Like most biopics, I Saw The Light, a movie about the tragically short lived life of country music icon Hank Williams (Tom Hiddleston), doesn't sugarcoat any of its protagonist's personal failings. Following in the footsteps of musical biopics Ray and Walk The Line, I Saw The Light depicts Hank Williams' troubled marriage to Audrey Mae Williams (Elizabeth Olsen), which endured multiple affairs, some of which ended up with pregnancy. The film makes note of multiple women Williams loved, impregnated, and then separated from along the way, and in real life, the singer fathered two children: Hank Williams Jr. and Jett Williams, who had to fight to be recognized as Williams' daughter in court after his death in 1953. The musician's family legacy is, no doubt, a complicated one, but where Hank Williams' children are now will bring relief to viewers of the new film.
Williams married Audrey in 1944 when he was still struggling to make it as a country performer. Not only did he become a husband, he also became stepfather to Audrey's young daughter from her first marriage, Lycretia. They had their first and only child, Hank Williams, Jr., five years later in 1949. Three years later, in July of 1952, the two divorced. In October of that same year, Williams re-married to a woman named Billie Jean Jones Eshlimar. A few months later, Williams died. Meanwhile, in between the end of his first marriage and the beginning of his second, Williams had an affair with Bobbie Jett, who gave birth to their daughter, Jett Williams, less than one week after Williams died.
Hank Williams, Jr. was only three years old when his father died, and Jett Williams was raised by adoptive parents, but their father's legacy seems to have heavily influenced both of them. Williams Jr. followed in his father's footsteps as a teenager in the 1960s, singing country music and performing with a band called the Rockin' Randall and the Rockets (he was born Randall Hank Williams). At first, according to an interview with Rolling Stone, Williams Jr. performed many of his father's originals, but soon he got tired of emulating his father on stage. "As I got older and started to realize that I needed to create my own sound and identity, it took people back. They really didn't want me to do anything but Hank Williams [Sr.] music," Williams Jr. said. Eventually, though, he carved his own career in country music, and WIlliams' only son is still making music today. Not to be outdone, Jr.'s son, Hank III, has also followed in the family footsteps.
Jett Williams, whose legal name is Cathy Deupree Adkinson, didn't learn that she was Hank Williams' daughter until she was 21. Born after her father was already dead, Jett was initially raised by Williams' mother, Lillian Stone. Stone died two years later, and Jett was put up for adoption at the age of three. It wasn't until years later that Jett learned that her father was a famous musician, Hank Williams. Even after Jett learned the truth, she had to battle in court to be recognized as an heir of the Williams estate. During that time, she changed her name, adopting the stage name of Jett Williams, and launched a singing career. In 1989, after more than a decade of court battles during which a written custody agreement signed by her mother and Williams was found, the Alabama State Supreme Court ruled in her favor, People reported at the time.
Despite Williams Jr.'s refusal to acknowledge her as his sister, Jett has maintained that she is only doing what her father would have wanted. "You don't choose your real parents. For me the point is finding out what my father wanted and then carrying out his wishes," Jett told The Los Angeles Times following her victory in court.
Jett has been very involved with preserving Hank Williams' legacy, and is the only one of Williams' children that has publicly supported I Saw The Light, attending the film's Nashville premiere in October. But perhaps now that the movie is being seen by the public, more of Williams' family will come out with their opinions about Williams' on-screen legacy.
Images: Sony Pictures Classics; Hank Williams Jr./Facebook