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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for The Last Picture Show can be found here.
It is never clearly explained. In the novel there is a reference to a time Sam accidentally threw a bucket of urine all over Joe Bob and leaving the money was a way of making amends, although that seems far fetched. Some have speculated that perhaps Sam, who had a history of drinking and having affairs with married women after the deaths of his sons, was in fact Joe Bob's biological father and left the money as a result, but this is purely speculation. Joe Bob clearly had problems with sex, possibly repressed by his father (a fire and brimstone preacher) and possibly latent homosexuality. Sam left him the money "to get out of town" and away from the backward thinking, small town gossips.
The movie never fully explains what lies at the heart of the Poppers' marriage problems, but McMurtry's novel reveals that Coach Popper is probably a homosexual, and has interfered with male students. He gives Ruth no affection, and the little sexual contact they have is hasty and perfunctory. He appears very misogynistic, and disgusted by intimacy with Ruth. The film depicts Coach Popper as a homosexual, when he grab asses the young man in the gymnasium when they go to the showers. It was brief, not overt, and perfectly tone was used to disclose this. All in my humble opinion of course. In the book the Coach was homosexual... watching the fb in the showers and taking them skinny dip in the river. It was the 50's of course and very secret.
Though the novel is set in the fictional Texas town of Thalia, it was renamed Anarene in the screenplay. Both were based on the real Texas town of Archer City, where McMurtry grew up. The movie was made on location there.
Billy was no relation to Sam the Lion. Sam simply took Billy under his wing, as he had a natural fatherly tendency towards the boys in the town. (It is important to note that no impropriety is hinted at in the book or film.)
In both the film and the novel, Joe Bob does not rape the girl. She pulls her underpants down in exchange for an ice cream. It is assumed that very little else took place. The novel offers a lengthy explanation for Joe Bob's behavior: he is sexually repressed, tormented for his entire adolescence by his desire to masturbate, but suffering under the weight of guilt.
The Director's Cut of this classic features 17 new scenes that can't be found in the Theatrical Version. Most of these new scenes are pure story sequences that were added. Sometimes these scenes consist of only a couple of frames. A detailed comparison between both versions with pictures can be found here.
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