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'She Wore Men's Pants!': Patsy Cline On American Masters

Is 'When Patsy Cline Was Crazy' worth having sweet dreams about despite its goofy title?

Compelling Subject


Sweet Dreams, starring Jessica Lange as Patsy Cline and Ed Harris as her second husband Charlie Dick, is one of those movies HBO had the rights to -- and aired 17 times a day -- back in the '80s, and that's how I got into Patsy Cline. I don't know how accurate the film's portrayal is of Patsy, her relationship with Charlie, life on the road in the '50s and '60s, or any of it, but that voice endures. When that box set came out in the '90s I didn't know anyone who didn't nearly wear it out.

And let's face it, Patsy is practically an inception of country-song subject and master: born poor to a sixteen-year-old mother, cleaning buses, entering talent shows, a pioneer and titanic talent, dead at thirty.

A+ C.V.


Director Barbara Hall has half a dozen each Biographys and Song By Songs on her résumé; Rosanne Cash ably handles the narration.

Doin' Your Homework


It's surprising that the episode comes in under an hour, and it does feel a bit rushed, especially in the beginning, like, she worked in a factory slitting chickens' throats, and only quit because someone found out she was underage. That's a documentary of its own, I feel like. Similarly, once the plane crash goes down, it's still ten-odd minutes from the end, and the remainder of the runtime is devoted to various and sundry interviewees trying to put a Grand Ol' button on what she meant to country music, feminism, the dreams of poor folk, et cetera.

So, the length and pacing don't quite work, but it's not tedious.

Great Depression


Just the usual in the genre, i.e., the subject is dead -- and during her life, male TV hosts thought it was their job to pantsplain her own wardrobe to her because fifties. Shut up, fifties.

It's An Outrage!


The terms of lady stars' contracts in the middle of the last century do not fill one's feminist heart with grateful joy.

Intrusive Filmmaker Agenda


Filmed stories about musicians is Hall's lane, which is great, but at a couple of points, the visual aspect of the narrative gets a little tricksy, likely to compensate for lack of photos to go with what's happening on the audio track:


Because the audio isn't particularly grainy or hard to make out, it seems like there was a more elegant way to smooth over this material, but I'm someone who thinks a majority of news-magazine and non-fiction/biography shows could do just as well as podcasts, so: grain of salt.

Exclusive Footage/Materials


The press materials don't make much of that aspect, and much of the audio from Patsy's early Opry and TV appearances sounded similar, if not identical, to the intros and live tracks on the box set.

Talking Heads


Leann Rimes, Reba McEntire, Callie Khouri, Beverly D'Angelo (who played her in Coal Miner's Daughter), Patsy's daughter Julie Fudge, Kacey Musgrave (whose observation that, while you could totally have a cocktail with Patsy, "she could also, like, beat your ass," is probably right on and made me like both of them even more), Wanda Jackson, Willie Nelson, and Ricky Warwick of Thin Lizzy. Hall also includes interviews from other sources with the late Charlie Dick, among others, that are set off clearly as such.

Further Research


I'm-a go back and marinate in Disc 3.

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