Director Peter Bogdanovich and writer Larry McMurtry examine the passing of an American way of life in this artfully assured and elegiac film about the residents of a dying small town in Texas called Anarene, in 1951 (the movie was actually shot in Archer City, Texas, where McMurtry had grown up).
Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson) is the elderly proprietor of the town’s only picture house, the Royal Theater, which is the hub of much activity – not least the attempted seduction of Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd) by the local adolescent boys.
What the boys don’t realise is that girls like Jacy take advantage by letting the boys take advantage and she is well aware of her sexuality and the way in which to use it to best further her plans.
Two prospective beaux are friends Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) – the good boy trying to find his place in the world – and local roughneck star athlete Duane from the wrong side of the tracks (Jeff Bridges) who are typical of high school boys across the generations in their predominant interest in cars and girls, but neither of them really has a genuine chance with femme fatale Jacy who is on the lookout for her meal ticket.
As time slips by and life plods along in Anarene, the event of note is that the “Royal” is closed, rendered superfluous by the influx of the television set.
In a town noticeably void of action or incident this in itself represents a changing era as people become even more insulated and housebound.
Both Cloris Leachman and Ben Johnson won Oscars for their performances in what was also Cybill Shepherd’s first feature film (and we got to see a lot of her).
Filmed in restrained black and white in an era of gaudy colour, The Last Picture Show was in fact not the last – a sequel called Texasville was made twenty years later.
Sam The Lion