I Walk the Line (1970)

“Every man walks the line between right and wrong. One day Sheriff Tawes crossed over.” Middle-aged Sheriff “Henry Tawes” (Gregory Peck) becomes obsessed with “Alma McCain” (Tuesday Weld), the beautiful young daughter of a moonshiner (Ralph Meeker) in a small backwoods Tennessee town. The relationship is tolerated by Alma’s family as long as Tawes turns a blind eye to the illegal still and keeps obnoxious federal agent “Bascomb” (Lonny Chapman) off their trail. However, the increasingly delusional sheriff fantasizes he can escape his dull life and run off with the clueless Alma – compromising all of his ideals in the process. The ending is truly powerful – tragic, sad and pathetic all rolled into one. Best of all, the film is punctuated with some great tunes by Johnny Cash such as “Flesh and Blood,” “ Cause I Love You,” “Face of Despair,” “This Side of the Law,” “The World’s Gonna Fall on You,” “Hungry,” “This Town” and, of course, the famous title song. Directed by John Frankenheimer, I Walk the Line (original title: September Country) also stars Estelle Parsons as Tawes’ annoying wife “Ellen” and Charles Durning as meddling douchebag “Deputy Hunnicutt.” According to the tagline: “Sheriff Tawes walks the line between duty and desire, between law and violence, between honor and shame.” Gene Hackman was reportedly Frankenheimer’s first choice for the role of Sheriff Tawes. The old coot who portrayed Peck’s father was actually Frankenheimer’s wife’s grandfather (whose lines were dubbed by Will Geer!). The film was based on the 1967 novel An Exile by Nashville author Madison Jones.

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