• The Old Jail Art Center (map)
  • 201 South 2nd Street
  • Albany, TX 76430
BILL WITTLIFF, On the Mesa, © 1988, Courtesy of the Wittliff Collections, Texas State University

BILL WITTLIFF, On the Mesa, © 1988, Courtesy of the Wittliff Collections, Texas State University


This exhibition celebrates and serves as a record of the now iconic Lonesome Dove miniseries based on the 1985 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Larry McMurtry.  Screenwriter, collector, and photographer Bill Wittliff adapted the book into a screenplay and co-produced the 1989 miniseries that was nominated for 18 Emmy Awards and won seven.

In 1987 when Wittliff began his script, the genre of the “western” movie and the miniseries both were passé.  Along with an unusual melting pot of key production hires: executive producer Suzanne de Passe from Motown Records, producer Dyson Lovell from Zimbabwe, director Simon Wincer from Australia, and cinematographer Doug Milsome from England, the project seemed doomed from the start.  Yet despite the odds against its success, the Lonesome Dove movie has become a classic portrayal of life in the late 19th century West.

The fictional story follows former Texas Rangers and flawed heroes, Augustus “Gus” McRae and Woodrow F. Call (portrayed by Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones), as they drive their ill-gotten herd of cattle from Lonesome Dove, Texas to Montana.  What ensues during their perilous sojourn to Montana reflects the true realities of living and dying during this time in American history.  Depictions of true friendship and honor emerge as the characters, particularly Call, hope to make their fortune and exploit a new frontier of the West.  Themes of lost and sought love, mortality, good vs. evil, and morals are woven throughout the tale.

Similarities with legendary ranchers and cattle drovers Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving can be drawn from the characters of Gus and Call. Though according to McMurtry, he was influenced by the characters Don and Sancho from Don Quixote while developing the characters.  Coincidentally, the exhibition and events coincide with the 150-year anniversary of the establishment of the Goodnight-Loving Trail of 1866. 

The Lonesome Dove “Trail” of exhibitions and cast reunions began at multiple venues in Fort Worth early in 2016 and ends at the Old Jail Art Center in Albany. This stop on the trail features the largest selection of props, costumes, scripts, and photographs utilized during the 16-week production. Photographs by Bill Wittliff, created during filming, artfully serve as a record and give context to the objects. All of these combine to offer old and new fans a close-up and behind-the-scenes look into the beloved film.

Both the Lonesome Dove novel and film attempt to demythologize the West and depict the true realities of the western frontier—a myth that was largely established by the genre of the Western in serial novels and especially in films and TV series of the 1950s and 60s. This was accomplished by utilizing an author, screenwriter, and contingency of accomplished actors from Texas, and a talented crew who were determined to create an honest portrayal of the American cowboy.

 


EVENTS

A Friday, April 29th preview party at the OJAC exhibition will mark the “end of the Lonesome Dove Trail.”