Your Cheatin' Heart (film)

Your Cheatin' Heart is a 1964 musical directed by Gene Nelson and starring George Hamilton as country singer Hank Williams. It co-stars Susan Oliver and Red Buttons.

Your Cheatin' Heart
Directed byGene Nelson
Produced bySam Katzman
Written byStanford Whitmore
StarringGeorge Hamilton
Susan Oliver
Red Buttons
Music byFred Karger
CinematographyEllis W. Carter
Edited byBen Lewis
Four-Leaf Productions
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • November 4, 1964 (1964-11-04)
Running time
99 min
CountryUnited States
Box office$2,500,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

Plot summary

A young Hank Williams is trying to earn money by pitching a snake-oil cure-all to the gullible, capping his spiel by picking up his guitar and singing. In the crowd are the Drifting Cowboys, a group of touring country-western musicians who happen to be passing through. They invite Williams to join their group, and music history is made.



The film was made with the assistance of Williams' widow Audrey and featuring the songs ("Long Gone Lonesome Blues", "I Can’t Help It", and "Hey, Good Lookin’") lip-synched by Hamilton but sung by Hank Williams, Jr.[2]

The end scene (when the audience is notified that Williams has died while on the way there) portrays an actual event, as one audience member stands up unprompted and begins to sing "I Saw the Light". Others stand up quickly and join him, as the spotlight shines on the stage where Hank should be. This was similar to what actually happened after Williams died, as Hawkshaw Hawkins and several musicians began singing "I Saw the Light", and the crowd joined in, thinking at first that the announcement was an act, but when Hawkins and company began singing, the crowd realized it was no act.


The film was originally released in 1964 in black and white, and has the distinction of being the final MGM musical film to be produced in black and white.

The film was colorized by Turner Entertainment in 1990. The colorized version made its debut over SuperStation WTBS on January 1, 1991, the 38th anniversary of Hank Williams, Sr.'s death.



MGM's music division owned the rights to the Hank Williams songbook. In 1956, it was announced the studio would make the movie with producer Joe Pasternak, employing Jeff Richards and June Allyson in the lead roles.[3] Then Elvis Presley was considered as a possible star, to make his follow-up movie for MGM following Jailhouse Rock.[4] However, Colonel Tom Parker refused.

Paul Gregory became attached as producer and wanted Steve McQueen for the lead.[5] MGM then offered the role to Nick Adams, but he turned it down as well. According to George Hamilton, MGM then "revised their concept of the film as quickie drive-in fare that might sell some records in the South and maybe to some crossover Beverly Hillbillies fans."[6] They assigned their film to producer Sam Katzman who specialized in low budget fare.


Parker was friendly with George Hamilton, who had been a fan of Williams' music since his youth, knew every song Williams had written and could also play the guitar. Hamilton was under contract to MGM but says the studio "didn't see their stock company preppy playboy playing a drug addict honky-tonk crooner".[7][8]

Parker introduced Hamilton to Hank Williams' ex-wife Audrey. The two got along well and Audrey lobbied on Hamilton's behalf. Hamilton said, "Audrey wanted the movie to happen, especially to make her son, Hank Williams Jr., a singing star the same way she had pushed Big Hank to stardom."[9] The idea was that Williams Jr would dub the singing in the movie and release the soundtrack album under his name; Hamilton wanted to perform the songs himself -- "that was the key to the character"—but knew the only way he would get the part was to agree to be dubbed.[9] With Audrey's support, Hamilton got the part, his signing being announced in November 1963.[10]

Paula Prentiss was at one stage attached as female star.[11]


Filming started April 1964.[12] Hamilton says Sam Katzman ran a tight ship. "Jungle Sam cracked the whip, whacked the cane and the whole film was in the can right on time. But he gave me free rein creatively and our director... brought in something memorable, and even Sam knew it."[13]


According to Hamilton, "the movie made me a hero in the South, but because it was a small film, it didn't get the exposure it deserved in the rest of the country."[14]

Among the film's fans were Colonel Tom Parker and Hamilton's later girlfriends Lynda Bird Johnson and Alana Hamilton.[14]


Your Cheatin' Heart was released on DVD November 9, 2010, by Warner Archive as a MOD (Manufacture On Demand) disc via Amazon (Black and White version). The colorized version has never been released on any form of home video, but DVD-Rs of it frequently show up on websites specializing in bootlegs of rare movies.

See also


  1. This figure consists of anticipated rentals accruing distributors in North America. See "Big Rental Pictures of 1965", Variety, January 5, 1966 p 6
  2. Hank Williams, Jr. interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969)
  3. Frank Ross to Sponsor Joan Caulfield on TV; Garmes Produces 'Fear' Scheuer, Philip K. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] November 7, 1956: C11.
  4. 'Cheatin' Heart' Named for Presley; Holden's Rival British Favorite Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] August 12, 1957: C11.
  5. Looking at Hollywood: Plan Film About 'Your Cheatin' Heart' Composer Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963) [Chicago, IL] November 18, 1959: b5.
  6. Hamilton p 180
  7. Hamilton p 187
  8. Hamilton Portrays Singer But Only Mouths Songs Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] November 17, 1964: C9.
  9. Hamilton p 181
  10. Riddle Sound Is Ring-a-Dingy By Eddie Gallaher. The Washington Post, Times Herald (1959-1973) [Washington, D.C] November 17, 1963: G9.
  11. Looking at Hollywood: Paula Prentiss Lands Big Film Role Hopper, Hedda. Chicago Tribune (1963-Current file) [Chicago, IL] March 16, 1964: b3.
  12. "Film to Start" Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] April 22, 1964: C18.
  13. Hamilton p 182
  14. Hamilton p 183
  • George Hamilton & William Stadiem, Don't Mind If I Do, Simon & Schuster 2008
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