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Larry McMurtry

Larry McMurtry

McMurtry's first novel, "Horseman, Pass By," was published in 1961 and symbolically uses the myths and legends of the cowboy. Hollywood turned the novel into Martin Ritt's "Hud" starring Paul Newman and featuring Patricia Neal and Melvyn Douglas who won Oscars as Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor. Several other of his novels have been adapted as films. "Leaving Cheyenne" became Sydney Lumet's underrated "Lovin' Molly" (1974) featuring a luminous central performance by Blythe Danner. James L. Brooks wrote and directed the Oscar-winning tearjerker "Terms of Endearment" (1983) which earned Shirley MacLaine her Best Actress accolade. McMurtry collaborated with director Peter Bogdanovich on the screen adaptation of the superlative, elegiac "The Last Picture Show" (1971). Filmed in black in white, the feature draws on McMurtry's upbringing in Archer City, TX in the 1950s and is a complex treatment of adolescence filtered against the spiritual barrenness of small town America. Beautifully designed by Polly Platt and sensitively directed by Bogdanovich, "The Last Picture Show" introduced a host of talented young actors including Cybill Shepherd, Jeff Bridges and Randy Quaid and provided meaty roles for such established performers as Ellen Burstyn, Cloris Leachman and Ben Johnson (the latter two received the 1971 Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor Oscars). A reuniting with Bogdanovich, Shepherd, Bridges and Leachman for a 1990 sequel adapted from McMurtry's novel "Texasville" failed to recapture the magic. McMurtry wrote the original screenplay for "Falling From Grace" (1992), the feature debut of rock singer John Mellencamp.McMurtry gained his widest audience with the television adaptation of his 1986 Pulitzer Prize winning "Lonesome Dove" (CBS, 1989) with a teleplay by Bill Wittliff. Directed by Simon Wincer and starring Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones, the miniseries traced the tale of two former Texas Rangers on a cattle drive to Montana. The critical acclaim and ratings success led to the establishment of a cottage industry. McMurtry wrote two additional novels about the characters, "Streets of Laredo" and "Dead Man's Walk," and CBS produced a TV sequel, "Return to Lonesome Dove" (1993) as well as the adaptation "Larry McMurtry's 'Streets of Laredo'" (1995). Two syndicated series inspired by the novel, "Lonesome Dove: The Series" (1994) and "Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years" (1995), were also produced. McMurtry continued churning out novels, writing back-to-back "The Late Child," a sequel to 1983's "Desert Rose" and "Comanche Moon," the latest (and perhaps last) addition to the "Lonesome Dove" series which was set to be filmed as a CBS miniseries in April 2006.The sequel to "Terms of Endearment," McMurtry's 1992 novel "The Evening Star," was adapted into a feature in 1996, and starred MacLaine in a reprisal of her Oscar-winning role alongside newcomers Bill Paxton and Juliette Lewis. Sadly, the sequel failed to live up to its predecessor, and fell flat with audiences and critics. In 1999, he returned to the West Texas oil town of Thalia for "Duane's Depressed," the last in the trilogy started with "The Last Picture Show." He then wrote and executive produced "Johnson County War" (Hallmark Channel, 2002), a two-part miniseries set in 1891 Wyoming that depicted three brothers (Tom Berenger, Luke Perry and Adam Storke) caught in the midst of an escalating range war pitting old-time cattle barons and homesteaders moved onto grazing lands. Later that year, McMurtry began publishing his Berrybender Narratives, a tetralogy-which included "Sin Killer" (2002), "The Wandering Hill" (2003), "By Sorrow's River" (also 2003) and "Folly and Glory" (2004)-about an aristocratic English family on the Missouri frontier in the 1830s.McMurtry's biggest success to date has been "Brokeback Mountain" (2005), his adaptation of Annie Proulx's raw and unsentimental short story about two men in 1960s Wyoming who fall in love while spending a summer sheepherding. Co-written with longtime collaborator Diana Ossana, who read Proulx's moving short story in The New Yorker one sleepless night in 1997, the project spent years looking for willing talent to sign on-Billy Crudup, Josh Harnett, Colin Farrell and Joaquin Ph nix were all mentioned at one point or another to star. For several years, "Brokeback Mountain"-which was routinely passed on by numerous directors as well-was considered to be one of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. Eventually, McMurtry and Ossana enlisted Ang Lee ("Sense and Sensibility," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon") to direct after his debacle with "The Hulk" (2003). Once Lee signed on, "Brokeback Mountain" moved into production in 2004 starring Heath Ledger and Jack Gyllenhaal as the repressed and secretive lovers who, after falling in love one summer, spend the next two decades rekindling the affair on fishing trips even though both are married and have families. Despite the controversial subject matter, "Brokeback Mountain" was praised by critics and took in over $50 million at the box office. Numerous awards followed for McMurtry and Ossana, including a Golden Globe for Best Screenplay - Motion Picture, the WGA Award for Adapted Screenplay and the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 78th Annual Academy Awards.
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