We were deeply saddened by the news that legendary Band singer/drummer Levon Helm passed away today. While Helm will forever be known as one of the best timekeepers of ever, he also left his mark on the silver screen. Helm brought a certain Southern strength to movies he was in, like a character actor version of Tommy Lee Jones (in fact, Helm would act with Jones a few times, including "Coal Miner's Daughter," Jones' feature directorial debut "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" and in Helm's final film "In the Electric Mist").
Helm never took a starring role, but always popped up at the movies oftentimes when we least expected him to. "Is that Levon Helm!?" we cried upon first witnessing Bob Lee Swagger (Mark Wahlberg) visit Helm's firearms expert in 2007's "Shooter." If you've seen the (partly shot in Philly) film, you know the below clip is the best part (the language in this clip may not be suitable for work):
The first time we saw Helm onscreen was as Ridley, the narrator of Phillip Kauffman's "The Right Stuff."
We're always impressed with his quiet reserve in "Coal Miner's Daughter," the excellent Loretta Lynn biopic starring Sissy Spacek as Lynn and Jones as her husband Doo. We can't find any fair use clips that do Helm justice but enjoy this clip of Spacek and Helm singing "Coal Miner's Daughter" from the "Midnight Special" in 1980 (we love the bit when his eye light up when Spacek sings "We were poor, but we had love / That's the one thing that daddy made sure of").
...And we cannot even begin to describe his effects on "The Last Waltz," Martin Scorsese's documentary of the Band's final performance. As producer John Simon said in "This Wheel's on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band," "I'm pretty sure that Levon is the only honest, live element in 'The Last Waltz,' with the exception of Muddy Water's vocal. Everything else was overdubbed and redone. Levon was basically gone, because he was disgusted with certain of the business practices." Although he hated "The Last Waltz," believing it glorified bandmate Robbie Robertson, we still love it dearly. So we'll just leave you with this: