A wide variety of eccentric competitors participate in a wild and illegal cross-country road race. However, the eccentric entrants will do anything to win the road race, including low-down, dirty tricks.
Founded in 1910 just outside of the city limits of Gilbert located in Lanville County, Texas, the Chicken Ranch has for generations been known as the best little whorehouse in Texas for its wholesome fun, strict moral code, and cleanliness, all perpetuated by its original owner, Miss Wulla Jean. Seven years ago, Miss Wulla Jean died, leaving the Chicken Ranch to her favorite working girl, Miss Mona Stangley, who wants to keep the same traditions of Miss Wulla Jean. The Chicken Ranch has always had the unofficial blessing of the local authorities, who see the ranch providing an important community service, one which most in local authority have used at one time or another in their lives. In fact, Miss Mona and Lanville County Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd have been in a relationship for years, Ed Earl, who is Miss Mona's protector, albeit one with a hot temper and good ol' boy attitude that doesn't exactly match the needs of his law upholding position. That blessing may change when television ...Written by
Miss Mona and Ed Earl's conversation about Jesus and Mary Magdalene was ad-libbed. See more »
When Sheriff Dodd punches Melvin P. Thorpe and sends him sliding across the floor, Thorpe slides across a design in the floor and stops with his head and shoulders outside the design. The following aerial shot shows him with his head centered perfectly in the middle of the design. See more »
The use of the word "Whorehouse" in the title caused controversy. In Canada, TV ads for the film bleeped the word, and in some locales the name of the film was changed to Best Little Cathouse in Texas. Network and non-cable TV versions use a differently edited opening credits sequence to remove nudity and sex. See more »
Colorful, tuneful, lively, and, above all, good-natured, "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" delivers. While certainly not as good as it could have been, director Colin Higgins adaptation of the Broadway musical hit seldom falters and fondly recreates most of what delighted audiences on stage. Casting Dolly Parton as Miss Mona, the madam of an historic Texas bordello, known as the Chicken Ranch for having accepted poultry in trade during the Great Depression, enhanced the film both visually and musically. While not an actress of great depth, Parton looks the part, does fine in the musical numbers, and penned a couple of additional numbers; one of Parton's songs, "I Will Always Love You," later became an enormous hit, when Whitney Houston covered it, although both the song and Parton were mysteriously ignored by the Motion Picture Academy for a well-deserved Oscar nomination. Burt Reynolds lends his charm to the role of Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd, a likable guy, who enjoys a long-term relationship with Miss Mona and rides to her aid, when the Chicken Ranch is endangered by a TV muckraker, played by Dom DeLuise. Jim Nabors is "aw shucks" Gomer Pyle as the naive deputy, and Charles Durning turns in an inspired song-and-dance routine, "Dance a Little Sidestep," that won him an Oscar nomination.
The songs by Carol Hall, most of which were carried over from Broadway, are catchy, and the choreography by Tony Stevens is energetic and infectious, although most of the male dancers seem somewhat disinterested in the charms of the young ladies. William A. Fraker's cinematography is crisp and colorful, and director Colin Higgins keeps the song and dance numbers moving along at a brisk pace. Higgins, who also directed Parton in "Nine to Five," showed a flair for glossy comedy and musicals; sadly, he died at age 47, cutting short a promising career. The film only falters badly during one scene between Parton and Reynolds that takes place under the stars; the semi-serious discussion involves religion and feels forced and out of place. Despite the bawdy title, the film suggests more than it shows; only a few flashes of nudity and some implied sexual situations merited the "R" rating. If a movie about a house of prostitution could be made for a family audience, "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas" is about as close as possible to that. As one of the songs says, "There's lots of good will and maybe one small thrill, but there's nothing dirty going on."
Neither the stage musical nor the film are classics, but both have good music, captivating choreography, and an entertaining story loosely based on true events. Despite losing some songs, the film adaptation benefits from the star power and chemistry of Reynolds and Parton and Higgins's inspired direction. Perhaps most families will pass on any musical with "whorehouse" in the title, but liberal-minded adults will likely have a good time and maybe one small thrill.
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