Lonesome Dove (the tv movie) the Zeus of the Western Pantheon? [Spoilers]

I admit…I have not seen every Western ever made.

But of the many I have seen, surprisingly, the made-for-TV mini-series adaptation of Larry McMurtry’s novel, * Lonesome Dove*, has captured (and held) my personal top spot since it was first aired in the late 80’s.

How, do you ask? A great story supported by attention to detail and great pains being taken to achieve the illusion of authenticity.

My mother is the most brutal Western genre critic that I know of. If a filmmaker thinks he/she can put an LL Bean “barn coat” on an actor, and convince my Mom that he is a cowboy from 1890, said filmmaker has another thing coming. I have yet to see any other western withstand her scrutiny to such a degree.

It has been a while since I’ve tried to compile the list of things that were “off” about the film, but it is a short list so it shouldn’t be too hard. Most of the issues come down to editing, if memory serves.

What they got wrong or not-so-right (much shorter than the list of what they got right):

The “Hell Bitch” from the movie was actually a gelding. While this is understandable…geldings are more docile to work with on-camera compared to mares…this horse was a named character, who’s status as a “bitch” was a recurring sub-plot. Admittedly, the Hell Bitch’s role was significantly downsized when you compare the book to the movie, so she was obviously a casualty of the adaptation process. But in my Mom’s and my perfect parallel universe, they actually found a mare.

The water moccasin attack on the young Irishman in the river was a bit over-the-top. For one thing, the river was so muddy that the snakes would’ve had to be visible to those crossing the river, if they were able to see and attack the Irishman.

When Gus is about to be chased across the desert, he is sitting mounted and taking a drink from his canteen. A gunshot from a far distance spooks his horse into a bucking spree. Gus’ open canteen falls to the ground as he tries to control his mount. Cut scene to pursuing outlaws. Cut scene back to Gus, now standing next to his mount, hastily adjusting his saddle, his canteen miraculously secured to his saddle horn and closed up tight. This little editing glitch was accounted for by Robert Duvall, when he said in an interview that the bucking scene used in the movie was filmed on accident. Duvall’s horse had actually spooked and started bucking like mad when it happened to be in front of a camera that was recording. The canteen drop was authentic, as was Duvall’s bucking bronco performance, which was so good that it had to be included in the film. Since Gus’ character was about to have to survive an extended stay in the desert, his canteen had to be returned to him by the Devine powers of the Editor. Noticed, but certainly forgivable once Mom and I had heard the whole story.

That’s really all that comes to mind right now. 6 hours of dust, whiskey, cows, cowboys, hookers, and gamblers, and only a handful of items that were not superb. Everything else…the horsemanship, the tack, the grimy rings of sweat around each cast-member’s hat…was phenomenal.

I eagerly anticipate watching any Western that can compete, but I’ll not hold my breath.

My grandfather must own on VHS every Western ever released on said format. Having sat through endless hours of them, I can say that, without a doubt, * Lonesome Dove * is the most entertaining Western I have ever seen. Some are equally “gritty,” some very accurate, and some have great horsemanship or stunts, but none adds up, in my opinion, to the sheer “watchability” of * Lonesome Dove. *

Why didn’t I put this in the Cafe?:smack:

I don’t know about Westerns, but I do know it’s the only film (other than GWTW) adapted to screen that can hold a candle to the original book.