The Last Picture Show
1971. Columbia Pictures, Columbia Tristar Home Video, Black & White, Aspect Ratio 1.85 : 1, 118 minutes, Rated R
Release Date: October 22, 1971
The Last Picture Show is available at Amazon.com as a Definitive Directors Cut Special Edition DVD, in the America Lost and Found Criterion Collection Box Set, and on VHS.
Movie Synopsis: A group of 1950s high schoolers come of age in a bleak, isolated, atrophied West Texas town that has been slowly dying, both economically and culturally, along with its older generation of cynical, hardened, and hopeless townsfolk.
Cast: Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shephard, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn, Eileen Brennan, Clu Gulager, Sam Bottoms, Randy Quaid
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Thoughts on the Movie:
Since the first time I saw this movie (in the theater, like you had to back then), it has been one of my all-time favorites. With the brillance of all Larry McMurtry stories, it captures the isolated, small Texas town of the 1950s to a T. And the cast is unbelievable! Just to see the first on-screen and almost-first on-screen performances of Cybill Shephard and Jeff Bridges is worth the price of admission, but here we have so much more! The stories of the characters are sad, funny, pathetic, charming, and depressing... and it makes for a really good movie experience. Today, some people may not get the depth of this film and the reason it is so amazingly good, but at the time, the critics and industry folk got it and awarded it accordingly.
I almost drove down to Archer City to witness some of the filming of The Last Picture Show, but decided to use my gas money for another roadtrip. Ive regretted that decision for a long, long time. I think it could have been one of the best experiences of my life, but I was young (only 20 years old) at the time, and other adventures were calling me. But, oh, to have seen Archer City! ~Jean
Royal Theater, Archer City, Texas (see Map)
The Royal Theater is the iconic image most connected to The Last Picture Show. It is located at 116 S. Sycamore Street in Archer City. When filming began, the theater itself had already fallen into great disrepair, and only the outside facade was used in the movie. The production crews for The Last Picture Show (and its sequel, Texasville) spent considerable money and effort to prop the building up for filming purposes. But, ironically, the inside shots that were supposed to be the Royal Theater were filmed at a then still-active theater in nearby Olney, Texas.
Right: The Royal Theater from the side; note the complete devastation of the once popular theater that provided a major source of entertainment in 1950s Archer City, Texas.
The theater has deep roots in Archer City history. Many share fond memories of the theater as a childhood hang out when it was in operation as the local movie theater. However, a fire gutted the building in 1965, and it was left in ruins for many years.
Around 1990, a think tank meeting was called among the Archer City leaders to discuss ideas for improving the quality of life of citizens in the area. After several hours of good ideas being bantered around, one continued to rear its head: and that was to rebuild the Royal Theater. It has since been fully restored as a performing arts theater for the community.
About Archer City, Texas:
Archer City, Texas (population 1,848, elevation 1,063 feet; 33° 35 39 N, 98° 37 35 W) is located in central north Texas, 25 miles south of Wichita Falls, at the junction of State Highway 79 and State Highway 25. Archer City was the inspiration for the fictional towns of Thalia and Anarene in several of Larry McMurtrys popular novels (including The Last Picture Show).
Right: The view as you enter Archer City, Texas, the location for the filming of the multi-award-winning film, The Last Picture Show.
The Royal Theater Performing Arts. 116 S. Sycamore Street, Archer City, Texas
The Royal Theater is now home to a variety of performing arts, including theatrical productions, Branson-style music shows, and a listening room for musical artists and songwriters. It also provides an excellent location for weddings and receptions, meetings, and parties.
After 17 months of serious, tenacious reconstruction work, the Royal Theater was reopened in 2000, after 35 years of darkness. Since that time, the Texasville Opry, Late Week Lazy Boy Supper Club, and a variety of plays have garnered stellar reviews for their authentic, small-town charm, creativity, and talent.
This is the legendary bookstore(s) owned by writer Larry McMurtry. Theres a good chance you wont get to meet the author, because seeing him at the shop is a rarity. The real prize in a visit to Booked Up is the book selection. Spread out through four large buildings is one of the best selections of used and antique books in the western U.S. Of the 500,000 books, you won't find any trash, its all quality: rare and old books, including many first editions and hard-to-find copies. Every book seems carefully selected based on subject, condition, scarcity, etc. Prices are fair, all things considered.
McMurtry, an Archer City native and author of The Last Picture Show, Lonesome Dove, Terms of Endearment, Horseman, Pass By (which was made into the movie Hud), and co-screenwriter of Brokeback Mountain, redefined his city in a way that changed it forever. His four bookstores are a peek into the soul of Archer City. The city has a small-town feel, with the majority of the town lying between two highway roads, and the one restaurant, the Wildcat Cafe, sitting directly across from the Spur Hotel.
Lodging & Dining:
The Spur Hotel. 100 N. Center Street, Archer City, Texas
Originally built in 1928, the historic Spur Hotel was purchased and preserved in 1990 by Abby Abernathy and his sister. The hotel is visited year round by book enthusiasts browsing Larry McMurtrys bookstores, guests of the famous Royal Theater, a variety of wild game hunters, as well as businessmen and families in search of the chic small-town getaway. Simply charming!
Dairy Queen. 934 S. Center Street, Archer City, Texas
This is the Dairy Queen that was featured in the movie Texasville, the sequel to The Last Picture Show. You can enjoy a burger, fries and a DQ shake or Blizzard,while soaking in the Archer City, West Texas atmosphere. Just think, you might end up sitting at the same booth that Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges used during film production in 1990. Wowie!
Wildcat Cafe. 107 N. Center Street, Archer City, Texas
Nifty American food, fitting of the setting of his West Texas town. The sign out front proundly announces Home Cooking. For breakfast you can choose a Western omelet, hash browns and biscuits. And they make an excellent burger (try it on Texas toast with cheese). Note: In The Last Picture Show, the high school football team were called the Wildcats.
Ben Johnson won the Oscar as Best Supporting Actor.
Ben Johnson won the Golden Globe as Best Supporting Actor.
Cloris Leachman won the Oscar as Best Supporting Actress.
Jeff Bridges was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actor.
Ellen Burstyn was nominated for an Oscar as Best Supporting Actress.
The Last Picture Show was nominated for an Oscar as Best Picture.
Peter Bogdanovich was nominated for an Oscar as Best Director.
Robert Surtees was nominated for an Oscar for Best Cinematography.
Larry McMurtry and Peter Bogdanovich were nominated for an Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.
Larry McMurtry and Peter Bogdanovich were nominated by The Writers Guild of America for Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium.
Right: Sam the Lion, played the by Oscar-winning actor, Ben Johnson.
The Last Picture Show was filmed mostly on location in Archer City, Texas, the city upon which the fictional town of Anarene was based. However, the swimming pool scene (the site of Cybill Shephards nude scene) was filmed at the Burns Estate in Wichita Falls. Likewise, the house of Cloris Leachmans character was located in Holiday, Texas. And oddly enough, Anarene was a once a real town, just a few miles from Archer City.
Right: Timothy Bottoms and Cloris Leachman in one of their dramatic scenes from The Last Picture Show. The illicit relationship between the teenage Sonny and the middle-aged and married Ruth Popper is one of the cornerstones of the film.
Upon selecting the town of Archer City as a filming location, production designer Polly Platt and director Peter Bogdanovich decided that the town should have a bleak, colorless look about it. After considering several options, such as painting all the buildings gray, Platt and Bogdanovich consulted close friend Orson Welles about the viability of shooting the film in black and white. Welles simply said, Of course youll shoot it in black and white!
The film was based on the novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry.
Peter Bogdanovichs introduction to this story was through actor Sal Mineo, who had given him the novel to read by the then little-known Texas writer, Larry McMurtry. Mineo had longed to play a part in the film adaptation, but felt he was by then a little too old for any of the principal roles.
All the music used in the film (except for the closing credits and the live band at the Christmas party) is played in the background on radios, jukeboxes, or at the swim party on a portable record player.
Ben Johnson was persuaded to accept the role of Sam the Lion by his friend John Ford. The taciturn Johnson had turned the part down three times because, according to Peter Bogdanovich, Johnson said that the part had too many words.
The location of Archer City, Texas, is the hometown of Larry McMurtry, the author of the novel The Last Picture Show. McMurtry and director Peter Bogdanovich scouted several locations for the movie and Bogdanovich chose Archer City when they stopped there during the trip. The town remains much as it was during the filming.
Morgan Fairchild and Sissy Spacek were both considered for the role of Jacy Farrow, which was played by Cybill Shepherd.
Right: Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shephard portray bored, angst-ridden teens in the classic 1971 film, The Last Picture Show.
Character Quote: Chicken-fry me a steak, and try to use meat this time! ~Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson)