It seems coincidental to be posting Larry McMurtry’s semi-autobiographical novel The Last Picture Show on the morning after the Oscars. The 1961 book became the screen play for the 1971 motion picture adaptation starring Cybill Shepherd, Jeff Bridges, Cloris Leachman and Timothy Bottoms as Sonny ( presumably Larry McMurtry). The picture won two Academy Awards with a total of eight nominations and was followed by a sequel based on McMurtry’s novel Texasville. McMurtry grew up in West Texas thus becoming the natural setting for The Last Picture Show. Surely the book is McMurtry’s coming of age in a everybody knows everybody small town with little to do and less to offer.
” Sometimes Sonny felt like he was the only human creature in the town. There was only one car parked on the courthouse square-the night watchman’s old white Nash. A cold norther was singing in off the plains, swirling long ribbons of dust down Main Street, the only street in Thalia with businesses on it. Sonny’s pick up was a 41 Chevrolet, not at its best on cold mornings. In front of the picture show it coughed out and had to be choked for a while but then it stared again and jerked its way to the red light, blowing out spumes of white exhaust that the wind whipped way.”
Enter the cast of characters, buddies, girl friends, oil field rough necks , the pool hall king, the football coach and his unfulfilled wife, Roberta ( Mrs. Popper). “When Sonny kissed Mrs. Popper outside the Legion Hall it seemed to him that the whole spectrum of delicious experience lay suddenly within his grasp.” And so goes this marvelous adventure of growing up i the 1950s in what could be a hundred other American small towns. McMurtry’s brilliance nails nearly every nuance of teens stumbling into adulthood.
It is fitting that we post The Last Picture Show during Oscar week. McMurtry is the author of some 40 screenplays including Lonesome Dove and he co-authored the screen play for Brokeback Mountain. He has also written thirty highly acclaimed novels including Lonesome Dove for which he won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The book was the basis of the TV series and the blockbuster motion picture of the same name. Search goordonsgoodreads.com for overviews of McMurtry’s other great series of books on the American West.