Friday, June 19, 2020


Streaming this weekend...

My Darling Vivian--This documentary portrait of Vivian Liberto, the breathtaking, exotically beautiful, atrociously maligned first wife of Johnny Cash, is told by their four daughters. Rashomon-style, talking heads Roseanne, Kathy, Cindy and Tara each recount, with different perspectives and faintly different tinges of bitterness and perplexity but all with candor and palpable love, the story of their parents' turbulent marriage and its long aftermath.

Though she looked like the sort of woman required to fling herself into a volcano to appease the gods, Vivian was by this account a traditional, private San Antonio Catholic girl. She adored her husband, but never bargained for a life in the public eye, and certainly not for a life raising four daughters mostly by herself, while her pillhead husband disappeared for months on tour; where she was the target of a hate campaign by racist groups because they thought (erroneously, not that it matters) that she was African-American; and where she would later be a barely-acknowledged footnote in the story of her ex-husband's great love affair with June Carter, who was given to publicly claiming Vivian's daughters as if they were her own.

This dramatic, painful story is smoothly and efficiently presented by director Matt Riddlehoover and produced by Cash grandson Dustin Tittle. It's packed with vivid early photos and film footage, and is obviously a must for Cash fanatics. But the central figure remains enigmatic; an extraordinarily vibrant camera subject, yet a somehow recessive personality. Her life was richly documented but her inner thoughts were not; her most heartfelt letter went unmailed, and only at the very end of this film do we get to hear her speak a few words.

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