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Lonesome Dove, written by Larry McMurtry, is a Pulitzer Prize-winning western novel and the first published book of the Lonesome Dove series. Can you imagine the daunting task that native Texan and screenwriter Bill Wit tliff took on when he adapted Larry McMurtry’s novel to film? First, he needed to rein in the sprawling 843 page story while still retaining its majestic essence. Wittliff’s work was also made more difficult because, in the novel, McMurtry uses the narrator’s voice to reveal information about characters and to describe events. To provide the same information in the film, Wittliff needed to create dialogue and provide visual cues that did not exist in the novel.
A Southwestern Writers Collection is housed at Texas State and many of the original documents he used while creating this western classic can be viewed online at:
The web exhibit features storyboards, costumes, including Gus’s boots, and even Gus’s dead wrapped body.
The epic four-part six-hour mini-series focuses on the relationship of retired Texas Rangers and their adventures driving a cattle herd from Texas to Montana.McMurtry originally developed the tale in 1972 for a feature film entitled The Streets of Laredo (a title later used for the sequel), which was to have starred John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and James Stewart.That didn’t happen, but thank goodness, McMurtry later resurrected the screenplay as a full-length novel.It deservingly became a bestseller and won the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
The mini-series won six Emmy Awards and was nominated for 13 others.
Casting for this epic was pure genius.Who better to portray these multi-faceted aging Texas Rangers who to this day represent the epitome of courage, loyalty and everything we think of when we think “American West?”
Robert Duvall is Captain Augustus McCrae, co-owner of the Hat Creek Cattle Company, and considers himself the brains of the outfit. Generous, humorous, and lazy to the point of eccentricity, he serves as a foil to the more serious, practical Call. When not working, which he does as little as possible, Gus pursues his three chief interests in life: women, alcohol and cards. He is well known in the territory for his loud voice, superior eyesight and accuracy with a revolver.
Tommy Lee Jones is Captain Woodrow F. Call, Gus’s partner in the company. Less verbose and chatty than McCrae, Call works long and hard and sees no reason why others should not do the same. A former Texas Ranger, he served with Gus when both were young men. Though Call has utter disdain for lazy men who drink, gamble and whore their lives away, he has his own secret shame, which he hides carefully from his comrade. Call’s ability to manage unmanageable horses is also well known.
Danny Glover plays a magnificent role as Joshua Deets, an ex-slave and former Ranger.When the story starts he’s a ranch hand at the company. On the drive, he serves as scout. A remarkable tracker and morally upright man, he is one of the few men whom Call respects and trusts.
Before he hit the NY streets as a cop, Rick Shroder played Newt Dobbs, young orphan raised by Gus and Call. His mother was a prostitute named Maggie Tilton, who died when he was a child. He knows his mother was a prostitute, and has no idea who his father might be. Most other observers, notably Gus and Clara Allen, are quite certain that Call is his father. Call eventually comes to this realization privately, but is never able to admit it explicitly.
Anjelica Houston is Clara Allen, a former love of Gus’sShe declined his marriage proposals years ago, and now lives in Nebraska, married to a horse trader who is comatose, having been kicked in the head by a horse. They have two girls, though she is afflicted deeply by the death of her sons. Though separated from Gus by many miles and years, she still holds him fondly in her heart. In contrast, she has utter contempt for Call.
Diane Lane is the lovely young Lorena Wood, a kind-hearted young woman who was forced into prostitution by her lover, then abandoned in Lonesome Dove. Lorena is silent, strong willed, and intimidating, refusing to submit meekly to her various admirers. Discontent with her line of work, “Lorie” hopes to leave the dead town and find her way to San Francisco.Gus is her champion, and who could ask for a better one?
Secondary threads with characters of July and Almira Johnson and Blue Duck are intricately woven into the plot and throughout the journey of the cattle drive.You can’t help but be enamored by the characters and caught up in their adventures.Watching the story unfold brings laughter and tears every time.The music that accompanies the panoramic scenes does a beautiful job of enhancing the grandeur of the vast landscape and feel of the untamed west. I often listen to the original soundtrack, composed and conducted by Basil Poledouris. Lonesome Dove spawned the follow-up miniseries, Return to Lonesome Dove.
Trivia facts about Lonesome Dove:
* Robert Duvall, who has appeared in over 80 movies, told CBS that Augustus McCrae, the character he played in Lonesome Dove, was his all time favorite role.We can see why.
* The characters of July Johnson and Roscoe bear the same names as the sheriff and his sidekick who track James Stewart and Dean Martin in the movie Bandolero! (1968). Also, the sequence where Stewart and Martin discuss Montana resembles a similar scene in Lonesome Dove.
* The book, and the character Gus, is mentioned in country singer George Strait’s song “That’s My Kind Of Woman.”
So, fess up.How many times have you watched Lonesome Dove?Did you think return to Lonesome Dove lived up to the first?Have you watched Streets of Laredo or Deadman’s Walk which precede the story?
If you’re a western lover and you’ve never seen this movie, well, I’m just sad for you.But your situation is subject to change.Head for Blockbuster!
Getting the clothes right in a book is as important as in a movie and writers and costume designers go to a lot of work to make sure they have it right.
Costume designer Van Broughton Ramsey won an Emmy Award for his work on Lonesome Dove. Ramsey did extensive research into the clothing of the period, and he made sure that the characters’ wardrobe matched their occupations and social standing. Ramsey collected cloth swatches and photocopies of period photos from books and articles. He even commissioned specially silkscreened bandanas for Gus and Call. Ramsey also compiled a notebook containing the shooting schedule, filming locations, and sizes of the principal cast members and extras. By using this information in conjunction with his research, Ramsey created these initial drawings which were used to produce the actual costumes.
Tomorrow I’ll be blogging about Lonesome Dove, the epic mini-series loved by western fans everywhere. Don’t miss it!
I had been writing and submitting for several years before I joined an RWA chapter and a local writers group.With the help of other more experienced writers, workshops and conferences, I learned and grew.Those first early projects are still in boxes in a storeroom.I truly didn’t know what I was doing.After studying Dwight Swain and garnering the advice of great ladies like Diane Wicker Davis (Avon) and Barbara Andrews (Ecstasy – and Silhouette as Jennifer Drew with her daughter Pam Hanson) and also being with a critique group, the first book I wrote start to finish was Rain Shadow.
At a Minneapolis conference, after spending the entire morning in the bathroom doing self-talk, I pitched the book at my first editor appointment.The editor asked to see it and later rejected it saying my hero was too unsympathetic.
I had submitted to agents about that same time, and one called me, saying with certainty, “I can sell this book for you.”I was thrilled, of course, and she did indeed sell it to Harlequin Historical.Thirty-some books later she is still my agent.After some initial quibbling over my title, it stuck and RAIN SHADOW was released in 1993.Back then HH did what they called March Madness and introduced two new authors each March.I loved the cover, loved it loved it.Loved the Wild West Show on the front.Adored her fringe jacket.Blew up the image and admired it.The art department used the pictures I’d sent them, and even her gun is in perfect detail.
Question from shopper at one of my very first book signings: “Is this you on the cover?”
Note to self: At all times be prepared to answer very odd questions graciously.
My second sale followed right on the heels of the first because it was a book I’d written previously.It had been shopped around other publishers without success.My new editor, who continued to be my editor for the next ten years, agreed to look at HEAVEN CAN WAIT, then asked me to cut a hundred pages and take out a subplot.Which I did with a lot of help from my critique group.It’s difficult to be that brutal to your own work.The story was indeed better for that revision.So the books came out one after the other, but not in the correct chronological order, story-wise.The villainess in Heaven Can Wait is the dead wife of the hero in Rain Shadow.So whenever I talk to people who will be reading them for the first time, I suggest they read them in the correct order.
And here’s something I’ve never mentioned before.The subplot I cut from Heaven Can Wait was the thread of Franz and Annette trying to have a baby.Over the years I’ve thought a few times about giving them their own story thus completing tales of the three brothers, but I’d have to go out of chronological order again, and for some reason that bugs me.Besides they were too happy together and supportive of each other…what would be the conflict?Wait, the story could be chronologically correct if it happened years after the last and their marriage had fallen apart because of their inability to conceive.Hmm, sounds like a lot of angst — wonder if I could handle that.<g> (I thrive on writing angst!Make ‘em laugh, make ‘em cry, make ‘em FEEL is my goal!)
So there you have the inside scoop on my first two sales and how they came about.It’s still exciting to see a new cover for each current release.It’s always a thrill to know that the stories I’ve worked so hard on are bringing pleasure to readers.As readers ourselves, writers know the delight of finding a new author, of becoming lost in a story, of falling in love with appealing characters.Being able to write those stories for others is a joy and a satisfaction beyond measure.
What we remember when we think back on a story isn’t always the specific details of the plot or even the character names.What we remember is how the book made us feel.If we were swept away, excited, intrigued, riveted, saddened, we recall those feelings.In an earlier blog, when I asked about the first romances you read and loved and you listed so many great ones, I’ll bet you remembered the way those stories affected you on an emotional level.
Which stories won places on your keeper shelf by involving your emotions?
The 1957 tagline: The Lonesome Whistle of a Train… bringing the gallows closer to a desperado–the showdown nearer to his captor!
On September 7th, a remake of the classic western by Elmore Leonard will hit theaters. I hope I’m not disappointed because the orginal with Glen Ford and Van Heflin will be difficult to top. In Arizona in the late 1800’s, infamous outlaw Ben Wade (Russell Crowe) and his vicious gang of thieves and murderers have plagued the Southern Railroad. When Wade is captured, Civil War veteran Dan Evans (Christian Bale), struggling to survive on his drought-plagued ranch, volunteers to deliver Wade alive to the “3:10 to Yuma”, a train that will take the killer to trial. In the original, Evans does so in order to pay for a well. On the trail, Evans and Wade–each from very different worlds–begin to earn each other’s respect. But with Wade’s outfit of bad guys on their trail – and dangers at every turn – the mission soon becomes a violent, impossible journey toward each man’s destiny.
We should have a Premier Blog Party! Can’t you see the Fillies on the red carpet?