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Posts Tagged ‘Larry McMurty’

Just two weeks ago on my cross country driving trip I drove through Wichita Falls. That north Texas town has been on my radar for decades because it’s near where director and screenwriter Peter Bogdanovich shot The Last Picture Show (1971). I believe Archer City was the stand-in for the small dying oil town based on Larry McMurtry’s novel. You don’t need to be too far out of Dallas heading north on Route 287 to be transported back in time in the mesmerizing wide open spaces of Texas. But the majestic blue sky I witnessed is a stark contrast to the black and white vision Bogdanovich used in The Last Picture Show. (One said to be encouraged by Orson Welles.)

When I heard yesterday that Bogdanovich died, the film of his I thought of was The Last Picture Show. When I heard today that Sidney Poitier died the film I thought about was A Raisin in the Sun (1961). Next week I’ll re-visit posts I’ve written on both films. But today I’ll leave you with a photo I took in downtown Wichita Falls of what was originally The Wichita Theater built in 1908. The renovated theatre is now the Wichita Theatre Performing Arts Centre. It was originally an opera house, but in 1939 it opened as a renovated movie theater. I’d like to think that both A Raisin in the Sun and The Last Picture Show once played there. And perhaps it’s where the cast and crew hung out during downtime while making The Last Picture Show.

P.S. Because part of this blog is about places as well as screenwriting and filmmaking, you can get a great snap shot of American history and culture by watching The Last Picture Show and A Raisin in the Sun back to back.

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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“I’m having an amazing life—and it isn’t over yet.”
—Cloris Leachman (how she started her 1972 Oscar acceptance speech)

Actress Cloris Leachman was a Hollywood icon with Iowa roots. Long before she picked up an Oscar Award, a bunch of Emmys, and a whole new fan base as an 82-year-old on Dancing with the Stars, Leachman had a humbler start when born in Des Moines in 1926. She died yesterday at age 94.

Her father and a cousin started Leachman Lumber Company in Des Moines which is celebrating 100 years of business this year. She began playing the piano and performing in plays as a youth in Iowa on her way to greater success in Chicago, New York City, and Los Angeles. In 2006, Drake University in Des Moines awarded her with an honorary doctorate in fine arts.

If Leachman had of just been an extra in the following plays, Tv shows, and movies her career would have been remarkable.

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (the original Broadway show)
Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific
Lassie
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone
The Last Picture Show
Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein
The Muppet Movie
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Malcolm in the Middle

Of course, she wasn’t just an extra but an acclaimed actress whose career spanned an unbelievable nine decades. Along the way she picked up eight Primetime Emmy Awards which is a record she shares with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. (It’s worth noting that both went to Northwestern University. And because it’s an expensive school it’s also worth noting that Leachman received a scholarship to attend the drama program.)

Here’s her Oscar acceptance speech for The Last Picture Show where she gave shout-outs to both her first piano teacher and her dancing teacher in Des Moines, her father Buck “who paid the bills,” and her mother whose “imagination and funny sense of humor” all which lead to her success.

Dream big, start small.

And here’s her performance from a script Peter Bogdanovich and Larry McMurty (based on McMurty’s book The Last Picture Show) that led to her Oscar.

P.S. Leachman’s comment at the Oscar’s about her father paying the bills got extended applause. I imagine because in 1972 they had a deeper understanding of what that meant. Leachman was three years old when the stock market crashed in 1929 meaning from that point through her teen years was lived in the economic hard times of The Great Depression and World War II. AP News reported that since Leachman’s family ”could not afford a piano, she practiced on a cardboard drawing of the keys.”

Scott W. Smith is the author of Screenwriting with Brass Knuckles

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