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‘Facing the Laughter’ is a Minnie Pearl reveal

Dan Webster

Above: Sarah Colley Cannon, aka Minnie Pearl, is the focus of the documentary "Facing the Laughter: Minnie Pearl." (Photo/Fathom Events)

Those of us who watched television six decades (and more) ago are familiar with the name Minnie Pearl.

What many of us don’t know – or, at least, I didn’t – is that Minnie Pearl is a stage name. Behind that name was a woman named Sarah Colley Cannon.

That’s only one of the things that documentary director Barbara J. Hall reveals in her film “Facing the Laughter: Minnie Pearl,” which will screen at 4 and 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Regal Cinemas theaters at NorthTown Mall and Coeur d’Alene’s Riverstone Stadium.

Born in 1912 in western Tennessee, Cannon graduated from Ward-Belmont College (now Belmont University) having studied theater and dance. By 1939, she had developed her Minnie Pearl character, with her trademark hat bearing a price tag.

The very next year, Cannon portrayed Minnie Pearl at the Grand Ole Opry, beginning a relationship that lasted over the next several decades. As for television, she made regular appearances on such shows as "Hee Haw," Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “The Ford Show” and “Hollywood Squares.”

Besides being a regular contributor to such charities as the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, the National Heart Association, and the American Cancer Society, Cannon was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1975 and received a National Medal of the Arts in 1991.

“Sarah Cannon … left an indelible mark in country music and beyond,” Hall said. “She created her own path that left a legacy of laughter, gratitude and goodwill for those who followed to ‘pay forward.’ My hope is that audiences will be intrigued by her story and want to learn more.”

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