We watched Walk The Line this past weekend. Enjoyed the flick. Joaquin Phoenix was a great Johnny Cash. Reese Witherspoon, a favorite of mine, was a captivating June Carter. But we all commented on the missing ingredient in the move. Cash’s faith.
Sure there was the scene where Cash goes back to church after his battle with his addiction demons – but there wasn’t a heck of a lot more. And even the New York Times noticed:
Johnny Cash’s three enduring obsessions are summarized in the title of a Cash retrospective released by Sony in 2000: “Love, God, Murder.” But “Walk the Line,” the film about his life, deals prominently with just two of those three themes: it is a love story about Mr. Cash and June Carter that takes place before they were married, and it shows Mr. Cash onstage ripping through some of his songs about brutality and its consequences.
It makes for a more interesting story to show Mr. Cash as a philandering, addicted musician – carrying the burden of the death of his older brother – the one who was going to be a preacher. It makes for a more interesting story but 2/3rds of the truth is still prevaricating.
…faith had been a vital part of Mr. Cash’s life since he answered an altar call as a boy, according to “The Man Comes Around: The Spiritual Journey of Johnny Cash” by Dave Urbanski, and his beliefs gave a moral weight to his songs about outlaws and outcasts. He performed gospel music all his life and left Sun Records for Columbia in 1958 partly because Mr. Phillips would not allow him to record an album of hymns. At the famous Folsom Prison concert that serves as a framing device for the movie, Mr. Cash is shown performing “Cocaine Blues,” but Mr. Black pointed out that the show concluded with “Greystone Chapel,” a devotional song written by an inmate in the audience.
“He was a really committed Christian all his life,” said Patrick Carr, who co-wrote Mr. Cash’s 1997 autobiography. (The film was partly adapted from that book, but Mr. Carr was not part of the deal.) Mr. Cash even saw his drug addiction as his metaphorical years in the wilderness. “As he was going further into addiction, he knew he was traveling away from God; that’s how he thought about it,” Mr. Carr said. “He was feeling that he was completely separated from God, and that was the worst thing.”
Ignoring the huge audience in the fly-over states that identifies itself as Christian, Hollywood decided that that part of the story wasn’t cool. And we all know it’s more important to be cool than to be accurate. Right?