The Story Behind The Last Picture Show
By | July 10, 2022
The Characters Are All Struggling To Find Their Way
The Last Picture Show is about the passage of time, as the characters and the town itself experience changes. However, it is also about life in the small town, where everyone knows everyone else, they all know each other’s business and the adults are attempting to cope with their own lost dreams. The central characters, best friends Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane Jackson (Jeff Bridges), and Duane’s girlfriend Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd), are seniors in high school in 1951. Jacy, who is one of the most beautiful and popular girls in town, is dating Duane, but she would rather be with Bobby Sheen, who is wealthy and a better prospect than Duane. He, however, doesn’t want to be with a virgin, so she sets out to lose her virginity, which she does, with Duane. After that, she breaks up with Duane over the phone.
The Drama Continues
At Christmas, Sonny starts having an affair with Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman), his basketball coach’s wife. After Sonny and Duane return from a trip to Mexico, they learn that Sam (Ben Johnson), who owned the theater, pool hall, and diner, died after having a stroke. Sam leaves the pool hall to Sonny. Bobby, meanwhile, has gotten married, and Jacy has sex with Abilene (Clu Gulager), a foreman who is also her mother’s lover. After that, Jacy pursues Sonny, who dumps Ruth, and the two are briefly married. However, the marriage doesn’t last as Jacy’s parents want her to go to college and have a better life, but she wants to stay in town, where she is the center of the gossip. Duane and Sonny, who had a falling out because of Jacy, reconcile before Duane ships out for Korea, and they go to see Red River. In the end, Sonny and Ruth are tentatively reunited.
The Evolution Of The Film
The actor Sal Mineo gave Peter Bogdanovich a copy of Larry McMurtry’s book, but it was only after his wife, production designer Polly Platt, inspired him to read it, that he decided to take on the challenge of filming it. He ended up co-writing the screenplay with McMurtry and chose to film it in McMurtry’s hometown of Archer City. Just as McMurtry changed the name in the book, Bogdanovich changed it in the movie, naming it Anarene, another homage to the town of Abilene, Kansas from Howard Hawks’ Red River, the classic western which is the “last picture show” that Sonny and Duane see. Bogdanovich discussed the film with Orson Welles, who was his houseguest at the time, and at his suggestion, Bogdanovich decided to film it in black and white.