Arts » Arts Stories & Interviews

My Darling Vivian About Johnny Cash’s First Wife, San Antonio Native Vivian Liberto, Hitting VOD


Vivian Liberto (left) met Johnny Cash in San Antonio when the singer was a trainee at Lackland AFB. - THE FILM COLLABORATIVE
  • The Film Collaborative
  • Vivian Liberto (left) met Johnny Cash in San Antonio when the singer was a trainee at Lackland AFB.
The 2005 film Walk the Line — Hollywood’s portrayal of American music icon Johnny Cash — might have been one of that year’s most acclaimed biopics, but at least one of Cash’s daughters was unhappy with the way it depicted their mother, Cash’s first wife Vivian Liberto.

“My mom was basically a nonentity in the entire film except for the mad little psycho who hated his career,” Kathy Cash told the Associated Press in 2005. “That’s not true. She loved his career and was proud of him until he started taking drugs and stopped coming home.”

In the new documentary My Darling Vivian, Kathy and her sisters Roseanne, Cindy and Tara share their own memories about their late parents and try to set the record straight about who their mother actually was.

The film will be available for rent starting Friday, June 19 through Alamo Drafthouse On Demand.

Liberto met Cash at a San Antonio roller-skating rink in the summer of 1951. Cash was an Air Force trainee stationed at Lackland AFB at the time. Their summer romance came to an end when Cash was deployed to West Germany. But the pair continued swapping love letters for the next three years. In 1954, Liberto and Cash exchanged vows at St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church in San Antonio. Their marriage ended 13 years later after Liberto filed for divorce, citing Cash’s drug and alcohol abuse and adultery. Cash married June Carter in 1968.

Two years after Liberto’s 2005 death, a memoir she’d been working on, I Walked the Line: My Life with Johnny, finally saw publication. The book contains several of the more than 1,000 letters the singer sent to Liberto during his time overseas.

My Darling Vivian also shares some of those letters. Along with heartfelt and honest interviews with all four daughters, the exchanges paint another image of Liberto. It’s one fans may not be aware of if they’re relying on Hollywood’s depiction of the couple from Walk the Line or 2007’s comedy parody Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

“After their divorce, they saw her as … nothing,” Roseanne Cash said about her mother in My Darling Vivian. “So, my mother faded into a kind of negative obscurity.”

Kathy, Roseanne, Cindy and Tara pull their mother out of that darkness once and for all with My Darling Vivian. It’s an incredibly effective film that unearths a cache of emotions. By the end, Liberto emerges from the pain and inaccuracies to become a sympathetic, elegant and extravagant documentary subject.

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