When people think of Johnny Cash’s wife, their minds immediately go to June Carter. This is not surprising as she played a big role in the Man in Black’s career. She has also been portrayed favorably in movies.
My Darling Vivian examines the life of Cash’s first wife. Forgotten to history or shown in a negative light, Vivian Liberto was married to Cash for thirteen years. Despite the time together, she has become little more than a footnote in the musician’s life.
The film is filled with great interviews. The couple’s four daughters all give frank accounts of growing up with one of music’s most important figures. In many documentaries, talking heads are used to validate information and give different points of view. This tends to add tension and conflict.
These serve a different purpose in My Darling Vivian. The interviews are more like retellings than question and answer sessions. Sometimes, the recollections are a little different, but all the daughters share the same feelings. It is like a group of friends getting together and talking about the past.
As much as the documentary is about Cash’s career it is also about correcting the narrative regarding Liberto. As expected, the four daughters speak lovingly of their mother. They have fond memories and constantly have smiles on their faces as they look back on the past.
While no one ever speaks blatantly ill of Carter, they do make sure to put things in perspective. Movies and music historians have painted Cash’s second wife as an instrumental part of his music career. She is also seen as a person who helped him get his life together.
Cash and Lovato‘s daughters do not dispute any of this. Instead, they talk about how Carter’s accomplishments are overstated. These moments are very interesting. Nothing is done out of spite and the daughters speak from the heart. It adds context and legitimacy to everything they are saying.
Johnny Cash is one of the most imposing figures in music history. His life and career have reached mythical status. It is surprising that so little is discussed about his first wife. My Darling Vivian is an touching portrait that attempts to rectify that.