In tiny Anarene, Texas, in the lull between World War Two and the Korean Conflict, Sonny and Duane are best friends. Enduring that awkward period of life between boyhood and manhood, the two pass their time the best way they know how -- with the movie house, football, and girls. Jacey is Duane's steady, wanted by every boy in school, and she knows it. Her daddy is rich and her mom is good looking and loose. It's the general consensus that whoever wins Jacey's heart will be set for life. But Anarene is dying a quiet death as folks head for the big cities to make their livings and raise their kids. The boys are torn between a future somewhere out there beyond the borders of town or making do with their inheritance of a run-down pool hall and a decrepit movie house -- the legacy of their friend and mentor, Sam the Lion. As high school graduation approaches, they learn some difficult lessons about love, loneliness, and jealousy. Then folks stop attending the second-run features at the ... Written by
Mark Fleetwood <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ben Johnson was persuaded to accept the role of Sam the Lion by his friend John Ford. The taciturn Johnson had turned the part down three times because, according to Peter Bogdanovich, the part had "too many words." See more »
When the boys are running in the high school gym, the basketball court has a 6 foot lane. In 1951 the lane would have been only 3 feet wide. See more »
President Truman'll be here tomorrow, so all you folks in Dallas turn out, chuh hear? This is Cowboy Rhythms on KTRN, Wichita Falls, here's Hank Williams' big hit tune, "Cold Cold Heart".
Sam the Lion:
You ain't ever gonna amount to nothing. Already spent a dime this morning, ain't even had a decent breakfast. Gimme the chalk. Why don't you comb you hair Sonny, it sticks up, look like you smelled'm wolf. I'm surprised you had the nerve to show up this morning after that stomping y'all took last ...
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Peter Bogdonovich's great love of film, combined with Larry McMurtry's superior storytelling (he wrote the novel and both collaborated on the script), is in glorious evidence in this elegiac study of life in a small Texas town in the early Fifties. Bogdonovich pays a heartfelt tribute to the America of John Ford and Howard Hawks but the subject matter is contemporary, anguished, appropriate for the time in which it was made. Filmed by the great Robert Surtees in a flat black and white that perfectly evokes the bleakness of rural Texas life and peppered with a fine soundtrack of the popular country hits of the time, Bogdonovich creates a mise en scene understated and keenly observant of the details. It's also filled with McMurtry's trademark mix of humor and pathos. The cast (including Jeff Bridges, Timothy Bottoms, Cybill Shepherd, Ellen Burstyn and Cloris Leachman) is letter-perfect but it's Ben Johnson as Sam the Lion who gives the film its center: in an overwhelming (yet masterfully restrained) performance, Johnson unforgettably absorbs the town's despair, loneliness and regret; his short monologue about lost love is delivered with such deceptive simplicity that its power sneaks up on you unawares. One of the great performances and one of the groundbreaking films of the Seventies.
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