Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Larry McMurtry rides again

I'll bet tongues are a'waggin' today in Archer City, Texas, hometown of writer Larry McMurtry, who was honored last night for co-writing the Brokeback Mountain screenplay.

At the Dairy Queen, somebody's saying, "Gay cowboys. Sheee-ut."

McMurtry's always shocked the homefolks in the small North Texas town, population 5,000 or so, give or take, that features one blinking stoplight in the middle of town and the now-refurbished Royal Theater, the centerpiece icon of the celebrated film The Last Picture Show.

I used to live in Wichita Falls, 30 years ago, only 20 miles away. When out-of-town friends from civilization would visit, sometimes I'd drive 'em down to Archer City to look at The Last Picture Show, usually in the middle of the night. Back then it was a crumbling building, just like it looked in the movie, but it's been patched up since then and transformed into some kind of small outdoor amphitheater venue.

A former in-law was a classmate of McMurtry's in Archer City. He was an oddball, the ex in-law said. When he was a kid, he used to shinny up a flagpole and slide down repeatedly because "it felt good," the ex-in-law related.

I regarded that story as apocryphal but typical of the hometown attitude toward the local boy who made good.

When the movie people came to Archer City (renamed Anarene in McMurtry's book and subsequent screenplay), the townspeople were aghast that the film's budding ingenue, Cybill Shepherd (and paramour, at the time, of the film's then-married director, Peter Bogdanovich), was promenading around town in a see-through blouse with no brassiere on. (A co-worker at the W. Falls paper who was there at the time related that anecdote.)

Before The Last Picture Show, there was "Horseman, Pass By," which became the movie Hud. The "hero," as played by Paul Newman, was a guy with a drinking problem who mistreated women, disrespected his daddy and sold out his cowboy heritage to the oil interests.

McMurtry's real-life Daddy, Jeff, was a rancher, and Hud, of course, was not the mythic Western figure that Archer City and the rest of the heartland particularly admired as heroes go. The Last Picture Show, featuring skinny-dipping, adultery and the like, only deepened the enmity that much of McMurtry's fellow citizens already held due to that low-life Hud guy.

So, now Archer City has Brokeback Mountain to chew on. Gay cowboy sex indeed.

Though the movie supposedly isn't a "gay movie."

They won't buy that in Archer City, and mostly likely won't buy it here in the Petrochemical Underarm of Texas; I'll bet a dollar that movie won't be playing at the local cineplex here in B'port. Those kinda movies never do.

Not that McMurtry or I really care. McMurtry's spent a lifetime turning "The Western" on its ear and I can always drive into Houston to see a gay cowboy sex movie if I want.
[Brokeback Mountain/imdb]
[McMurtry profile/bookreporter.com]
[Cybill Shepherd, the Golden Years]


ttyler5@hotmail.com said...

Gay cowboys.

Yeah, right.

But Hollywood wouldn't know the difference any more between real cowboys and queer eyes playing dress-up.

Banjo Jones said...

there were gay pirates. why not cowpokes?

ttyler5@hotmail.com said...

I didn't know there were any straight pirates! All those years at sea, you know!

Banjo Jones said...

i guess it can get lonely on the open range, too. not that there's anything wrong with that, if that's where you're so inclined.

Aaarghh, matey.

ttyler5@hotmail.com said...

Wait a minute, now, what's that old saying about, "Where the men are men, and the sheep are scared!" :^D :^D :^D

Bill said...

I kinda wish you hadn't included that photo of Cybill. I like to remember her the way she was in The Last Picture Show.

ttyler5@hotmail.com said...

Bill, you mean young, naked and southern?

Seo said...

Guess there's not much else to do up in the lonely mountains...