Sunday, January 03, 2010

"Crazy Heart"

Jeff Bridges' star turn in "Crazy Heart" as downtrodden country music legend Bad Blake has been earning the veteran actor some of the most glowing reviews of his career, from writers who have invoked the names of many real-life musicians in their assessments of Bridges' portrayal of the fictional Blake.

"Peering into that face, you'd swear it's Kris Kristofferson," Mary Pols wrote in Time magazine.

Rolling Stone's Peter Travers suggested that "Bad is an outlaw combo of Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard."

And in the New York Times’ review, A.O. Scott noted that during the film, "You hear songs by Townes van Zandt and Waylon Jennings, and you may also think of Willie Nelson and some others. As for Mr. Bridges: He can't help it if he looks like Kris Kristofferson and sounds a little like David Allan Coe."

Few, however, have zeroed in on the Country Music Hall of Fame member who actually inspired the creation of Bad Blake in Thomas Cobb's 1987 novel: Hank Thompson. "I used to be a country music writer," Cobb told me after flying out from his home in Rhode Island to attend the film's star-studded premiere in Beverly Hills. "This was in Houston, and I went to cover a show one night -- it was an arena show with Conway Twitty, and Hank Thompson opened for him."

Thompson was best known for his 1952 hit "The Wild Side of Life," which topped the country chart for 15 weeks, and had a remarkably long career, placing records on the country charts in five decades, from 1948 to 1983. He toured tirelessly, upwards of 200 to 250 shows a year until shortly before he died at age 82 in 2007.

--Randy Lewis

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