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My Darling Vivian: A Tell-All Documentary on Johnny Cash’s First Wife

My Darling Vivian (Vivian Liberto)
  • Arden is a Senior Country Music Journalist for Country Thang Daily, specializing in classic hits and contemporary chart-toppers.
  • Prior to joining Country Thang Daily, Arden wrote for Billboard and People magazine, covering country music legends and emerging artists.
  • Arden holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from the University of Tennessee, with a minor in Music Studies.

12 years after Vivian’s book release, My Darling Vivian (2020) would be added to the artistic interpretations of the Vivian Liberto and Johnny Cash love story. This time, it’s told by their four children. 

These series of creative productions about their story started with the 2005 movie, Walk the Line. In this film, Johnny Cash was portrayed as a genius. Haunted by his personal challenges, he was rescued and his second wife, June Carter, entered the pictured. 

The movie left out Vivian Liberto, his first love and first wife. This prompted her to co-author a book that was published in 2008. Vivian’s book interprets how she remembers her life with the country legend, supported by their letters and personal photographs. 

As stars seemingly aligned for Vivian again, her grandson was instrumental to a substantial depiction of her life as Johnny Cash’s first wife.

Dustin Tittle, Vivian’s grandson, is the producing partner and spouse of filmmaker Matt Riddlehoover. Together, they would produce a documentary to shed light on how Vivian embraced the truth behind her husband’s infidelity. 

In a phone interview with Inside Hook, Riddlehoover shared how Kathy Cash Tittle, his mother-in-law and Vivian’s daughter, would tell him stories about Vivian. The director wondered why so many intricate details were left out in Walk the Line.

Soon enough, the film production started scanning countless letters and photographs that Vivian kept. Everything vividly recorded her life with Cash from the beginning, even from the time she was a 17-year-old shy teen. Luckily, Vivian’s four daughters Cindy Cash, Rosanne Cash, and Tara Cash Schwoebel, agreed to support the project.

Riddlehoover noted the achingly romantic exchanges of Vivian and Johnny when the singer was in Europe, serving in the Air Force. Since Vivian’s parents were strict, they weren’t allowed to tie to knot, which didn’t hinder their romance.

Aside from their relationship’s romantic side, the film most importantly shows the trouble that the country superstar made. That’s why it’s almost the opposite of the movie Walk the Line. 

However, the director cleared that his piece isn’t meant to settle scores. Every family member who is part of the film production wanted this film to be a loving portrayal. He added that the film is about showing Johnny’s side that his fans and the industry have never seen before. Most prominently, the film also depicts Johnny as a father who’s madly in love with the mother of his children.

To clearly paint the picture, the movie included home movies that show Vivian’s daughter’s childhood. In the videos, John was there as a dynamic presence whether in the backyard barbecues or the holidays and other special occasions. 

Notably, the vivid illustrations of his animated life as a father stopped after 1962. It’s the year when June Carter joined his tour. 

Yet, molding the story isn’t only about the photographic evidence of their life together. Most of the movie features their children and how they remembered specific moments with Johnny as a father.

While filming and gathering their respective inputs, the director found out that they tend to have contradictory recollections. This prompted him to change the interview process. 

Instead of putting them together in one conversation, Riddlehoover decided that they should face the camera one by one. Evidently, letting them have their own space and not having any sibling contradict their narrative helped a lot.

In assembling all the materials into a sensible narrative, the director also pulled in other helpful sources. 

Through Rosanne Cash’s ex-husband, Rodney Crowell, the film director gained access to more family movies. 

With its inclusive narrative, the film remains remarkably intimate. Its bottom line paints Johnny Cash and Vivian Liberto as human beings. Broken relationships, finding love again, and adding more family members are all depicted in My Darling Vivian, showing everyone’s truth in a heartwarming documentary.

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