Film / The Last Picture Show

The Last Picture Show is a 1971 American drama film directed by Peter Bogdanovich, adapted from a semi-autobiographical 1966 novel of the same name by Larry McMurtry.

Set in a small town in north Texas between November 1951 and October 1952, it is about the coming of age of Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms) and his friend Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges). The cast includes Cybill Shepherd in her film debut, Ben Johnson, Eileen Brennan, Ellen Burstyn, Cloris Leachman, Clu Gulager, Randy Quaid in his film debut and John Hillerman. For aesthetic and technical reasons it was shot in black and white, which was unusual for its time.

The film was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and four nominations for acting: Ben Johnson and Jeff Bridges for Best Supporting Actor, and Ellen Burstyn and Cloris Leachman for Best Supporting Actress. It won two: Johnson and Leachman.

This film provides examples of:

  • Downer Ending
    "Never you mind, honey... never you mind."
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Upon selecting the town of Archer City, Texas, as a filming location, production designer Polly Platt and 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 you'll shoot it in black and white!"
  • Dying Town: Anarene, Texas; changed from Thalia, Texas in the novel.
  • Fourth Date Marriage: Almost the case with Jacy and Sonny. Seemed to be the right thing to do in The '50s.
  • Glass Eye: Sonny ends up with one after Duane hits him with a beer bottle in a fight
  • New Old West: Though the film doesn't deal with a lot of the classic themes and plot elements of The Western, it was clearly influenced by the films of Howard Hawks and John Ford.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Ruth gives one of these to Sonny at the end.
  • Sequel: Texasville, McMurtry's sequel to the original novel, was itself adapted for the screen by Bogdanovich in 1990. Bridges, Shepherd, Leachman, Bottoms, Quaid, and Brennan all reprised their roles.
  • Shout-Out: The two main characters watch Red River during the titular "last picture show" at the town's soon-to-be-closing cinema.
  • Video Credits: All main characters are shown with face and name in the closing credits.
  • The Voiceless: Billy never says a word throughout the film.