The opening sequence of John Huston’s Fat City is a perfect storm of music supervision, cinematography, editing, and casting.We open on the desolate outskirts of Stockton, California in 1970. Famed cinematographer Conrad Hall weaves images of razed buildings, migrant workers, bums and drunks into a skid row tapestry as compelling as any Hopper or Rockwell around. As the camera pushes into a seedy transient hotel, we find Stacy Keach’s Billy Tully laying in bed, staring listlessly at the ceiling, and reaching past the half empty bottle of whiskey on his nightstand for his first cigarette of the day.
The inclusion of Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through The Night” nails it here. The tune could not only be the mantra of Keach’s maudlin amateur boxer, as he stumbles through another week of sparring, drinking, and working as a day laborer picking fruit, but could also work for Susan Tyrell’s fantastic co-dependent wino, or fresh faced boxing newbie played by Jeff Bridges, or any of the sad sacks we see in the periphery of this film.This whiskey soaked and more down tempo version seems almost custom tailored to our protagonist, more fitting than any of the versions that seem to be included on Kristofferson’s studio albums and compilations. I’m guessing this was recorded specifically for the movie, as it is also accompanied by a melancholic guitar and keyboard laden instrumental bed that precedes Kristofferson’s recording. Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down indeed.
Help Me Make It Through The Night – Kris Kristofferson