There are some actors that transcend acting and so become the musician that they are portraying that afterward when I think of the musician, I always see the actor's face also. This is certainly the case with Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner's Daughter. Whenever I think of Loretta Lynn, I also have a mental picture of Sissy Spacek, the same as with Buddy Holly/Gary Busey, Johnny Cash/Joaquin Phoenix, and Tina Turner/Angela Bassett.
Loretta Lynn personally chose Sissy to portray her in Coal Miner's Daugter after seeing a photo of Sissy. Loretta wasn't even that familiar with Sissy's acting roles. Sissy Spacek was reluctant to take the role, so she insisted on doing her own singing, hoping that this would deter the producers from casting her. The result was that Sissy doing her own singing is one of the things that made this movie great and probably helped her win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Loretta.
Loretta's father was portrayed by Levon Helm of The Band. This was Levon's first acting role in a major motion picture and he perfectly captures the downtrodden coal miner trying to do the best for his family and trying to look out for his daughter. Levon has only done a handful of roles over the course of his acting career, but everything I have ever seen him in, he was able to fit himself in the role perfectly. I assume that Levon is just a natural when it comes to acting.
Beverly D'Angelo (pre National Lampoon's Vacation movies) plays Patsy Cline, Loretta's friend and mentor. Beverly nails the part, unlike Jessica Lange who five years later would play Patsy in Sweet Dreams (see review here). Beverly, like Sissy did her own singing. The director did add a lot of strings to the background music when Beverly/Patsy is performing at the Grand Ole Opry and as you can see from the above photo, there's not a big string section of violins/fiddles on stage.
Ernest Tubb and Minnie Pearl have cameo parts in the movie and featured in small roles are Merle Kilgore as Cowboy at Tootsies, Vernon Oxford as Preacher and Billy Strange as Speedy West.
Coal Miner's Daughter had to condense a major chunk of Loretta's life into just a little over two hours and did a fine job of accomplishing that task. I would recommend this movie to anyone who has an interest in Country Music, Biopics, or would just like to know more about the Country Music Legend that is Loretta Lynn.
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