The Last Picture Show (1971) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Last Picture Show1971

The Last Picture Show (1971)



Critic Consensus: Making excellent use of its period and setting, Peter Bogdanovich's small town coming-of-age story is a sad but moving classic filled with impressive performances.

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Movie Info

Produced by Hollywood iconoclast BBS Productions, film critic-turned-director Peter Bogdanovich's 1971 film pays homage to Hollywood's classical age as it chronicles generational rites of passage in Anarene, a fictional one-horse Texas town. In 1951, high school seniors Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane (Jeff Bridges) play football, go to the movies at the Royal Theater, hang out at the pool hall owned by local elder statesman Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson), and lust after rich tease Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd in her film debut). As the year passes, Sonny learns about the pitfalls and compromises of adulthood through an affair with his coach's wife Ruth (Cloris Leachman) and a thwarted elopement with Jacy after she dumps Duane. Following two tragic deaths, and with Duane gone to Korea and Jacy packed off to college in Dallas, Sonny is left behind in Anarene, wise enough to absorb the life lessons of Sam the Lion and Jacy's mother Lois (Ellen Burstyn). He is determined to honor Sam's legacy as the town's conscience, despite a telling sign of incipient communal disintegration: the closing of the Royal Theater after a final showing of Howard Hawks's Red River. Paying tribute to classical Hollywood directors like Hawks and John Ford, Bogdanovich used old-time cinematographer Robert Surtees and shot The Last Picture Show in crisp black-and-white, with a restrained style devoid of the kind of "new wave" techniques (jump cuts, zooms, and jittery hand-held camerawork) used by such contemporaries as Arthur Penn, Robert Altman, Mike Nichols, and Martin Scorsese. As in such Ford films as The Grapes of Wrath (1940), Bogdanovich relies on careful visual composition in deep focus to help communicate the regret over the passing of an era. Hailed as one of the best films by a young director since Citizen Kane (1941), The Last Picture Show premiered at the New York Film Festival and went on to become a hit. It was also nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay for Larry McMurtry's and Bogdanovich's adaptation of McMurtry's novel. John Ford stalwart Johnson won Supporting Actor and Leachman won Supporting Actress, beating out their cohorts Bridges and Burstyn. For an audience steeped in movie history and caught up in the chaotic 1971 present, The Last Picture Show presented a nostalgic look backward that was not so much an escape from the present as a coming to terms with what the present had lost. Its 1990 sequel Texasville, in which Bridges and Shepherd played later incarnations of their original characters, was not as successful.

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Timothy Bottoms
as Sonny Crawford
Jeff Bridges
as Duane Jackson
Cloris Leachman
as Ruth Popper
Cybill Shepherd
as Jacy Farrow
Eileen Brennan
as Genevieve
Barclay Doyle
as Joe Bob Blanton
Clu Galager
as Abilene
Joye Hash
as Mrs. Jackson
Sharon Taggart
as Charlene Duggs
Randy Quaid
as Lester Marlow
Bill Thurman
as Coach Popper
Barc Doyle
as Joe Bob Blanton
Antonia Bogdanovich
as Singer (uncredited)
Gary Brockette
as Bobby Sheen
Helena Humann
as Jimmie Sue
Clu Gulager
as Abilene
Robert Glenn
as Gene Farrow
Janice O'Malley
as Mrs. Clarg
Floyd Mahaney
as Oklahoma Patrolman
Kimberly Hyde
as Annie-Annie Martin
Marjory Jay
as Winnie Snips
Joyce Hash
as Mrs. Jackson
Pamela Kelier
as Jackie Lee French
Charlie Seybert
as Andy Fanner
Grover Lewis
as Mr. Crawford
Leon Addison Brown
as Cowboy in Cafe
Bobby McGriff
as Truck Driver
Jack Mueller
as Oil Pumper
Robert Arnold
as Brother Blanton
Frank Marshall
as Tommy Logan
Otis Elmore
as Mechanic
Charles Salmon
as Roughneck Driver
George Gaulden
as Cowboy in the Cafe
Will Morris Hannis
as Gas Station Man
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News & Interviews for The Last Picture Show

Critic Reviews for The Last Picture Show

All Critics (60) | Top Critics (19)

At first glance, the movie is a faithful and skillful adaptation of the source, but a second look at both the film and the book reveals some interesting divergences.

March 2, 2015

It's plain and uncondescending in its re-creation of what it means to be a high-school athlete, of what a country dance hall is like, of the necking in cars and movie houses, and of the desolation that follows high-school graduation.

March 2, 2015 | Full Review…

A sublime study of sexually charged ennui in a dying town in 1950s Texas.

March 2, 2015 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
Top Critic

The scene where Sam imparts his wisdom to young buck Bottoms may be the saddest, loveliest moment in 1970s American cinema. And that's saying something.

March 2, 2015 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

For the members of the New Hollywood, it was a briefly opened window on revitalized filmmaking and venturesome storytelling.

September 28, 2011 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

It's meant to make you feel sad for what's lost, but a vitality throbs through it.

September 27, 2011 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Last Picture Show

McMurtry's evocation on The American Dream riding on fumes is so bone-chillingly accurate as to raise goosebumps. A town is dying and no one seems to know, or care, or even notice. All there is to do is to sleep with one another or go to the movies (where the life onscreen is better, more lively, than the life in the seats), and even that stuff is losing its attraction. The bittersweet sadness of promise unfulfilled is as quiet as the wind tossing up the dust gently down Main Street and that the town simpleton is happy to sweep. One of the greats.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

From my local magazine review that i wrote: "Director Peter Bogdanovich has seen Anarene, Texas, in the cinematic terms of 1951 -- the languorous dissolves, the strong chiaroscuro, the dialogue that starts with bickering and ends with confessional."

Coxxie Mild Sauce
Coxxie Mild Sauce

Super Reviewer


This is, by all accounts, supposed to be Peter Bogdanovich's masterpiece. Since this is the only film of his I've seen, I can't verify that statement for sure, but I did really like it. The story is that of a coming of age tale set in small town Texas during the 1950s. The town is a boring and isolated place, where there's really not a whole lot to do, and, even though everyone knows (or seems to know) everyone else's business, there's a lot of iffy stuff going on. The people (especially the youth) are bored, preoccupied with sex, and dying to get the Hell out of town and to some place better ASAP. The film was shot like, and has the look of a film from the 1950s. Aside from some of the content (mostly nudity), this could pass for a 1950s film as well. The landscape are suitably bleak, and everything looks simultaneously stark and beautiful thansk to being shot in black and white. The music is made up entirely of popular stuff, almost all country, and that's just fine. The performances are areally good. Jeff Bridges is fun to watch, and Cybil Shepherd, despite being an angsty tart (hell, everyone is angsty, dissatisfied, and messed up) gives a decent performance as well, and looks quite stunning (naked or otherwise) in just about every scene. Leachman and Bustyn are also quite good. Bottoms is the lead, and he's good, but it was hard for me to get into him as much as the others. For a film about boredom, and the slow rotting effects of it, maybe it's not a surprise that this is also itself a little boring and tedious at times. Not so much so that it truly takes away from things, but it is something to note. Maybe they just need to slightly tighten thigns up here and there. I was watching the Director's Cut though, so maybe that has something to do with it. Though this film is not a part of the time period it depicts, it fits in perfectly with the time period it was made. Maybe that's one of the many reasons I liked it. I love that era of cinema, so I'm automatically sorta biased. Despite that though, I still really dig this. It's not something I wanna watch all the time, but it looks great, the style and formal elements are cool and well done, and I can relate in some ways to the characters and story. Hats off.

Chris Weber
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

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