Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Vivian Liberto, Johnny Cash's First Wife, Gets the Last Word in 'My Darling Vivian'

Can't rave enough about "My Darling Vivian," Matt Riddlehoover and Dustin Tittle's documentary about the other Mrs. Johnny Cash -- the drop-dead gorgeous one. Vivian Liberto was a deeply insecure 17-year-old from a strict Catholic family when she met and fell in love with Johnny Cash. Their romance lasted just three weeks before the Air Force deployed the 19-year-old future music legend to Germany for a three-year tour. After thousands of love letters, he returned to her native San Antonio where they married and became parents to the first two of their four daughters in less than two years. Johnny's career -- and dependence on drugs -- took off shortly thereafter, and things were never the same. Whether you're a Man in Black fan or not, you'll be moved by this raw but ultimately sympathetic look at a woman who was ill-equipped for what life -- and love -- brought her way.

And anyone from a large family -- I'm the adult child of an alcoholic with two older brothers and a younger sister -- will get a kick out of hearing how everyone has their own version of family history and, in a sense, the truth. Eldest daughter Rosanne comes off as the consummate cynic (the oldest is always the know-it-all -- and wait'll you hear what she has to say about stepdad Dick Distin!) while second child Kathy is the rye, sardonic, HILARIOUS one. Third in line, Cindy, strikes me as having been most hurt by the divorce, while baby Tara (the family sweetheart?) had a completely different experience as she never really knew her parents when they were truly together.

Vivian, who craved privacy above all else yet resented being erased from history, probably would not have been able to watch this warts-and-all examination of her life. (There's a scene involving her former son-in-law Rodney Crowell that was one of several that reduced me to tears.) But she no doubt would have appreciated that the record was finally set straight that it was she -- not Johnny's "savior" replacement bride -- who persevered and raised four beautiful daughters all but by herself.

The film was slated to premiere at South by Southwest, but because of the coronavirus crisis, it is showing on Amazon Prime for a limited time now.

Variety agrees, calling "My Darling Vivian" an exceptional documentary that separates fact from myth while telling the story of Johnny Cash’s first wife. Read HERE.


It's probably worth mentioning that director Matt Riddlehoover and producer Dustin Tittle are married, and that Dustin is the son of Kathy Cash. :-)


Dave in Texas said...

Thanks for sharing Kenneth!

Don said...

Great recommendation! I remember watching the Ken Burns country music documentary and being surprised to learn that she existed!