The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is a musical comedy with a book by Larry L. King and Peter Masterson, and songs by Carol Hall. The story follows Miss Mona Stangley, who owns the Chicken Ranch, a century-old brothel. She is on good terms with Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd, with whom she once had an affair. Unfortunately, their good times are disrupted by moralist "consumer advocate" Melvin P. Thorpe, who brands the Chicken Ranch "The Devil's Den". When Thorpe acts to try to shut down the Chicken Ranch, Mona and the Sheriff must take action.
The stage production ran on Broadway from June 1978 to March 1982, and then staged a return engagement from May until July. A film adaptation was released around this time, directed by Colin Higgins (9 to 5) and starring Burt Reynolds as the Sheriff, Dolly Parton as Miss Mona and Dom DeLuise as Thorpe. Featuring Jim Nabors as the Sheriff's Deputy and Charles Durning as the Governor of Texas, it had several new songs written and performed by Parton, including her famous "I Will Always Love You".
The film received mixed critical reviews but was commercially successful, being (at the time) the highest-grossing live-action movie musical, held until Dreamgirls 24 years later. It has become something of a Cult Classic over the years.
The best little tropes in Texas:
- Blatant Lies: The senator who was paying for the Aggie Thanksgiving party at the Chicken Ranch, who was caught along with the football players with one of the Chicken Ranch girls, claims that he has no memory of going there and that he must have been drugged by Communist agents.
- Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: A mother is shown covering her child's ears during "Texas Has a Whorehouse in it".
- Downer Ending: The play ends with the whorehouse being shut down, the Sheriff and Mona not getting together (since there is only implied to be a past series of flings between the two) and Mona singing the downer song "One Way Ticket to Nowhere".
- False Reassurance: Thorpe spends his first meeting with Ed acting as if he'll leave the Chicken Ranch alone, saying that he'll leave that kind of Moral Guardians crusade to the preachers. Then he walks onstage, denounces the Chicken Ranch, and directs his audience toward Ed Earl, while denouncing him as a pawn of the prostitutes.
- Fanservice Extra: Plenty of the scantily clad prostitutes are lucky to get a single solo line in any of the songs.
- Feet-First Introduction: Mona.
- Hypocritical Humor: Thorpe is introduced talking about how he fights for "truth in advertising"...while putting on a girdle, shoulder pads and a sock. He also mentions being originally from New Jersey despite his Southern drawl.
- Intentionally Awkward Title: Marketing in some states had to alter the title.
- Interrupted Intimacy: Many instances, including one involving the Governor.
- Mathematician's Answer: One line in the musical but not the film, a reporter asks the Governor what is behind rising unemployment numbers. The governor replies that the cause of unemployment is that so many people are out of work, then changes the subject.
- Movie Bonus Song: The film has three: "Sneakin' Around" by Mona and Ed Earl; but these two were cut, "Where Stallions Run" by Ed Earl (this one was used in some broadcast versions); and "A Gamble Either Way" (would appear on Dolly's 1983 album, Burlap & Satin).note
- Onstage, the 2001 Broadway revival starring Ann-Margret included "A Friend to Me".
- The Narrator: The Bandleader onstage, and Deputy Fred in the film.
- Of Corsets Sexy: Mona wears a lot of corseted outfits and looks damn sexy, too.
- Oh, Crap!: Thorpe gets one when Ed gives him a right hook after he insults the Chicken Ranch with Dodd behind him.
- The Power of Lust: This adaptation adds the incentive that the winners of a football match-up between the Longhorns versus the Aggies get to visit the Chicken Ranch, which is a brothel that used to take live poultry as payment during the Dust Bowl years.
- Rags to Riches: The Slave to PR governor refers to himself as "A poor boy, come to greatness." during his musical number.
- Scooby-Dooby Doors: The Governor does this, popping back and forth among some pillars, near the end of his "Sidestep" musical piece. In this case, it's the audience whom he's dodging rather than pursuers.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: Ed's initial reaction to Mona's expensive panties is that it's a "Japanese slingshot". Not too long after, the Deputy assumes the same.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Mona and the Sheriff.
- Victory Sex: As an incentive in the intrastate rivalry between the Texas Longhorns and the Texas Agriculture And Markets Aggies, the winning team was feted at the Chicken Ranch, with the "fees" being paid by the team's booster clubs. Y'know, Win One for the Boner.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The musical was inspired by the Chicken Ranch Brothel in La Grange, Texas. Various names were changed as the characters were dramatized, but the basic facts of the closure because of the investigative reporter were true. However, Thorpe's real life counterpart Marvin Zindler wasn't a moral crusader, but he did get attacked by the sheriff.
- Villain Song: "Texas Has a Whorehouse in It" and, to an extent, "The Sidestep".