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Nashville In Film, TV & Music

Even before such modern-day television reality shows as Nashville Star, Music City's place in pop-culture history was forever sealed with the long-running musical-comedy program Hee Haw. Hosted by country entertainers Buck Owens and Roy Clark, the corny weekly variety show was filmed in Nashville and featured all the greats of the 1960s and '70s. If that was before your time, you can still check out DVDs of the popular program.

Television retains a huge presence here, as The Nashville Network (TNN), Country Music Television (CMT), and Great American Country (GAC) continue to showcase the area's Southern charms. In addition, Nashville entertainer Bobby Jones hosts his self-titled gospel music show on BET (Black Entertainment Television). It has become the longest-running show at that network.

In addition to its myriad country artists, Nashville is also a burgeoning enclave for big-name talents in other musical genres, including pop, rock, bluegrass, jazz, and especially contemporary Christian music. Such artists as Bon Jovi, Matchbox Twenty, and the White Stripes have come here to write and record music. Well-known musicians, including Michael McDonald, Donna Summer, Peter Frampton, Sheryl Crow, and Jack White, have homes in Nashville.

With rags-to-riches stories around every corner, Nashville has been the inspiration behind some memorable movies. Over the past 4 decades, there have been several cinematic standouts, beginning with Nashville (1975). The late director Robert Altman's comic parody looks at the lives of assorted characters who converge in Music City during the early 1970s. In Coal Miner's Daughter (1980), Sissy Spacek earned an Academy Award for her portrayal of Loretta Lynn, a poor Kentucky girl who became one of country music's first female legends. One of my personal favorites, this film is especially appealing in the way it accurately portrays Nashville's heyday in the 1940s and 1950s, when such country pioneers as Hank Williams and others were in their prime.

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Another unforgettable biopic is Sweet Dreams (1985). Jessica Lange plays music star Patsy Cline, a friend to Loretta Lynn. The film follows the singer's tumultuous marriage and short-lived career. Cline was killed in a plane crash at the height of her fame.

Another, lesser-known country-music coming-of-age story that has held up pretty well over the years is The Thing Called Love (1993). Directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starring Samantha Mathis (and a then-unknown Sandra Bullock), it's perhaps best remembered as the last movie made by the promising young actor River Phoenix, who died shortly thereafter.

Sibling Joaquin Phoenix struck box-office gold more than a decade later with another big-budget blockbuster, Walk the Line. In that Oscar-winning musical biography, Phoenix channels the "Man in Black," Johnny Cash, who was born in Arkansas, launched his career at Sun Records, in Memphis, and became one of Nashville's most outspoken entertainers. Nashville native Reese Witherspoon portrays his wife, June Carter Cash, for which she won an Oscar.

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If you're looking for the real deal instead of actor portrayals and period pieces, I recommend Down from the Mountain (2000), an acclaimed documentary that showcases musicians featured in the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers' O Brother, Where Art Thou?, starring George Clooney. Performances and interviews by Ralph Stanley, Emmylou Harris, and many others are featured.

Last, and perhaps least expected among the movies filmed in Nashville, is The Green Mile (1999), starring Tom Hanks. Novelist Stephen King's gripping story focuses on death-row guards at a penitentiary in the 1930s.

Kids' Play

The Nashville Children's Theatre, renowned for the high quality of its productions, is the oldest children's theater in the U.S.

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Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.