In 1951, Catholic schoolgirl Vivian Liberto meets handsome Air Force cadet Johnny Cash at her local San Antonio, Texas skating rink. Their whirlwind summer romance lays the foundation for a feverish three-year-long correspondence while Johnny is stationed in Germany. Thousands of letters later, the two marry upon his return in 1954. Within a year, a career blossoms and a family is started. By 1961, Johnny Cash is a household name, number one on the music charts, and perpetually on tour. Meanwhile, only two weeks postpartum, Vivian settles into their custom-built home in Casitas Springs, California with their four young daughters. Plagued by bobcats, rattlesnakes, all-hours visits from fans, and a growing resentment toward her husband’s absence, Vivian is pushed to a near breaking point when she and her daughters are targeted by hate groups over her perceived race. In My Darling Vivian, we will meet the first Mrs. Cash as her daughters, Rosanne, Kathy, Cindy, and Tara, share with us first hand, for the first time, the entire story of love, isolation, fear, heartbreak, and survival.
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My Darling Vivian
My Darling Vivian
Vivian Liberto’s story is one that has intrigued me for years. Dustin, my husband and producing partner, is the grandson of Vivian and Johnny Cash; I’d heard fragments of her experience from my mother-in-law, Kathy, and how grossly misrepresented she was in the 2005 film, Walk the Line. It wasn’t until a close friend suggested we make this film that I even considered it a possibility – it seemed too huge a responsibility.
Now that Vivian’s truth is being told at a time when our society is beginning to listen to its aggrieved women, maybe her joy and pain and reality can be fully accepted. Her life was romantic and bewildering, difficult and significant, and wholly filmic – more than a mere footnote in the biography of Johnny Cash.
The marks that were left on our four interviewees as children are undeniable, and also worth noting. These women have held an important piece of hidden history that seems more relevant today than ever before. It’s time we sat down and spent an hour or so in their, and their mother’s, shoes. Over these past two and a half years, I’ve fallen madly in love with Vivian, and my hope is that others do, too.
-Matt Riddlehoover, Director