Cast & Crew
One morning in November 1951, Sonny Crawford and Duane Jackson, co-captains of the dismal high school football team in Anarene, TX, shrug off insults about the team's last game of the season. Sonny relaxes with his friends, Sam the Lion, the aging but still vital cowboy who owns the small town's café, pool hall and movie theater, and Sam's ward, the mute, gentle Billy. Sonny and Duane have breakfast at the café, run by salty-tongued waitress Genevieve, and discuss their usual Saturday night plans of seeing the "picture show" and necking with their girl friends in the pickup they jointly own. Sonny goes to work and that night, while Duane and his girl friend, Jacy Farrow, take the first turn in the pickup, Sonny joins his girl, Charlene Duggs, in the theater. Charlene complains that Sonny has forgotten their one year anniversary, but Sonny is more interested in watching Jacy, the most beautiful and wealthy girl in town, as she and Duane come into the theater and begin to kiss. Sonny and Charlene then take their turn in the pickup, but the frustrated Sonny, longing to do more than fondle Charlene's breasts, ends their stale relationship when she becomes petulant. Later at the café, Genevieve comforts Sonny and wonders why both he and Duane live in a boardinghouse rather than with their parents. At basketball practice one afternoon, Coach Popper offers to get Sonny excused from class the next day for driving the coach's wife Ruth to her doctor's appointment, and Sonny agrees. That night, Jacy is confronted by her alcoholic mother Lois, who does not want her daughter to waste her youth as she did. When Lois advises Jacy not to marry Duane and instead sleep with him to learn that there is "nothing magic about it," Jacy is shocked. Then next day, Sonny arrives at Coach's home to pick up Ruth, and the shy woman is disappointed to see that her husband has not come himself. During the return trip, Sonny is nonplussed by Ruth's tears, although she tells him that there is nothing seriously wrong. Afraid to be alone, Ruth invites Sonny in for a soda, but her continuing sobs unsettle him even more, although he timidly tries to comfort her. Later, at the town's Christmas dance, Lester Marlow, one of Jacy's country club friends, asks her to come to a nude swimming party at the home of wealthy Bobby Sheen. Eager for excitement, Jacy consents, then schemes on how to end her date with Duane. Perturbed to see Lois dancing with Abilene, the oil driller with whom Lois is having an affair, Jacy lures Duane to the pickup. There, Duane gives Jacy a lavish Christmas present and Jacy, hoping to distract him, places his hand under her skirt before announcing that Lois had ordered her to attend the swimming party with Lester. Meanwhile, Sonny helps Ruth clean up and while they are outside, they engage in a passionate kiss and agree to meet soon. In the nearby town of Wichita Falls, Lester introduces Jacy to Bobby and his crowd of sexually adventurous friends, and Jacy, eager to attract Bobby's attention, strips on the diving board. Back at Anarene, Duane suggests to the other boys that they ought to buy a hooker for Billy so that he will not die a virgin. Sonny's attempts to stop them are unsuccessful and soon Billy is in the back seat of a car with local waitress Jimmie Sue, who, angered by Billy's fumbling, bloodies his nose. The group returns Billy to Sam's pool hall, and while Sam questions them, Duane hides. Upon hearing what the boys have done, Sam condemns their "trashy behavior" and bans them from entering his businesses. Duane pretends to have fallen asleep in the car, and as the weeks pass, continues to patronize Sam's establishments, while Sonny stays away and is lonesome for Sam, whom he admires deeply, as well as Billy and Genevieve. In the meantime, Sonny begins an affair with Ruth, although during their first encounter, Ruth is so horrified by the loud squeaking of the bedsprings that she cannot enjoy herself. Several weeks later, Sonny enters the café one night and Genevieve, while reprimanding him for his treatment of Billy, allows him to stay. She attempts to caution him about his affair with Ruth, which is common knowledge, but Sonny remains silent. Sam and Billy enter, and after Billy joyfully greets his friend, Sam forgives the repentant youth. Another afternoon, Sam takes Sonny and Billy fishing and reminisces about a time twenty years earlier when he brought a young lady friend swimming at the same spot. Although he and his paramour were in love, she was already married and Sam lost her. Meanwhile, in Wichita Falls, Jacy attends another party at Bobby's, where the arrogant young man asks if she is a virgin. When Jacy admits that she is, Bobby tells her to come back when she is more experienced. Back in town, a bored Sonny and Duane decide to go to Mexico for the weekend and Sam, bemused by their exuberance, gives them some money. Upon their return, however, the boys are shocked to learn that Sam has died. Sam leaves the movie theater to Miss Jessie Mosey, who ran the theater's concession counter, the café to Genevieve and the pool hall to Sonny, which stuns the young man. Later, in the spring, the senior class attends their class picnic in Wichita Falls and Jacy plans a rendezvous with Duane so that she can be rid of her virginity. The excitement and pressure make Duane impotent, although he is successful upon their second attempt after graduation. While Ruth, who has blossomed under Sonny's attention and fallen in love with him, gives Sonny a wallet for graduation, Jacy breaks up with Duane, telling him that she would rather be with Bobby. Heartbroken, Duane leaves town for an oil-drilling job. Jacy's plans go awry, however, when Bobby dallies with her, then marries his girl friend. One night, bored and lonely, Jacy is sitting at home when Abilene arrives to see Lois. Flirting outrageously, Jacy asks Abilene to take her to the pool hall, where he has sex with her on a pool table. Upon their return, however, Abilene treats Jacy coldly, and when she sees her mother, Jacy breaks into tears. As Lois is comforting her, she mentions Ruth and Sonny's relationship, and Jacy, who was unaware of Sonny's liaison, is intrigued, as she knows about Sonny's crush on her. Determined to win Sonny away from Ruth, Jacy begins to date him, and promises that eventually they will spend the night together. Intoxicated, Sonny avoids Ruth, who waits miserably for him every afternoon. The summer passes until one day, Duane comes home for a visit and questions Sonny about Jacy. Sonny admits that they have been dating and as the confrontation grows more heated, reveals that Jacy told him about Duane's impotence. Furious, Duane smashes his beer bottle against Sonny's temple, nearly blinding him. While he is in the hospital, Sonny refuses to see Ruth and Duane joins the army. Later, when Sonny returns home, Jacy, who is thrilled to be the center of attention due to the fight over her, tells him they should elope. Eagerly anticipating having sex with Jacy, Sonny acquiesces, but after they are married and are driving home, Jacy reveals that she left a note for her parents detailing their plans. Sonny is crushed when they are stopped by a patrolman and Jacy is driven home by her furious father, who arranges for the marriage to be annulled, but Jacy, who wanted only to heighten her notoriety, is pleased. A resigned Lois drives Sonny back to Anarene, where she reveals that she was the woman with whom Sam had the affair twenty years earlier. In the fall, Sonny watches the school football team play and learns that Duane is home on leave. Both dreading and needing to see his friend before he ships out for Korea, Sonny finds Duane and asks if he wants to attend the picture show, as Miss Mosey is being forced to close it due to lack of business. Duane agrees and the boys spend a companionable evening watching the last movie. In the morning, Duane admits that if he had married Jacy, her father would have forced them to get an annulment, too. After Duane leaves, Sonny is in the pool hall when he hears the screech of brakes in the street and rushes outside to discover that Billy has been hit and killed by a trucker who did not see him. Grief-stricken, Sonny lashes out at the gathered men who deride Billy as a simpleton, then drags his friend's body to the sidewalk, where he carefully covers him. Sonny then drives to Ruth's, where the surprised woman admits him but then upbraids him for breaking her heart. Although Ruth tells Sonny that he has ruined what was between them, when he tenderly takes one of her hands, she caresses him in return and tells him, "Never you mind, honey, never you mind."
Jessie Lee Fulton
Will Morris Hannis
The Leon Miller Band
Archer City High School Band
Stephen J. Friedman
Walter Scott Herndon
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actor
Best Supporting Actress
Best Supporting Actress
Best Writing, Screenplay
The Last Picture Show
One could argue that Peter Bogdanovich never topped The Last Picture Show (1971), his second feature and surely one of the great films of the Seventies. This is due not only to Bogdanovich's direction, but also the strength of the original source material (the 1966 novel of the same title by Larry McMurtry), its excellent ensemble cast, and its gritty black-and-white cinematography by the Hollywood veteran Robert Surtees.
A basic part of the film's success arises from its authentic portrayal of small-town life, which it derives from the novel. Texas-born writer Larry McMurtry has had an unusually close, career-long relationship with the film medium. His first novel, Horsemen, Pass By (1961) was adapted into no less a film than Martin Ritt's Hud (1963). The reason for this is not difficult to fathom: McMurtry's depictions of small-town life in the West, with their unsparing but compassionate examination of stunted lives and their ironic echoes of the Western genre, offered strong material for filmmakers interested in exploring adult subjects. Other significant adaptations of McMurtry novels include Terms of Endearment (1983), the TV miniseries Lonesome Dove (1989), Texasville (1990)--a sequel to The Last Picture Show, and The Evening Star (1996).
The novel The Last Picture Show, like McMurtry's previous works, attracted some controversy upon its publication in 1966 due to its unusually frank treatment of sex. The difference between this novel and so many of the steamy potboilers that were in vogue at that time is that McMurtry is interested to show how people relate to each other through sex, and also how repressive social mores regarding sex warp individual characters' lives. For example, even though the character of Jacy is depicted as shallow and manipulative, we come to understand how she is a product of established social attitudes towards gender and class difference. In the same vein, one of McMurtry's main themes is the burden of masculinity in the modern West. One can in fact trace a direct line from The Last Picture Show as a novel to Annie Proulx's short story "Brokeback Mountain" and its acclaimed film version, for which McMurtry and his creative partner Diana Ossana wrote the Academy Award-winning screenplay adaptation.
Another aspect that contributes to the film's enduring appeal is its remarkable ensemble of actors, including many younger performers whose careers took off significantly as a result of the film. Timothy Bottoms, who plays the key role of Sonny Crawford, sadly never became a big name in the same way as Jeff Bridges, who plays opposite as his best friend Duane Jackson. Due to his uncanny resemblance to President George W. Bush, he has recently appeared both in the short-lived Trey Parker/Matt Stone satiric sitcom That's My Bush! (2001) and the all-too-serious Showtime docudrama DC 9/11: Time of Crisis (2003). These roles were hardly the first time an actor has played a living head of state onscreen; in the late Forties and early Fifties, the Georgian actor Mikheil Gelovani played Joseph Stalin in a series of propagandistic films portraying Stalin's supposedly wise and heroic wartime leadership.
Randy Quaid, who leaves an indelible impression in his small role as the goofy, leering Lester Marlow, also appeared in Peter Bodanovich's directing debut Targets (1968) and collaborated with the director again in What's Up Doc? (1972) and Paper Moon (1973). Eileen Brennan first made her mark in the off-Broadway musical Little Mary Sunshine (1959) and appeared on Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In (1968-1973), but her most famous role is undoubtedly Captain Doreen Lewis in Private Benjamin (1980).
Cybill Shepherd was working as a model when she was selected for the role of Jacy in The Last Picture Show. Her lack of acting experience caused considerable concern among the film's producers, though one could argue that she works well in the film both in terms of the character she portrays and because her fresh beauty is necessary to motivate the reactions of the other characters. Her next two films with Bogdanovich, Daisy Miller (1974) and At Long Last Love (1975), were legendary flops, but she attracted a new fan base with the cult hit TV series Moonlighting (1985-1989). Perhaps her best work to date was in Cybill (1995-1998), a bitter television comedy about a never-quite-successful actress in Hollywood. This role earned her an Emmy for Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
The choice of Ben Johnson (1918-1996) for the role of Sam the Lion is key to the film's impact on more than one level. Not only was he a fine actor, but he was closely associated with the Western throughout his career, working with directors such as John Ford and Sam Peckinpah. This helps translate the novel's subtle underlying commentary on the Western genre into purely cinematic terms, as do the clips of films such as Red River (1948) and Winchester '73 (1948) onscreen in the film's aging, soon-to-be-closed movie theater. Both Ben Johnson and Cloris Leachman won Oscars for their supporting roles. Jeff Bridges and Ellyn Burstyn also received nominations, as did Robert Surtees' cinematography and Bogdanovich and McMurtry's screenplay adaptation. The film itself was nominated for Best Picture. Incidentally, the version being shown on TCM is the 127-minute "director's cut," which restores about seven minutes of footage taken out before the film's initial theatrical release.
Producers: Stephen J. Freidman, Bert Schneider and Harold Schneider.
Director: Peter Bogdanovich.
Director of Photography: Robert Surtees.
Screenplay: Peter Bogdanovich and Larry McMurtry.
Editing: Donn Camern.
Production Design: Polly Platt.
Cast: Timothy Bottoms (Sonny Crawford), Jeff Bridges (Duane Jackson), Cybill Shepherd (Jacy Farrow), Ben Johnson (Sam the Lion), Cloris Leachman (Ruth Popper), Ellen Burstyn (Lois Farrow ); Eileen Brennan (Genevieve ), Sam Bottoms (Billy), Sharon Ullrick. (Charlene Duggs), Randy Quaid (Lester Marlow), Joe Heathcock (The Sheriff), Bill Thurman (Coach Popper), Barc Doyle (Joe Bob Blanton), Jessie Lee Fulton (Miss Mosey).
BW-127m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by James Steffen
The Last Picture Show
Noble Willingham (1931-2004)
Born on August 31, 1931 in Mineola, Texas, Willingham was educated at North Texas State University where he earned a degree in Economics. He later taught government and economics at a high school in Houston, leaving his life-long dreams of becoming an actor on hold until the opportunity presented itself. Such an opportunity happened when in late 1970, Peter Bogdonovich was doing some on-location shooting in south Texas for The Last Picture Show (1971); at the urging of some friends, he audition and won a small role in the picture. From there, Willingham slowly began to find work in some prominent films, including Bogdonovich's Paper Moon (1973), and Roman Polanski's Chinatown (1974). Around this time, Willingham kept busy with many guest appearances on a variety of popular shows: Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Waltons, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Rockford Files and several others.
Critics didn't take notice of his acting abilities until he landed the role of Leroy Mason, the soulless plant manager who stares down Sally Field in Norma Rae (1979). Few could forget him screaming at her, "Lady, I want you off the premises now!" with unapologetic malice. It may have not been a likable character, but after this stint, better roles came along, most notably the corrupt Dr. Fenster in Robert Redford's prison drama Brubaker (1980); and the evil sheriff in the thriller The Howling (1981).
By the late '80s, Willingham was an in-demand character actor, and he scored in three hit films: a border patrol sergeant - a great straight man to Cheech Marin - in the ethnic comedy Born in East L.A.; his wonderfully avuncular performance as General Taylor, the military brass who was sympathetic to an unorthodox disc jockey in Saigon, played by Robin Williams in Good Morning, Vietnam (both 1987); and his good 'ole boy villainy in the Rutger Hauer action flick Blind Fury (1988). His performances in these films proved that if nothing else, Willingham was a solid backup player who was adept at both comedy and drama.
His best remembered role will no doubt be his six year run as the genial barkeep C.D. Parker opposite Chuck Norris in the popular adventure series Walker, Texas Ranger (1993-99). However, film reviewers raved over his tortured performance as a foul-mouthed, bigoted boat salesman who suffers a traffic downfall in the little seen, but searing indie drama The Corndog Man (1998); the role earned Willingham a nomination for Best Actor at the Independent Spirit Awards and it showed that this ably supporting performer had enough charisma and talent to hold his own in a lead role.
In 2000, Willingham tried his hand at politics when he unsuccessfully tried to unseat Democrat Max Dandlin in a congressional campaign in east Texas. After the experience, Willingham returned to acting filming Blind Horizon with Val Kilmer in 2003. The movie is to be released later this year. Willingham is survived by his wife, Patti Ross Willingham; a son, John Ross McGlohen; two daughters, Stari Willingham and Meghan McGlohen; and a grandson.
by Michael T. Toole
Noble Willingham (1931-2004)
Chicken fry me a steak and use meat this time!- Sam the Lion
I guess if it wasn't for Sam, I'd have missed it, whatever it is. I'd have been one of them amity types that thinks that playin' bridge is about the best thing that life has to offer.- Lois Farrow
Hi Jacy, it's Duane.- Duane Jackson
What's on your feeble mind Duane?- Jacy Farrow
Thank God, I'm glad I weren't on fire - I would've burned to death. All you've got is one button undone.- Jacy Farrow
Abilene, you asleep?- Lois Farrow
You like company?- Lois Farrow
Well, I thought I'd drive out, see how my well was coming.- Abilene
Drill hard. You're better at oil wells anyway.- Lois Farrow
He was sweeping you sons of bitches, he was sweeping!- Sonny Crawford
John Ritter was considered for the role of Sonny
All the film's music (except for the closing credits) is played in the background on radios, jukeboxes or, at the swim party, on a portable record player.
All the camera angles are eye-level.
The actual 100-seat Royal Theatre, located in Archer City, Texas, had burned after a balcony fire in August 1965. Over the decades, a number of visitors came to Archer City to photograph what remained. Plans were made to bulldoze the ruins, but it was learned that would have weakened the adjacent structures. However, in the 1990s the Royal Theater was rebuilt as a performing-arts center, with its blue-and-orange facade restored to its appearance in "The Last Picture Show".
Cybill Shepard was cast with the option of backing out of her nude scenes if she so desired. She only agreed to do them after asking the opinions of three female costars, Leachman, Burstyn, and Brennan, who all thought she should do them.
With the exception of the film's title, all of the credits appear at the end of the picture. The names and characters of the leading actors appear over brief scenes of them from the film. The picture does not have a traditional music score and instead features only songs from the film's time period (Nov 1951-October 1952) or earlier. The songs are heard on jukeboxes, record players and radios and frequently are only snippets. Some of the songs heard briefly are "Blue Velvet," "Slow Poke," "A Fool Such as I," "Kawliga" and "Jambalaya." The onscreen credits include the following acknowledgment: "For their music we thank Hank Williams; Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys, courtesy of MGM Records; Eddy Arnold; Eddie Fisher; Phil Harris; Pee Wee King; Hank Snow, courtesy of RCA Records; Tony Bennett; Lefty Frizzell; Frankie Laine; Johnnie Ray, courtesy of Columbia Records; Johnny Standley; Kay Starr; Hank Thompson, courtesy of Capitol Records, Inc.; Webb Pierce; Jo Stafford, courtesy of Decca Records."
Also thanked onscreen are M-G-M, for providing the clips from its 1950 film Father of the Bride; United Artists Corp. and Avco-Embassy for the use of Howard Hawks's 1948 production Red River, which is the last film shown at the Royal Theatre; Walter Framer Productions for excerpts from the television show Strike It Rich; and Max Liebman Productions for excerpts from the television program Your Show of Shows, both of which are seen in the "Farrow" home.
The picture is largely faithful to Larry McMurtry's semi-autobiographical novel, although certain scenes, such as the high school graduation, were added for the film. "Coach Popper's" latent homosexuality is not emphasized in the film, and his persecution of teacher "Mr. Cecil," in order to disguise his own homosexuality, is not included at all. One deviation from McMurtry's novel that was made by director Peter Bogdanovich were the films exhibited at the Royal Theatre, which is referred to as "the picture show." In the novel, the first movie seen by the townspeople is the 1951 Ginger Rogers starrer Storm Warning (see below), while in the film, the first film that "Sonny Crawford" and "Charlene Duggs" see is Father of the Bride. Bogdanovich was particularly insistent on the last film exhibited before the picture show closes, according to contemporary accounts. In the novel, it is The Kid from Texas, a minor, 1950 Audie Murphy Western, whereas Bogdanovich preferred something "more romantic" so that "the theater [would] go out with a bang," and so instead used Red River, starring John Wayne (see below).
According to December 1969 Variety and Publishers Weekly news items, lawyer Stephen J. Friedman purchased the film rights to McMurtry's novel in 1967, then sold them to producer Bert Schneider in 1969. A July 1968 Hollywood Reporter news item reported that Friedman had hired Clyde Ware to write the screenplay, and a September 1968 Daily Variety item announced the Ware had been paid $40,000 by Shacar Productions, a New York-based company, for his screenplay. None of Ware's work was used in the final film, however. In her autobiography, actress Cybill Shepherd related that Friedman, who is credited onscreen as executive producer, was a producer in name only because of the deal for the book rights, and that when he visited the set during filming, he was banned by Bogdanovich for attempting to coach some of the actors. Bogdanovich has recounted in several modern sources that he was given a copy of McMurtry's book by actor Sal Mineo, who felt that he was too old for any of the leading parts but thought highly of the novel and encouraged Bogdanovich to film the property. Although several 1970 news items announced that the title of The Last Picture Show would be changed in order to avoid confusion with director-actor Dennis Hopper's 1971 release The Last Movie, it was not.
In a January 1972 New York Times interview, Ellen Burstyn stated that she had originally read for all three of the "older women" parts-"Lois Farrow," "Genevieve" and "Ruth Popper"-and that although the other filmmakers were eager to have her play Ruth, Bogdanovich told her to pick whichever role she wanted, and Burstyn chose Lois. Filmfacts recounted studio press noting that James Stewart was considered for the role of "Sam the Lion," while Dorothy Malone and Vera Miles were considered for "Ruth Popper," until "Bogdanovich decided to go with `no familiar faces.'" According to modern sources, including interviews with the filmmakers for a 1999 "making of" documentary on the picture's DVD release, John Ritter and Chris Mitchum were considered for the role of Sonny; Tex Ritter auditioned for Sam the Lion; Sissy Spacek and Morgan Fairchild were considered for "Jacy Farrow"; and Bogdanovich pushed to hire country singer Jimmy Dean for "Abilene." In the documentary, both Bridges and Burstyn noted that local Texas actor Lloyd Catlett, who played "Leroy" in the film, served as a dialogue coach, helping them and other cast members with their accents.
As noted by contemporary sources, the film was shot on location in Archer City, TX, McMurtry's hometown. According to reviews of the film, McMurtry based his novel on life in Archer City, although it is called Anarene in the film and Thalia in his novel. Numerous contemporary sources reported that the citizens of Archer City were displeased by McMurtry's fictionalized depiction of the town and were hostile toward him and the filmmakers when the picture was produced there. As pointed out in a February 1972 Los Angeles Times article, however, numerous townspeople appeared in the film in bit roles or as extras, including the Acher City High School Band and McMurtry's mother Hazel. Contemporary sources report that although Archer City was the primary location site, some scenes were shot in nearby Wichita Falls, TX. The exterior of the Royal movie theater was located in Archer City, but the interior used was that of the West-Tex Theatre in Olney, TX, according to a January 1986 Los Angeles Times article. According to a 1978 New York Times article, the Royal went out of business in the early 1960s.
In the 1999 documentary, Bogdanovich claimed that he edited the entire film himself but did not want to receive an onscreen credit for it, as he felt it would look "ridiculous" to have too many credits on the same film. When Schneider pointed out that the Editors Guild required that someone had to receive the editor's credit, Bogdanovich suggested Donn Cambern, who had been working in the editing facility next to his and had helped him with the paperwork to order some optical effects.
The film received glowing reviews, with the acting, black-and-white cinematography and direction being highly praised. Cue called the film "nothing short of a contemporary American cinema classic," while Newsweek declared: "It is not merely the best American movie of a rather dreary year; it is the most impressive work by a young American director since Citizen Kane." LAHExam commended the acting, terming it "surely the strongest ensemble performance of the year." Numerous reviewers were moved by the film's depiction of the decline in motion picture attendance, which had been an important part of American small-town life, and the rise in television viewership in the 1950s. The closure of the Royal Theater and the death of Sam the Lion also symbolized a decline in moral values and authority, according to some film historians, who quote Sonny's lament that "nothing has been right since Sam died."
Many critics commented that Bogdanovich's direction was informed by his intense study of and admiration for "classic" American film directors, especially John Ford, Orson Welles and Howard Hawks. Leachman and Ben Johnson won Academy Awards for Best Supporting Actress and Actor, respectively, and the film received Academy Awards nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Supporting Actress (Burstyn) and Best Supporting Actor (Bridges). The picture won BAFTAs for Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Johnson) and Best Supporting Actress (Leachman) and was nominated for Best Direction, Best Film and Best Supporting Actress (Brennan). Bogdanovich received nominations from the Directors Guild and Writers Guild, and the film was nominated for Golden Globes for Best Director, Best Motion Picture-Drama, Best Supporting Actress-Motion Pictures (both Leachman and Burstyn) and Most Promising Newcomer for Shepherd. Johnson won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor-Motion Picture. In 1998, the film was selected by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Film Registry.
The picture, which was first exhibited at the New York Film Festival, was also shown as the opening attraction for the first Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Filmex) on November 4, 1971. A March 1972 Daily Variety article noted that BBS Productions awarded public relations executive Claire Harrison, and other "tub-thumpers for the hit picture," .012% of the film's grosses for the next four years due to their successful efforts in advertising the hit picture. A February 1972 Hollywood Reporter article had reported that the film appeared "to be headed for an international tally of at least $20 million."
The film marked the screen acting debut of Randy Quaid, although some modern sources erroneously state that Quaid made his debut in Bogdanovich's first picture, the 1968 release Targets (see below). In the DVD documentary, Bogdanovich stated that the casting director first brought Quaid in with the intention of casting him as "Bobby Sheen," but Bogdanovich thought he would be more suitable for "Lester Marlowe." Sam Bottoms, the younger brother of actor Timothy Bottoms, also made his motion picture debut in The Last Picture Show. According to Filmfacts, he got the role "when he showed up to watch his older brother Timothy's first day of shooting."
The film also marked the feature film debut of twenty-year-old model Cybill Shepherd, who began a highly publicized affair with Bogdanovich during production. The thirty-one-year-old Bogdanovich, who, according to contemporary sources, cast Shepherd after seeing her on the cover of Glamour magazine, left his wife, designer Polly Platt, with whom he had collaborated on The Last Picture Show and Targets, for Shepherd. Bogdanovich and Platt divorced, although they continued to work together on and off, while the director lived with Shepherd until mid-1978. Bogdanovich and Shepherd made two more films together, 1974's Daisy Miller and 1975's At Long Last Love, but neither picture was received well financially or critically, and the couple received much negative press about their relationship. The Last Picture Show also marked McMurtry's first screenplay and the beginning of his longtime friendship with both Bogdanovich and Shepherd.
In the DVD documentary, Bogdanovich related that he had been pressured to edit the film to under two hours. Several months after its initial release, however, he added back in the scene between Genevieve and Sonny, in which it is explained that Sonny and "Duane Jackson" live at a boardinghouse despite each having a surviving parent. The addition of the sequence raised the film's running time to 120 minutes, which was the running time of the picture's 1974 theatrical reissue. For the movie's 1991 videocassette and laserdisc release, Bogdanovich edited back in several more sequences, including the sexual encounter between Abilene and Jacy. In her autobiography, Shepherd explained that the original sound had been lost for the pool table sequence, and so she re-recorded "the audible implications of lovemaking" for the scene. The "director's cut," which runs 126 minutes, was the print viewed. Although Bogdanovich stated in a October 22, 1990 Daily Variety article that the film had not yet been released on videocassette due to expensive restoration work, a October 3, 1990 Long Beach Press-Telegram article claimed that the video release was delayed due to difficulties in clearing the extensive music rights. In 1999, the film was restored by Sony Pictures Entertainment, according to a press release for a 2005 AMPAS screening.
According to a September 1972 Daily Variety article, BBS Productions and Columbia filed suit in Arizona Federal Court to challenge Arizona and Phoenix laws prohibiting "sensitive subject matter" from being shown at drive-in movie theaters, where, presumably, it could be seen by people outside the theater. The article noted that Phoenix authorities "objected to less than 10 seconds of footage" from the film, but that they were still not allowing it to be exhibited at drive-ins. The production companies charged that prohibiting them from exhibiting The Last Picture Show at drive-ins infringed on the First Amendment rights of both audiences and producers. A July 1973 Hollywood Reporter article announced that the production companies had won the suit. The Hollywood Reporter article explained that Phoenix authorities had decided that Shepherd's nude scene was "obscene" and had ordered the theater showing the picture to delete it or withdraw the picture. Columbia had chosen to withdraw the film from drive-in exhibition, and the court hearing the case ruled that BBS and Columbia had faced "official suppression" as a result of the censorship.
Shepherd filed a lawsuit against Playboy magazine in the mid-1970s after it printed frame enlargements of her nude scene from the film's swimming pool sequence, which she maintained was illegal as the magazine had not obtained her consent. As noted by a May 1979 New York Times article and Shepherd's autobiography, the case was settled out of court when Hugh Hefner, Playboy's publisher, agreed to split with her the film rights to Paul Theroux's novel Saint Jack. Directed by Bogdanovich and co-produced by Shepherd's Shoals Creek production company, the film was released in 1979.
In 1974, according to trade paper reports, Schneider, Robert J. Rafelson and J. Steven Blauner, partners in BBS Productions, filed suit against Columbia, demanding an accounting of profits for The Last Picture Show and Five Easy Pieces, which was also made by BBS. A May 30, 1974 Daily Variety news item reported that the partners had sold their interest in BBS to Columbia in December 1971 in exchange for "85% of `asset value realization' from all produced properties," including the two pictures. The partners alleged that Columbia had failed to account for all profits, made improper tax adjustments and overstated other expenses. The outcome of that suit has not been confirmed. In August 1977, the three partners again sued Columbia, this time alleging that the studio had "violated Federal anti-trust laws" and conspired to "defraud" BBS through its licensing of The Last Picture Show and other BBS films for exhibition on ABC-TV, according to a August 3, 1977 Variety article. The disposition of the 1977 suit also has not been determined.
In 1987, McMurtry published Texasville, his sequel to The Last Picture Show, which picked up the characters' lives in 1984, during a celebration of the centennial of Archer County. Bogdanovich's film of the novel, also entitled Texasville, was released in 1990 and featured Bridges, Shepherd, Timothy Bottoms, Quaid, Leachman, Brennan and several others reprising their roles from the first film. For the 1990 film, Bogdanovich again employed the device of using songs from radios and other sources within the picture rather than a traditional musical score. According to an August 1990 Long Beach Press-Telegram article, Columbia originally considered a theatrical re-release of The Last Picture Show in the summer before the release of Texasville, but decided against it in case viewers thought they would have to see the earlier film in order to understand the later one.
In 1991, Picture This: The Times of Peter Bogdanovich in Archer City, Texas, a documentary directed by George Hickenlooper and produced by Timothy and Sam Bottoms, received a limited theatrical release and was broadcast on cable television. Although it was shot during production of Texasville, the hour-long documentary revolved primarily around the making of The Last Picture Show, and its long-lasting effects on the personal lives of the cast, crew and townspeople of Archer City.
Selected in 1998 for inclusion in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry.
Voted Best Supporting Actor (Johnson), Best Supporting Actress (Burstyn), and Best Screenplay by the 1971 New York Film Crticis Circle.
Voted Best Supporting Actor (Johnson), Best Supporting Actress (Leachman), and One of the Year's Ten Best English -Language Films by the 1971 National Board of Review.
Voted Best Supporting Actress (Burstyn) by the 1971 National Society of Film Critics.
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1971 New York Times Film Crtics.
Released in United States October 1971
Released in United States Fall October 3, 1971
Re-released in United States April 27, 1996
Released in United States on Video April 3, 1991
Released in United States October 2, 1971
Released in United States November 1971
Released in United States 1996
Released in United States April 1996
Released in United States November 2006
Released in United States February 2010
Shown at New York Film Festival October 2, 1971.
Shown at Avignon/New York Film Festival (director's cut) in New York City April 10-23, 1996.
Shown at Santa Barbara International Film Festival (Special Presentation) February 4-14, 2010.
Based on the Larry McMurtry novel "The Last Picture Show" (New York, 1966).
Screen acting debut of Randy Quaid, feature film debut of Cybill Shepherd and first screenplay written by Larry McMurtry.
The Criterion Collection laserdisc includes not only 7 minutes of previously unseen footage, but also scenes that have been re-edited, lengthened and repositioned.
Re-released in Munich January 31, 1991.
Released in USA on laserdisc (re-edited version) June 1991.
Released in United States October 1971
Released in United States Fall October 3, 1971
Re-released in United States April 27, 1996 (Angelika 57; New York City)
Released in United States on Video April 3, 1991
Released in United States October 2, 1971 (Shown at New York Film Festival October 2, 1971.)
Released in United States November 1971 (Shown at FILMEX: Los Angeles International Film Exposition (Opening Night) November 4-14, 1971.)
Released in United States 1996 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Out of the Seventies: Hollywood's New Wave 1969-1975" May 31 - July 25, 1996.)
Released in United States April 1996 (Shown at Avignon/New York Film Festival (director's cut) in New York City April 10-23, 1996.)
Released in United States November 2006 (Shown at AFI/Los Angeles Film Festival (20 Years of AFI Fest) November 1-12, 2006.)
Released in United States February 2010 (Shown at Santa Barbara International Film Festival (Special Presentation) February 4-14, 2010.)
In 2007, ranked 95th in AFI's 100 Years 100 Movies, the 10th Anniversary Edition list of the greatest American films.