25 Years Ago: George Strait Stars in ‘Pure Country’
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George Strait is like a country music Midas: Everything he’s touched in his 30-year career has turned to gold — or platinum. His only major career misstep was the 1992 feature film Pure Country.
Strait was one of the biggest stars in country music by the time of Pure Country‘s release, having already placed hits such as “Fool Hearted Memory,” “Amarillo By Morning” and “The Chair.” According to IMDB, he was talked into doing a film by Elvis Presley‘s former manager, Col. Tom Parker, who contacted producer Jerry Weintraub and told him that he should make a film with Strait. Weintraub told writer Rex McGee that Strait had to sing 10 songs and rope in the film.
In Pure Country, Strait plays the character of Wyatt “Dusty” Chandler, one of the biggest stars in country music. He becomes disillusioned with his success and simply walks away, returning to his hometown to get back in touch with his roots by working at a ranch. In the end, he finds both true love and musical redemption in a climactic scene during which he reclaims his music with an acoustic performance of “I Cross My Heart.”
Strait’s previous acting experience was limited to music videos, as well as a bit appearance in a film called The Soldier. Director Christopher Cain surrounded him with a solid cast that included Lesley Ann Warren as his scheming manager and Isabel Glasser as his romantic interest.
Released in October of 1992, Pure Country opened at No. 6 the week of its release, earning $2,739,680 in its opening week. The film took in just over $15 million in its theatrical run — not a disaster, given its $10 million budget, but certainly not a career-launching vehicle, either.
Critical reviews were tepid, as well. Roger Ebert wrote that Strait was “genuine and has a winning smile, and holds his own in a screenplay that makes few demands … It’s difficult to like Pure Country, but even harder to like it much. This is the very definition of the kind of movie where fans of the star will enjoy it more than dispassionate observers.”
But while Pure Country failed to catch fire, its accompanying soundtrack was another story altogether. The album hit No. 1, eventually selling more than 6 million copies on the strength of two No. 1 hit singles, “I Cross My Heart” and “Heartland.” “When Did You Stop Loving Me” also reached No. 6. Pure Country has gone on to become the best-selling album of Strait’s career.
Pure Country would prove to be the only starring film role Strait ever undertook. He subsequently appeared as himself in Grand Champion in 2002, and in 2010 he appeared as himself in a sequel to Pure Country, titled Pure Country 2: The Gift, which centered around a young singer trying to make it in Nashville.
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