OT: Hiddles as My Homeboy Hank. Tom plays ‘Hillbilly Shakespeare’

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While my fangurling heart is fully dedicated to only one charismatic Brit actor–RA, of course–I did note with interest the casting of Tom Hiddleston as Hiram King “Hank” Williams, Sr. in the upcoming film, “I Saw the Light” (the title of one of Hank’s hit songs). Today they released a still of Tom in character for the biopic.

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There’s a definite resemblance there, both men being tall, lanky fellows with enviable cheekbones and Puckish smiles.  But more importantly, Hiddleston seems to have captured that slightly haunted and world-weary look Hank had.

 

Hiddleston in character, a lone figure with his guitar. Courtesy of Bing.com

Hiddleston in character, a lone figure with his guitar. Courtesy of Bing.com

Hank was a naturally gifted musician who battled physical pain (believed to be caused by some form of spina bifida that was not discovered until his autopsy) much of his life–pain that led to his addiction to pills and alcohol. He was a country music superstar by 25 and dead by 29.

In his brief career he charted 35 times in the top ten, with 11 of Hank’s recordings hitting number one. You can’t help but wonder what he might have accomplished if he could have kept the demons of pain and addiction in check . . .

 

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Now, I am not a huge country music fan, per se, but I am a fan of Hank’s music since way back and I feel a certain connection to him. We were both born in Butler County, Alabama, September babies who arrived in this world some 37 years apart. I know folks and their descendants who remember him and his family. I’ve heard stories passed down of Hank’s childhood days in various towns and communities in the county. Hank’s daddy, a WW I veteran, had been shell-shocked. His poor health made it difficult to find steady work, so the family frequently moved in search of new opportunities, eventually moving to Alabama’s capital, Montgomery, the place where he is buried.

Every June, the town of Georgiana, where Hank and his family lived for several years, celebrates with a two-day Hank Williams Festival. I’ve met people there from as far away as Germany, South America, Japan and Nottingham, England. Documentarians from around the world have come to this town of 2,000 to film the event.

 

hanks boyhood home

Hank’s boyhood home in Georgiana also serves as a museum with many photographs, sheet music, furnishings and other items on display.

When he was just starting out with his own band, young Hank used to play at various juke joints and dance halls across the county. My mama and daddy remembered dancing to his live performances way back yonder, when “Hank was just another ol’ southern boy.”

I like to imagine a pretty young dark-haired woman, her grey-blue eyes sparkling and skirt and petticoat swirling as they swing danced to tune like “Move It On Over.”

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Hank meeting a young fan, Doug Sahm, at a club in Austin, Texas on Dec. 19, 1952. He would die at age 29 of a heart attack just under two weeks later.

 

When a film was made of his life back in the early ’60s (“Your Cheatin’ Heart”), my parents went to see it at the Ritz and they also bought the soundtrack album. I listened to it many times over the years.  Hank Williams, Jr. actually performed the songs on the soundtrack (and did an admirable job of channeling his daddy) with George Hamilton lip-syncing the performances.

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There was something simple and straightforward about Hank, Sr.’s music that I like, something raw and ever so emotive in his voice. From the high-spirited “Hey, Good Looking” to the haunting “Kawliga” and the wistful “I’m So Lonesome” he had a way of touching people’s hearts and souls with his music and mirroring their own feelings of delight and despair, happiness and heartache.  Much as really good actors do through their performances.

 

Tom practicing a few chords for the role. Courtesy of Geektyrant.com

Tom practicing a few chords for the role. Courtesy of Geektyrant.com

And so what if Hank woke up from an alcoholic stupor to be dazzled by the lights of an airport, leading him to pen “I Saw the Light”? It’s still an inspiring, jubilant song, and I actually got to sing it one year on the same stage of the Ga-Ana Theater where Hank and his Drifting Cowboys had performed in Georgiana decades before.

 

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Hank has been called the “Hillbilly Shakespeare.” So perhaps it is only fitting that a Shakespearean actor should also portray him on film.

 

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Tom on the set of “I Saw the Light.” Courtesy of Pinterest.com

Can’t wait to hear Tom’s south Alabama accent.

Lyrics to a few of my favorite Hank songs~~

 

I’m So Lonesome (I Could Cry)thX2G8LX5T

By Hank Williams, Sr.

I’ve never seen a night so long
When time goes crawling by.
The moon just went behind the clouds
To hide its face and cry.

Did you ever see a robin weep,
When leaves begin to die
That means he’s lost the will to live,
I’m so lonesome I could cry.

The silence of a falling star
Lights up a purple sky

And as I wonder where you are
I’m so lonesome I could cry.

Jambalaya (On The Bayou)thYG1XPVEA

By Hank Williams

Goodbye Joe me gotta go me oh my oh
Me gotta go pole the pirogue down the bayou
My Yvonne the sweetest one me oh my oh
Son of a gun we’ll have big fun on the bayou
Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and fillet gumbo
Cause tonight I’m gonna see my ma cher amio
Pick guitar fill fruit jar and be gay-o
Son of a gun we’ll have big fun on the bayou

Thibodaux Fontaineaux the place is buzzin’
Kinfolk come to see Yvonne by the dozen
Dress in style and go hog wild me oh my oh
Son of a gun we’ll have big fun on the bayou
Settle down far from town get me a pirogue
And I’ll catch all the fish in the bayou
Jambalaya and a crawfish pie

Later on, swap my mon, get me a pirogue
And I’ll catch all the fish on the bayou
Swap my mon, to buy Yvonne what she need-oh
Son of a gun we’ll have big fun on the bayou
Jambalaya and a crawfish pie

Hey, Good Lookin’thUPVR2VY7

By Hank Williams

Say hey, good lookin’ whatcha got cookin’?
How’s about cookin’ something up with me?
Hey, sweet baby don’t you think maybe
We can find us a brand new recipe?

I got a hot rod ford and a two dollar bill
And I know a spot right over the hill
There’s soda pop and the dancin’s free
So if you want to have fun come along with me.

Hey, good lookin’ whatcha got cookin’?
How’s about cookin’ something up with me?

I’m free and ready so we can go steady
How’s about saving all your time for me
No more lookin’ I know I been cookin’
How’s about keepin’ steady company?

I’m gonna throw my date book over the fence
And find me one for five or ten cents
I’ll keep it ’til it’s covered with age
‘Cause I’m writin’ your name down on ev’ry page.

Say hey, good lookin’ whatcha got cookin’?
How’s about cookin’ something up with me?

maxresdefaultI am counting on you to do just that, Mr. Hiddleston. I’d expect no less.

10 responses »

  1. Oh, thanks for the link! I am sure that was good practice for him. 😀
    Yeah, most people assume Hank was from the Montgomery area because he was buried there, but he was born down in Mt. Olive and spent most of his childhood in Butler County. Benny was surprised when he discovered I knew the lyrics to so many of Hank’s songs. I told him about listening to the soundtrack album repeatedly as a kid (I listened to everything from the Ink Spots and Lester Lanin’s Orchestra to folk music and Top 40, so I have eclectic tastes). I also suspect this film will be less “Hollywood-ized” than the ’63 version, which I would like.

  2. His songs were well known and popular when I was growing up way down in Trinidad. His influence is far reaching. I was really big on Tom until I met “the one.” (RA of course) <3. I still like him a lot though. Will definitely see this.

    • See, it is so cool for me to know that someone from my “stompin’ grounds” here in rural South Alabama has had such far-reaching influence in the world of music.  Tom is a fine actor and a charming, gentlemanly guy and I really do think he will do well in this role. I like the  fact he is doing his own singing (and guitar playing, too, it seems).

  3. He looks so different in that promo photo…they’ve done something to his eyes, not just the change of colour…makes him look really intriguing to me.

    I knew nothing about Hank Williams so what you’ve written is really interesting, thanks. I was already looking forward to seeing the film anyway because I’m quite a fan of Mr H and I’d seen the vids of him singing which got me interested. I understand that he spent a lot of time immersing himself in the music…working with Rodney Crowell who has spoken very highly of him, although apparently Hank William’s grandson has expressed his displeasure at the casting. Will be an interesting watch that’s for sure.

    • Well, I am glad it has sparked some interest.  I figured I might know more than the average TH fan would about the man he is portraying in this pic 😀

        I know what you mean about the eyes–it seems to be a difference beyond the brown contact lenses. Very intriguing.  As I said, he really does seem to have captured something of the essence of Hank.

      I went and watched some of the YT vids that Serv provided a link to and enjoyed hearing him perform with Crowell.

      As for Hank’s grandson, he probably would have preferred an American (and a southerner) in the role, but Brits have done just fine in such regional American characters  (Vivien Leigh as Katie Scarlett O’Hara, anyone?)

      • Your make an excellent point about Vivien Leigh. Hiddles being a great mimic will no doubt help him a lot. He seems to have a knack for voices. I do love to see how actors transform themselves so completely. Singing at the festival must have been huge for him…especially as that was early on in the process…very brave really.

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