FILMOCRACY FEST 2020 REVIEW! The mythology of singer/songwriter Johnny Cash has always been wrapped around his marriage to June Carter as an integral part of his life and times. It is a compelling story, an American romantic fairy tale.
There’s another chronicle about Johnny Cash that took place first, however. If June was the love of his adult life, then Cash’s first wife, Vivian, was the love of his youth. In 1951 Johnny met Vivian at a skating rink in San Antonio when she was a Catholic schoolgirl, and he was an airman in the U.S. Air Force. He was immediately besotted with her, and after he shipped out to Germany, they exchanged thousands of love letters. When he returned in 1954, they were married, and shortly after that, she was pregnant with the first of four daughters.
“Vivian’s life was a rollercoaster dealing with Johnny’s fame, drug use, and just one wild moment after another…”
When out on the road as his star was rising, Johnny Cash became accustomed to a cosmopolitan life of fame and excess, while his family stayed behind in a house he built in Casita Springs, California, away from the bustle of L.A. To Johnny, Casita Springs was a bucolic respite from the insanity of fame and the music industry, but to Vivian, it was a strange place of isolation and crushing responsibility as she was left alone to care for the kids.
Vivian’s life was a rollercoaster dealing with Johnny’s fame, drug use, and just one wild moment after another; some no fault of Johnny’s. As a result of her dark Sicilian skin and hair, they were accused of being an interracial couple (at a time when outrage about race-mixing was perfectly acceptable). Her story was only touched upon briefly in the biopic Walk the Line, starring Joaquin Phoenix, where she was portrayed as the angry shrew of a wife who only screamed at Johnny for never being home.
In a 2005 interview with the Today show, Kathy Cash talks about how her mother was portrayed in the film, “My mom was basically a nonentity in the entire film except for the mad little psycho who hated his career. That’s not true. She loved his career and was proud of him until he started taking drugs and stopped coming home.”
"…If June was the love of his adult life, then his first wife Vivian was the love of his youth."