5 things I learned from Dolly Parton’s ‘Coat of Many Colors’ movie
America finally got to try Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors on last night. And by that, I mean, they got to watch the NBC special Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors, the first of several planned TV movies about Dolly Parton’s life!
Now, I, like many of you, consider myself a pretty dedicated Dolly Parton fan. But that’s based mainly on my knowledge of her spectacular songwriting and singing. (“Jolene” is the best song ever written, amiright?) That said, I wouldn’t consider myself a diehard fan — a.k.a. someone who has been to Dollywood (I WISH!) or read her biographies and knows the personal history behind some of her most famous songs. But considering how big and beautiful Dolly’s personality and stage presence are, I can’t lie and I say I haven’t been curious about her life story. That’s why I was delighted by Coat of Many Colors and all the insight it gave me into Miss Parton’s early days as a big-thinkin’, big-talkin’, and big-voiced girl in the South.
Here are a few of the things I learned about life and Dolly thanks to Coat of Many Colors:
1. Dolly’s larger-than-life personal style is totally natural.
Okay, so obviously Dolly doesn’t go for the natural look at any time of the day, even going as far as to speak out about how she prefers to be dolled (no pun intended, I think?) up at all times. But if Coat of Many Colors is any indication, Dolly’s style was not manufactured by the fame machine. In the first 20 minutes of the movie, we get to see young Dolly (adorable newcomer Alyvia Alyn Lind!) put on makeshift eye makeup and lipstick to sing at church. And best part? Her response to her grandpa, also the local preacher, asking whether she wants to go to heaven after that stunt: “I do! But do I have to look like hell to get there?”
Preach, Little Dolly. Preach!
2. Dolly’s “Coat of Many Colors” actually started as a blanket.
So this is a sad tidbit, but as Coat of Many Colors explained through some pretty dramatic exposition, that title piece of clothing was originally supposed to be a blankie and belong to Dolly’s baby brother. Alas, Dolly’s soon-to-be sibling was born too soon and didn’t make it. So Dolly’s mom (played by Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland) turned the patchwork quilt into a coat for young Dolly. This was a big deal, given that a) Dolly’s mom and Dolly were both pretty shaken up by the baby’s passing and b) the Parton family didn’t have a dime to spare at the time. Dolly loved that coat. So much so that she wore that coat — and just that coat! — to school despite her classmates making fun of it/trying to destroy it.
Sadly, Dolly’s coat did kinda get torn up after an incident at school and it caused a major spat between Dolly and her mom. But they got over it eventually, and Dolly went on to write the heartfelt song about the coat that “[her] mama made for [her].”
3. Dolly’s mom was also really outspoken too, but in a totally different way.
Sure, Coat of Many Colors may have been heavy on Mini Dolly’s opinionated one-liners, but Nettles’ Avie Lee Parton got a fair share in there too, an indication that Dolly’s real mom must have been as strong-willed as her little girl would grow up to be. Sure, most of Avie Lee’s rants were more about her religious beliefs than Dolly’s were (one scene even showed Dolly pretty much calling out God for not having her back on the coat vs. school bullies thing), but they were still pretty sassy in a way that Dolly, young or old, would approve of.
4. Dolly wasn’t always all about the singing.
There was a stretch of time during which Dolly refused to sing, this was after the passing of her little brother. Luckily, Dolly and her mom got over that loss and back to singing, an activity that clearly made them both happy and would eventually make Dolly a totally huge star. But her time without music just goes to demonstrate that even the most seemingly upbeat artists can lose their desire to create when they are down and out. Dolly, even with her generally sunny attitude, is no exception.
5. Dolly is as fearlessly fab as ever.
In between the scripted sections of the movie, we got some interludes from Dolly herself straight from the Dollywood grounds. Sitting in a sleigh in a most Dolly outfit with a guitar in her lap, Dolly, well, slayed.
Sadly, Dolly did not rock the adult Coat of Many Colors (pictured above) during the evening. But I imagine she has it at home and wears it on the regular.
Images via Quantrell Colbert/NBC and YouTube