKA Loki) does a good job in the role and even sings all the Hank Williams songs in this biopic.

This documentary-style biographical drama, based on the book “Hank Williams: The Biography” by Colin Escott, George Merritt, and William (Bill) MacEwen, features some fictionalized interviews with people who knew Williams. Bradley Whitford, plays the part of interviewee Fred Rose, of Acuff-Rose song publishing in Nashville, producer of Hank's records. The Rose interviews are scattered through the film, which also features some actual period news footage.

In the movie, Williams says that everyone has some darkness in them, and his songs (including “Cold, Cold Heart,” sung a capella by Hiddleston to open the film) reflect that. This movie focuses to a large extent on that darkness, as well as the essentially tragic nature of Williams' short life, making it a slow-moving downer.

Another actor famous from Marvel action movies, Elizabeth Olsen (AKA The Scarlet Witch) plays Hank's first wife, Audrey Sheppard. Their marriage (her second marriage, his first) in 1944 on a rainy night in a service station, offiated by a justice of the peace is the near the beginning of the movie. The ups and downs of their stormy marriage occupies much of the film.

Williams' strong-willed mother, Lillie Skipper Williams (played by Cherry Jones of “Ocean's Twelve”) provides strong support for Hank's musical career in the early days, along with his wife, who ends up clashing with him over who is in charge of this family musical operation. Audrey's own personal musical ambitions also cause tension in the family.

The movie makes a point about the importance of the influential radio show The Grand Ole Opry, and how much Williams wanted to be a member of that show. According to the movie, Williams was not invited to be a member of the Opry until he had recorded a number of hit songs. It also indicates that demands by Opry officials took a heavy toll on Williams. The movie follows Williams' career from his early days on radio station WSFA in Montgomery, Alabama to his rise to international stardom as a crossover country-pop icon.

I knew little about Williams' life before seeing this movie. Watching it, I was surprised to learn about the medical condition that caused him pain throughout his life. I thought that he had died in an auto accident, but that is not the case. I was also surprised to learn how young he was when he died. I was also shocked to hear that he wrote the early (1947) rock song “Move it on Over.” I was familiar only with the George Thorogood cover of this song before seeing this movie.

I watched the DVD of this movie, checked out from the county library, which includes a short documentary which includes some information on how Williams influenced famous singers who came after him, like Elvis Presley. I enjoyed this film and found it informative, even though it is an emotional downer. The acting is solid, and so is the music. This film rates a C+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2021 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]