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:

  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: Sonny often shows his affection towards Billy by taking his cap off and putting it back on.
  • Bookends: The film closes with a reverse of the pan shot seen in the opening.
  • Dying Town: Anarene, Texas; changed from Thalia, Texas in the novel.
  • 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.