Ethan Hawke is one of my personal favorite actors. While
The Last Picture Show was, along with Easy Rider and Bonnie and Clyde, one of the biggest films to signal the new Hollywood of the 70s. The love letter to small town longing and romance, directed by Peter Bogdonavich, showcased a new style of storytelling, and a departure from the Hollywood system. It also ushered in new talent like Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd. Here are a dozen factual things to know about the film and its history…
1. Ben Johnson, who played Sam The Lion, won Best Supporting Actor for his performance. At just under 10 minutes of screen time, it holds the record for shortest on-screen time for a Best Supporting Actor winner.
2. Director Peter Bogdanovich’s introduction to this story was through actor Sal Mineo who had given him the novel to read by then little-known Texas writer Larry McMurtry. Mineo had longed to play a part in the film adaptation but felt he was by then a little too old for any of the principal roles.
3. Cybill Shepherd 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 – Cloris Leachman, Ellen Burstyn and Eileen Brennan – who all thought she should do them.
4. Aside from breakout roles for Jeff Bridges and Shepherd, this was also the feature film debuts for Randy Quaid and Sam Bottoms.
5. The location was Archer City, Texas, hometown of Larry McMurtry, the author of the novel “The Last Picture Show”. McMurtry and Director Peter Bogdanovich scouted several locations for the movie and Bogdonovich chose Archer City when McMurtry stopped there during the trip. The town remains much as it was during the filming. The Royal Theater was rebuilt after the filming of Texasville in 1990, a sequel to the film. The Royal no longer screens films but currently hosts The Texasville Opry, the Late Week Lazy Boy Supper Club and numerous plays and performances.
6. According to Peter Bogdanovich, actress Sharon Ullrick (who plays Charlene Duggs) went through a lot of trouble with her parents and her husband because of her semi nude scene with Timothy Bottoms. She ended up divorcing her husband because of the issues.
7. Peter Bogdanovich used no music except popular songs from the period all heard in a naturalistic context over radios.
8. Ellen Burstyn was originally considered for the role of Genevieve, but after meeting with Bogdonavich and reading for all three of the older women characters, he asked her to play Ruth Popper. Burstyn, however, preferred the role of Lois, and Bogdonavich told her to go home, think about whatever part she wanted to play, and call him the next day. She called him the next morning, telling him she still wanted to play Lois, and he agreed.
9. According to Cloris Leachman the cause of her dysfunctional marriage was that her husband was gay. She claims a scene between her coach husband and the team’s quarterback would have revealed that implicitly, but because of budgetary reasons was never shot.
10. The “last picture” shown in the movie theater was Red River. In the original novel it was an Audie Murphy B-Western, but Peter Bogdanovich wanted something more dramatic.
11. This film began a trend where already popular recordings by the original artists are used to score a film. Featured here are songs by Frankie Laine, Hank Williams, Jo Stafford, etc.