A new motion picture about the final days of Hank Williams Sr. is playing in historic theaters across the country, and Biloxi will host a special two-day event celebrating the love affair the legendary country singer had with the city.
In fact, when Main Street Biloxi presents "The Last Ride" later this month at the Saenger Theater, the movie will be playing just down the street from the location of a nightclub where Williams is said to have made his last public performance.
"The Last Ride," which premiered last month at the San Antonio Film Festival, will be presented Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, July 28 and 29 at the Saenger downtown. The Biloxi engagement will be unlike any other in the country. The 90-minute movie will be preceded by a 10-minute Mississippi Public Broadcasting documentary that chronicles Williams's frequent visits to Biloxi. He performed in a nightclub at the corner of Reynoir and Division streets, where he had befriended owner Sie Simon. During his Biloxi visits, Williams also befriended Biloxi businessman and civic leader F. Yankie Barhanovich, an impresario in his own right.
General admission tickets for either show are $10 each and are available now at the Biloxi Visitors Center, U.S. 90, north of the Biloxi Lighthouse; the Donal M. Snyder Sr. Community Center on Pass Road in west Biloxi, and at the Main Street office in the Bond Grant House, Howard Avenue at I-110 in downtown Biloxi. To charge using Visa or Mastercard, call the Main Street office at (228) 435-6339.
The documentary, which borrows its title from the Williams single "Ramblin' Man," features excerpts of the singer-songwriter's best-known songs; interviews with the late Sie Simon; Simonís daughter, Kay Bankston; Frank Barhanovich Jr., son of Yankie Barhanovich; and others who knew Williams.
"This was a special time in Biloxi's history," Mayor A.J. Holloway said. "Hank Williams Sr. must have appreciated the hospitality and friendship of people like Sie Simon and Yankie Barhanovich, and he obviously enjoyed his visits here, since he returned so many times."
"The Last Ride," which stars Henry Thomas (young Elliot in "E.T."), follows the last three days of the life of Williams, whose meteoric career produced 35 Top 10 country singles, including such classics as "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Hey, Good Lookin'," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" and "I Saw the Light." He is regarded as one of the most important figures in country music, although he died at age 29, a life checkered by alcohol and drug use. He died in the backseat of a car en route to New Year's shows in West Virginia and Ohio.
Only three weeks before his death, on Dec. 7, 1952, Williams had played at Sieís Place, reportedly his last public performance. Earlier in the day, he had performed a benefit for the Biloxi Doll and Toy Fund, an engagement arranged by Barhanovich.
Williams's bond to his Biloxi friends was so strong that he acknowledged audience members Simon and Barhanovich at his wedding in New Orleans Municipal Auditorium in October 1952. Simon and Barhanovich were honorary pallbearers at his funeral in Montgomery, Ala. In fact, at least three other Coast residents -- C.T. Switzer Sr., Leo Todaro and Pee Wee Maddux Ė were among the throng of 20,000 at the ceremony.
"The Last Ride," which was released June 22, also stars Jesse James; Fred Dalton Thompson, the former Tennessee senator known for roles in TV's "Law & Order" and several motion pictures; and Kaley Cuoco of TVís "The Big Bang Theory."
Learn more about 'The Last Ride'
The trailer: To see the trailer for the motion picture, click here.
The background: To learn more about the production -- including info on the cast and crew, the soundtrack and to see a photo gallery of the stars -- click here.
The Biloxi poster: To print the poster from the Biloxi engagement of "The Last Ride," click here.