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Film / The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

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"If you grew up anywhere in Texas, you knew at an early age they was selling somethin' out there - and it wasn't poultry!"
Deputy Fred

A 1978 stage musical by librettists Larry L. King and Peter Masterson and songwriter Carol Hall, The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas ran on Broadway until March 1982, and then staged a return engagement a few months later which ran until July, the same month its film adaptation was released. The film version, directed by Colin Higgins, starred Burt Reynolds, Dolly Parton, Jim Nabors, and Charles Durning as the Governor of Texas, and had several extra songs performed and written by Dolly Parton, including "I Will Always Love You."

Mona Stangley is the owner of the Chicken Ranch, a brothel which has been open for business for a century. She is on good terms with Sheriff Ed Dodd, with whom she once had an affair. Unforturnately, their good times are disrupted by Moralist Reporter Melvin P. Thorpe, who brands the Chicken Ranch "The Devil's Den." When Thorpe acts to try to shutdown the Chicken Ranch, Stangley and Dodd must take action.


This show features examples of:

  • 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 the "Texas Has a Whorehouse in it" number.
  • 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".
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Mona
  • Hypocritical Humor: Thorpe is introduced talking about how he fights for "truth in advertising"...while putting on a girdle, shoulderpads, and a sock. He also mentions being originally from New Jersey despite his Southern drawl.
  • Advertisement:
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: Ads for the film version in some states had to alter the film's title.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Many instances, including one involving the governor.
  • Miss Kitty: Mona
  • Moral Guardians: Melvin P. Thorpe
  • The Narrator: Deputy Fred.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Dolly Parton 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Alternative Title(s): The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas


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