On This Day: Clint Eastwood Film ‘Honkytonk Man’ Loosely Based on Jimmie Rodgers Hits Theaters in 1982

by Matthew Wilson
On-This-Day-Clint-Eastwood-Film-‘Honkytonk-Man’-Loosely-Based-on-Jimmie-Rodgers-Hits-Theaters-in-1982

Clint Eastwood is a honkey tonk man. It’s been 38 years since the legendary actor starred in the country music pilgrimage “Honkeytonk Man.”

The film released on Dec. 15, 1982, and starred both Eastwood and his son Kyle. Eastwood plays Red Stovall, a famous if reckless musician determined to secure his legacy. His character is based upon famed musician Jimmie Rodgers. Red teams up with his nephew, played by Eastwood’s son, for a road trip odyssey to the Grand Ole Opry.

Clint Eastwood Stars as a Famous Country Musician

The film is a poignant look at the legacy of the musician as much as it is a coming of age story. For all of Red’s gruffness and swagger, there’s a vulnerability to him and a fear. The country singer has tuberculosis, a death sentence back during the Great Depression. So, he must confront his mortality head-on through his music and the relationships he leaves behind. But, Red’s relationship with his nephew is the heart of the film.

The character is helped by Clint Eastwood’s own legacy. The actor’s name is forever ingrained with the Western films he made as a young man. Eastwood helped create the stereotype of the hardened gunslinger and later the hardened detective with the “Dirty Harry” franchise. But later in his career, he dismantled these archetypes, giving performances filled with emotion and vulnerability. And in “Honkeytonk Man,” Eastwood examines the life of a performer.

The film featured the last appearance by legend Marty Robbins, who appears as the guitarist Smokey. Robbins died that December before the film’s release.

Jimmie Rodgers Also Faced His Mortality

Rodgers inspired Clint Eastwood’s film the narrative of the film. Many consider Rodgers to be the father of country music. The musician came to prominence in the 1920s and during the Great Depression. He won over audiences with his recordings, which continued after his death. Like Red, doctors diagnosed Rodgers with tuberculosis. The singer was only 27 and would fight the disease for another eight years.

Rodgers kept recording until his death in 1933, aided by a nurse in the recording studio. To bookend his career, he recorded “Years Ago,” which was one of his first songs.

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