Lifetime’s ‘Patsy & Loretta’ Gets Seal of Approval From Cline and Lynn’s Daughters … Mostly
The upcoming Lifetime movie Patsy & Loretta explores the strong bond between country queens Patsy Cline and Loretta Lynn, and the movie has earned the seal of approval from the families of both singers ... as much as it could have, anyway.
Cline's daughter, Julie Fudge, and Lynn's daughter, Patsy Lynn Russell — who is named after Cline — served as co-producers on the film, and both women tell Taste of Country that they are generally happy with the film, despite some difficult portrayals of the complicated relationships between their parents.
The two country legends became friends when Cline was already an established star and Lynn was a relative newcomer. They met after Cline was in a car accident in 1961 that left her seriously injured, and Russell says Cline and her husband, Charlie Dick, were making some changes to a lifestyle that had been chaotic and punctuated with fights and hard living, as well documented in the 1985 feature film Sweet Dreams. Jessica Lange earned an Academy Award nomination for her portrayal of Cline in the film, but many of Cline's family and close friends disputed its accuracy.
"When my mom watched Sweet Dreams, she hated it," Russell tells us. "She just hated it. She said, 'I didn't know that Patsy and Charlie Dick. These are strangers in this movie to me.' Because Patsy's life and Charlie's life changed afterward. Mom said, 'I never heard Patsy use horrible foul language, and she was not a partier.' I think one of the things Patsy got from mom was that solid friend that could accept her for who she was going to be, that she was turning into as this new Patsy Cline."
Cline, for her part, became like a sister to Lynn, helping the naive newcomer learn to stand up for herself in the male-dominated music business and even at home.
"It was just a really powerful friendship. It was a sister," Russell reflects. "My mom, there was a seven-year age difference between her and her closest sister, and she wasn't one to make friends. She got married young, and my dad took her away to the state of Washington, where she lived for 13 years before she got into the music business, and she never had a girlfriend. So Patsy was that person to her."
Russell says that while Patsy & Loretta's portrayal of her father, Oliver "Doolittle" Lynn, as hot-tempered and controlling is not the whole picture, it does accurately portray his insecurities as his wife — who had heretofore been a stay-at-home mother — began to gain more independence in pursuing her career.
"My dad just did not want my mom wearing makeup," she shares. "More than anything else, that was the hardest part of letting go, was her being able to be the entertainer and the women, not the girl."
Still, she clarifies that that was just one aspect of her parents' relationship, which lasted nearly 50 years before Doolittle died in 1996. "Trust me, my mom was married to my dad for 48 years," Russell says. "This is Loretta Lynn, who's been around everybody. If my dad was that big of an asshole, she wouldn't have stayed."
Patsy & Loretta features Megan Hilty from Smash as Cline and Broadway star Jessie Mueller as Lynn. Kyle Schmid from Six portrays Charlie Dick, and Joe Tippett from Rise plays Doolittle Lynn. Fudge and Russell both met with screenwriter Angelina Burnett during the process, and Fudge also met with Hilty to offer her insights.
"Megan did a beautiful job, and I must say that her dialect coach and her stylist were all very good at their craft, and I give them so much credit for bringing Patsy to the screen," she tells us.
Fudge admits to some trepidation about the way her father, Charlie Dick, might come off in the movie, especially after Sweet Dreams created such a dark portrayal.
"That's where truth is better than fiction," she states. "Whether we like it or not, this was a hard-hitting story. It contained a lot of hard facts about life. As my dad said, as long as it was the truth, he didn't care that anyone told it, it was the fiction that was a problem. The fact is that anybody who knew my dad knew that he wasn't the monster that has been created in the past. Having spoken with many, many people who knew my father, including my stepmother, I never saw or knew of Dad to be the brutal person that they have shown him to be. Dad had a lot of bark, not as much bite, and he was actually known as "Good-Time Charlie" quite a bit," she adds with a laugh.
Lynn's friendship with Cline continued until Cline died in a plane crash in 1963 at the age of 30, and while it had a lasting impact, Russell points out that they only had 19 months together as best friends. She says the strength of Patsy & Loretta is how well it portrays that unbreakable bond.
"This is about true friendship, and this is about how we as women, the kinds of friendships we all seek in our life," she says. "One of the things that my mom said was, 'Everybody needs a Patsy in their life.' And everybody needs a Loretta. You want those kinds of friends that have your back, and you can fall back on them."
Fudge is thrilled that the movie once again brings a spotlight to the musical legacy her mother left behind. "This will create a new generation of fans for these ladies, and rightfully so," she observes. "Every time a new generation comes along and sees what they see as a new voice, it creates a new group, and this new generation is needed, because that's what keeps it so alive to us."
Fudge says Charlie Dick, who spent the latter part of his life as a champion for Cline's legacy, would have been equally pleased.
"Until my dad passed in 2015 I think that was a constant with him, and he actually wondered just how long this could continue, this interest," she says. "I think he'd be pleasantly surprised."
Patsy & Loretta is set to premiere on Lifetime at 8PM ET/PT on Oct. 19.
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