Photo of Patsy Cline / Beverly D'Angelo as Patsy Cline in 'Coal Miner's Daughter'
Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images / Screengrab via YouTube

Patsy Cline: Who Played the Soulful Country Singer Best?

Country music is full of incredible performers and storytellers, so it's understandable Hollywood has brought several of the most legendary stars' lives to the screen. Patsy Cline was one of the most remarkable country singers of her day, one of the first big female stars in the genre before her life was tragically cut short at the age of 30. A few notable actresses have brought her story to life, but who played her best? Patsy Cline was one of the most influential female musicians of all time and one of the first to successfully navigate a career from country to pop music. It's no easy feat taking on such a legendary singer, but Beverly D'Angelo, Jessica Lange and Megan Hilty all delivered. Which performance was your favorite?

Beverly D'Angelo

Actress Beverly D'Angelo arrives at the VIP post show reception with Al Pacino benefiting SCLA Veterans In Art and NAVSO at Via Porto on March 08, 2020 in Beverly Hills, California

Photo by Amanda Edwards/Getty Images

Sissy Spacek gave a once-in-a-lifetime performance as Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner's Daughter, but Christmas Vacation star Beverly D'Angelo also notably appeared in the Oscar-winning film as Lynn's friend Patsy Cline. Like Spacek, D'Angelo did all of her own singing in the film because, at the time, she actually considered herself more of a singer that just happened to fall into acting. Though her appearance was somewhat brief, D'Angelo was magical as the iconic singer and even earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actress. It's worth noting that of all three actresses on this list, D'Angelo was the only one of accurate age to portray Cline. She was 29 when the film was released.

When asked about taking on such an incredible person in the film, D'Angelo has said in interviews that at the time, she didn't really fathom what was happening because if she had, she probably would have been a ball of nerves. However, she did get nervous about the fact that the real Loretta Lynn was actively involved on set...understandable.

"Thank god I was so young and stupid because if I would have known what I was really taking on, I think it would have been overwhelming, but I was really pretty innocent," she explained to the AV Club. "I'd made a couple of movies, but I really wasn't even set on being an actress. To me, it was like, "I'm a singer. I'm going to play a singer." And that's all okay. I felt entitled to do that, but I was too young and dumb to be that scared, although I was scared of Loretta [Lynn]. I really wanted her approval. I really did."

Jessica Lange

Jessica Lange poses at the 2020 Roundabout Theater Gala honoring Alan Cumming, Michael Kors & Lance LePere at The Ziegfeld Ballroom on March 2, 2020 in New York City

Photo by Bruce Glikas/WireImage

Another notable portrayal of Patsy Cline was Jessica Lange in the Cline biopic Sweet Dreams. While Coal Miner's Daughter, potentially the country music biopic of all biopics, focused on Lynn's rags-to-riches story and journey to fame, Sweet Dreams focused more on Cine's marriage. Not all fans loved this angle, but it doesn't really take away from Lange's performance. She did all of her own singing for the film, which certainly goes into some detail about Cline's incredible career while focusing on her relationship with her second husband, Charlie Dick. Lange beat out some of the best actresses in Hollywood for the role, including Meryl Streep, so that's really saying something. While the HBO film as a whole fell short of really honoring Cline's notable achievements during her short 30 years, Lange earned a well-deserved Oscar nomination for her portrayal of the country star. Her performance was charming and magnetic, and her singing really captured the heart and soul that Cline put into her music.

Megan Hilty

Megan Hilty attends the 25th Annual Critics' Choice Awards at Barker Hangar on January 12, 2020 in Santa Monica, California

Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Just because it's a Lifetime movie doesn't mean that Megan Hilty's performance is any less noteworthy. The Broadway star is the latest actress to take on Patsy Cline in the 2019 TV movie. Unlike previous adaptations of the singer's life and career, Patsy and Loretta centered on the friendship between the two country stars, with Jessie Mueller co-starring as Loretta Lynn. Hilty has taken on some pretty iconic characters throughout her career, ranging from Marilyn Monroe to following Kristin Chenoweth's Glinda in Wicked. So she definitely did her research when preparing for someone like Patsy Cline. Hilty told Playbill that she actually had some realizations about the late singer during her preparation.

"She really didn't want anyone to know, but she had a real tender side," Hilty said. "And I think—wild speculation, obviously—but most of her hits, she didn't want to sing, and I think I know why. I think because the lyrics hit too close to home for her. I know I do that with songs and I can only imagine she did not want to feel that vulnerable either. But when she got in the booth and sang those lyrics, they tapped into something very tender and very real, and that's part of why her performances are so brilliant and why so many people have a physical response to hearing her voice."

Who was the best Patsy?

Photo of Patsy Cline

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

This is obviously subject to your personal opinion, and I'm sure everyone you ask would potentially choose a different name on this list. If you ask me (and other folks at Wide Open Country), I'd say we're all a bit partial to Beverly D'Angelo's performance in Coal Miner's Daughter. It's really hard to beat one of the best biopics ever made, and it certainly helped that Loretta Lynn was actively involved on set. Though she was certainly focused on her own life story I assume she was also passionate about making sure her late friend's legacy was honored. While all three women's performances were strong, I'd also argue that D'Angelo approaching the role as a singer first also really served the film. She focused on interpreting the music the same way Cline did and analyzed the way she would deliver words which is a very different approach than focusing on her as a person from an acting perspective.

"The real thing about Patsy Cline for singers to listen to is her phrasing," D'Angelo explained. "Not to copy it, but it's her phrasing and the way that she was able to take a song and make it her own was because she delivered it with so much emotional intelligence. As magnificent as her voice was, it wasn't about the gymnastics or facility. If you listen to where she takes her breath, you get a thought, and that's why it seems to come from's so authentic. You can listen to her songs now and still feel the same way."

READ MORE: 'Walkin' After Midnight': The Story Behind Patsy Cline's Bluesy Game-Changer