"The Last Picture Show Celebrates Anniversary"
June 22nd, 2011
The Last Picture Show launched the careers of Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepherd,
and produced Academy Awards for veteran actors Cloris Leachman and Ben
Johnson, as well as nominations for future Oscar winners Bridges and Ellen
Burstyn. In all, the 1971 classic garnered ten Oscar nominations, including one
for Best Direction. In 1990, the cast reprised their roles for the sequel,
"Texasville", which also starred Annie Potts ("Designing Women"). Back in
the Spring, I spoke with Peter, Jeff, Cloris, Ellen, and Annie. I asked them
to reflect back on the films, and on their time together.
Longworth: Did you shoot The Last Picture Show in black and white as
a cost cutting measure?
Bogdanovich: That had nothing to do with it. In fact, it was probably a
little more expensive to do it in black and white because the labs weren't
used to it. The period of the film was early fifties which was still a B&W
period. The other reason is Orson Welles told me "every performance looks
better in black and white", and he was right.
One of those great performances was by Cloris Leachman, who had a
particularly emotional scene to shoot where she gets angry and throws a coffee pot
at Timothy Bottoms. Cloris told me of her shock at only getting to do one
Leachman: We ran through the scene and Peter said "cut". And I said "Wait
a minute, aren't we going to do it again?" He said "No, you're going to
get an Academy Award for that".
Bogdanovich: Anything that requires considerable emotion, I don't like to
rehearse it. I don't like to do anything except shoot it. If you've got
good actors, you don't have to do it but once. There's a certain tension
within the actor when he's doing it for the first time, which you don't get
Bridges: First takes have a lot of ju ju on 'em, you know? They're pretty
good. Then the trap to fall into is to try and re-create what you did, and
do it somewhat better.
One thing the entire cast did better was master a southern accent.
Bridges: One of the cool things that happened on that movie was a guy
named Lloyd Catlett, a high school kid, and he was hired to play a part in the
film, and also help us Hollywood actors get up to speed with what growing
up in Texas was really like, along with the accents, and all that stuff.
Leachman: Oh my God, we never stopped talking without a Texas accent. We
practiced it, and then we never talked any other way.
Burstyn: It was funny because Cloris and I were both going through very
dramatic domestic situations at the time, and we would be talking to each
other, and crying, and having very emotional discussions, but always in our
In fact, the entire cast bonded while filming The Last Picture Show,
which was shot entirely on location in the little town of Archer City.
Burstyn: We were in a motel on the side of a highway, with no cars and
nowhere to go. So whenever we weren't working, we were in each other's rooms.
The whole cast got together almost every night, and Jeff would play his
guitar and sing. So we were very, very close.
Bridges: I remember everyone saying how this feels special. And we didn't
have that much experience to compare it to, but we felt we were involved in
something special. It's not like any other movie, and no other movie is
like it. It's just there by itself.
One could say the same thing about the film's director.
Burstyn: Peter was wonderful to work with. He was very collaborative, and
had great understanding.
Burstyn: Peter had pretty much what he wanted in his mind, and he was
editing as he went along. I adored working with him. He loved actors, and he
loved the process, and he loved being in that creative process with actors.
Bridges: He's a dear, dear friend, and an incredibly knowledgeable
Thanks to Bogdanovich, his stellar cast, and the miracle of DVDs, The
Last Picture Show is continuing to make converts. One of them, Matt Bomer,
the hot young star of "White Collar" told me recently that The
Last Picture Show is
his favorite film. And why not? As Jeff Bridges said, "No other movie is
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