SXSW 2020 Film Review: My Darling Vivian

When you think of Johnny Cash you think of a few things; Folsom Prison Blues, Walk the Line and June Carter but what about his first wife, Vivian Liberto? In My Darling Vivian, a South By Southwest (SXSW) 2020 Film documentary, audiences for the first-time get to know the first Mrs. Cash as her daughters, Rosanne, Kathy, Cindy, and Tara, share with us firsthand HER story. Vivian’s story is a life of love, isolation, fear, heartbreak, and survival that viewers will see throughout the 90-minute film.

Just a heads up, the below review may have a few spoilers about the film in case you plan to watch it. The story begins in San Antonio, Texas in 1951 when Catholic schoolgirl Vivian Liberto meets Air Force cadet Johnny Cash at her local skating rink. After a three-year-long correspondence while Johnny is stationed in Germany and what seems to be thousands of letters later, they married when he returned to the U.S. in 1954.

At the beginning of their marriage, they dealt with newspaper headlines referring to Vivian as black ethnic origin though she was of Italian American descent. At that time it made her and Cash a target for white supremacist group and from what I can see the start of her pulling away from the public eye.

After a Honeymoon in Memphis, within a year Cash’s career blossoms and the young couple had started a family. By 1961, “Johnny Cash” is a household name, number one on the music charts, and constantly on tour which took a toll on the marriage. Being the supportive wife and only two weeks postpartum, Vivian settles into their custom-built home in Casitas Springs, California with their four young daughters.

With Johnny constantly on the road, their house was plagued by bobcats, rattlesnakes, all-hours visits and from fans. Growing with resentment toward her husband’s absence of 3 to 4 weeks to almost an entire year, Vivian is pushed to a near breaking point, especially with Cash’s ongoing drug use.

Vivian and Johnny divorce in 1966, leaving Vivian alone with all 4 children while Johnny was on the road and flaunting his relationship with June Carter. When Johnny and June married, Vivian was almost cast aside as the mother of their 4 girls even though she had been raising them by herself. When Carter went on TV claiming Cash and her were raising the girls, it was Vivian’s last straw asking the couple to acknowledge she is the mother of her children.

Towards the end of the documentary, you see how the relationship evolves between the two as co-parents till Johnny Cash’s death in 2003.

Throughout My Darling Vivian, you have a great sense of what a strong woman Vivian was enduring the public eye and scrutiny of her family while still being in love with Johnny Cash even after their divorce.

My Darling Vivian stars, Rosanne Cash, Kathy Cash Tittle, Cindy Cash, Tara Cash Schwoebel, Johnny Cash and Vivian Liberto. It was directed by Matt Riddlehoover and produced by Dustin Tittle, Matt Riddlehoover (Producer) and Tara Cash Schwoebel (Co-Producer).

To learn more about the film please visit:


Source: SXSW,