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Walk the Line

August 30, 2015

WTLJohnny Cash was one of rock and roll’s original pioneers. Elvis Presley is considered the king of rock and roll but Cash rivals him in terms of success and influence in American music.

Walk the Line begins in 1944 with Johnny the younger of two brothers, raised in poverty on a cotton farm in Arkansas. The son of an angry and often drunk man, Johnny lives in the shadow of his brother Jack, who is the “good” child, a committed Christian, obedient and planning to become a preacher when he grows up. Johnny, on the other hand, is already a rebel, listening to music on the radio and dreaming of a future outside of his lowly upbringing. In a tragic accident, Jack is killed and his father declares, “The devil did this. He took the wrong son.” This experience shaped and scarred Johnny’s life.

The film begins and ends with Johnny’s concert at Folsom prison Here the film comes full circle. The resurrection of Cash’s life and career began at Folsom. He learned to stop trying to beat his addictions on his own and had to admit his weaknesses and failings. His admission of brokenness made him all the more appealing to his fans. He told Rolling Stone in an interview in 2000, “There is a spiritual side of me that goes real deep, but I confess right up front that I’m the biggest sinner of them all.”

A result of Cash’s new Christian commitment was his desire to comfort prisoners. He became the “man in black” dressing in black in order to highlight his allegiance to the poor, the outcast and the prisoners.

Walk the Line is a love story. Cash’s journey is one of self-awareness. He had to come to grips with the troubling circumstances of his childhood, the often negative consequences of his choices, with temptation and failure. By the end of his life, Cash was a new man, set free by love – the love of his wife, June Carter, her love for him, and God’s love for them both.

Other themes are: faith, career, brokenness, guilt, forgiveness, family and relationships.

WTL2Quotations:

 Jerry Lee Lewis: God gave us a great big apple, see, and He said don’t touch it. He didn’t say touch it once in a while; He didn’t say take a nibble when you’re hungry; He said don’t touch it! Don’t think about touchin’it, don’t sing about touchin’ it, don’t think about singin’ about touchin’ it!
Record Company Executive: Your fans are church folk, Johnny. Christians. They don’t wanna hear you singing to a bunch of murderers and rapists, tryin’ to cheer ’em up.
Johnny Cash: [pause] Well, they’re not Christians, then.
Johnny Cash: [Performing at Folsom Prison] Now, I’d like to remind you all that we’re recording live, so you can’t say “hell” or “shit” or anything like that!
June Carter: [to Johnny] You got a hitch in your giddy-up?
Johnny Cash: [after collapsing on stage from a drug overdose] Fortunately I keep my feathers numbered for just such an emergency.
Young J.R.: [to Young Jack] How come you’re so good?
Young Jack Cash: [laughs] I aint!
Young J.R.: You pick 5 times more than me.
Young Jack Cash: Well, I’m bigger than you are.
Young J.R.: You know every story in the scripture.
Young Jack Cash: Well, you know every song in mama’s hymnal!
Young J.R.: Songs are easy.
Young Jack Cash: [laughs] It ain’t for me.
Young J.R.: There’s more words in the bible than in the Heavenly Highway Hymns.
Young Jack Cash: Look, J.R., if I’m going to be a preacher one day, I gotta know the bible front to back. I mean, you can’t help nobody if you can’t tell them the right story.
Johnny Cash: [looking at Vivian [singing]
Johnny Cash: I’m not the one you want babe, I’ll only let you down.

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