The Barbie film was one of the summer’s runaway hits. Some may be still feeling ripple effects from it. That inspired this Typewriter Rodeo poem.
What does Ron DeSantis really want from Texas? Jeremy Wallace of the Houston Chronicle weighs in on the GOP presidential candidate’s curious Texas tour.
Two North Texas school districts, Keller and Carroll, take steps to challenge one of the lynchpins of state education funding: revenue recapture.
What the auto strike means for the evolution to electric vehicles.
Fantastic Fest, a terrifying film festival that’s the biggest of its kind in the world, is back for its 18th year in Austin.
And we’ll meet the youngest reporter to cover Ken Paxton’s impeachment trial.
We’re experimenting with bonus episodes here at the Standard. This one is another extended interview.
This conversation with political consultant and intersex activist Alicia Roth Weigel first aired Thursday. We had so much to talk about when it came to her experiences in life and with her new movie — “Every Body” — and we wanted to bring you more.
As always, we’re interested in what you think of our bonus content. You can let us know on social media or on the contact us page at Texas Standard dot org. Thanks — and happy extended listening!
During his run for reelection as Texas Governor, many speculated Greg Abbott had his sights on a presidential run. So why the silence? We’ll explore. Other stories we’re tracking: the return of the Orion Capsule and the end of the Artemis I mission: where are we now? Plus the impact for Texas as plans get rolling to serve as a World Cup 2026 host site. And holiday TV movies: a part of the season for many Texas families. We’ll talk to a fan of these films who found herself on the other side of the camera. All those stories and much more today on the Texas Standard:
Nineteen indictments of Austin police officers in what appears to be one of the biggest indictments of a single police department in connection with the racial justice demonstrations of 2020. Also, the week in politics with the Texas Tribune. These stories and more today on the Texas Standard:
We’ve gathered up reporters from around the state and have their expertise on how a special legislative session works and what can be accomplished. Also, what is Critical Race Theory and who is teaching it in Texas? And how the city of Abilene hopes to never lose access to water again. Plus a theater play called “Family Dollar”, how a community’s true stories of gentrification gave birth to this play. And the philosophy and goals of QAnon in Texas’ politics, from local to state-wide. Also, to unwind and relax – how about an outdoor movie and you be the host? Everything you need to know to put together your home-made theater is next. That and more today on the Texas Standard:
To declare a disaster or to not declare a disaster? That is the question before counties along the border. The disaster declarations are part of a bigger plan from Governor Abbott that includes his wall. We’ll talk about that in light of his visit to the border with former president Trump. We’ll also look at how Abbott ending federal unemployment benefits also ends state benefits for some Texans. And Bastrop is growing. We’ll look at the plans for a new state of the art film studio. And speaking of growth, Lubbock has a plan for its growth over the next 20 years. Will communities often forgotten be included this time? Those stories and more today on the Texas Standard:
Election day now almost 2 months away, and new battles forming over who in Texas gets to vote where and how. The Texas Secretary of State’s office threatens legal action over Harris county’s plan to send absentee ballot applications to every registered voter in the county, we’ll have the latest. Also a mass shooting in Odessa one year on, and the effort to hold the seller of the firearm legally accountable. And Daron Roberts on athlete activism and so much more today on the Texas Standard:
By W. F. Strong
To much of the world, and to many people in the U.S. who have never been to Texas, the state is a vast desert. It is not the Sahara, but instead a high-plains arid region studded with rocky mesas, sweeping wall-like cliffs, dusty canyons, and sometimes adorned with thousands of Saguaro cacti – native to Arizona, not Texas. Certainly there are parts of west Texas that have some aspects of these images, but more than half the state is green with rolling hills, lush forests and vibrant coastal plains. Yet the desert images dominate minds in distant lands. For that, we can thank Hollywood.
There are many John Wayne westerns with story lines that weave through Texas, but the films were shot in Utah and northern or southern Arizona. The most jarring example to me is The Searchers. To my mind, The Searchers was John Wayne’s best film. Here’s a clip where Mrs. Jorgensen, a tough frontier woman, defines these early Texans:
“It just so happens we be Texicans. Texican is nothing but a human man way out on a limb. This year and next, and maybe for a hundred more. But I don’t think it’ll be forever. Someday this country’s gonna be a fine, good place to be. Maybe it needs our bones in the ground before that time can come.”
As she says this on her front porch, she is looking at a view of Monument Valley, Utah. Wayne made five movies in Monument Valley, even though two of them, The Searchers and Rio Grande, had storylines that based them in Texas. Wayne actually said, “Monument Valley is the place where God put the West.”
Another Wayne film that is shocking to a native Texan is The Comancheros. The plot has Wayne playing Texas Ranger Jake Cutter. Great name. He arrests an outlaw for murder on a boat arriving in Galveston and tells him he will return him to Louisiana:
Regret: Well, I’ve committed no crime in Texas.
Cutter: Right. But you killed a man in Louisiana. My job’s to take you to the Ranger Headquarters where a Louisiana Marshall will pick you up. They’ll take you back to New Orleans and the gallows. You know we’re getting real obliging to the states down here in Texas. A lot of folks want to join the Union.
Regret: I have a couple of hundred in gold in that jacket. That give you any ideas, friend?
Cutter: I’ve got what you might call a weakness. I’m honest.
As Cutter exits the boat in Galveston with his handcuffed prisoner, Paul Regret, in tow, he walks right into Southeastern Utah where the film was shot in Professor Valley and the La Sal Mountains, among other places near Moab. Stunning country for cinemascope technology to capture, but not Texas.
Rio Bravo and El Dorado were two John Wayne Films with Texas settings shot in and around the Sonoran Desert west of Tucson. The landscape there is dominated by thousands of saguaros, enormous 40-foot cacti that look like sentinels of the desert. Such sights don’t exist in Texas.
Clint Eastwood’s For a Few Dollars More is set in and around El Paso, but it was actually shot in the Tabernas Desert near Almería, Spain. Fort Bravo, also called Hollywood, Texas, is a movie set town built there in the sixties and has served as a backdrop for many classic Western films like Once Upon a Time in the West and the famous Spaghetti Westerns. Not all of those have Texas storylines, but some do. For a Few Dollars More does, and at least in this case, the landscape of Almería is a good match for the El Paso region.
Two films more true to Texas in landscape were Giant, shot almost completely around Marfa, and No Country for Old Men, filmed mostly in Texas, but some in New Mexico. Texas Rising troubled some Texans for two reasons: one, being shot almost entirely in Mexico, which seemed sacrilegiously ironic. And two, for scenes of rugged mountains around Victoria, Texas. I think they got their Victorias mixed up. A more recent film called Hell or High Water, starring Jeff Bridges as a Texas Ranger chasing bank robbers in the Panhandle, was largely shot in New Mexico.
So you see, movie-Texas depicts a greater land of diversity than Texas actually has within it. To much of the world, we are Arizona and Utah and New Mexico, and we are Mexico and Italy and Spain. Mostly desert. Everything is bigger in Texas because Hollywood has subconsciously created a much wider world in the collective mind of moviegoers.
Sometimes it seems like movies are getting longer — or perhaps it’s that our ability to make it through the movie without a quick run to the restroom is getting weaker. That was the inspiration for this Typewriter Rodeo poem.
Originally aired: Oct. 31, 2016.
Texas is number one in a great many things: oil, ranching, rodeo, cotton. But you may be surprised to know that we are also number one in horror. That’s right, our very own charming little low-budget film, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, is considered by many critics to be the best (and most horrifying) horror movie ever made.
At the time of its release in 1974, the famous film critic Rex Reed said that it was the most “terrifying” movie he had ever seen. When the celebrated master of horror, Wes Craven, first saw the movie, he wondered “what kind of Mansonite crazoid” could have produced such a thing. Stephen King praised the movie. He said it had achieved “cataclysmic terror.” And my favorite critique comes from Anton Bitel who said that the “very fact that it was banned in England was a tribute to its artistry.”
In honor of Halloween, I thought I would help you appreciate this hallowed film; here are 10-and-a-half things you may not have known about the film.
1. Ed Gein is the name of the real criminally insane killer who inspired the character of Leatherface. He did not wear a leather mask. What he wore was worse: a mask made of human skin.
2. Ed Gein only killed two people, not dozens. Hardly a massacre. He did not use a chainsaw. He used a gun.
3. Gein did his killing in Wisconsin, not Texas. I know, disappointing right? Wisconsin Chainsaw Massacre just doesn’t have the same poetic ring to it.
4. So where did the chainsaw idea come from? Tobe Hooper, the director, said that he was in a Montgomery Ward store a few days before Christmas. The store was annoyingly crowded with aggressive shoppers. As he stood in front of the chainsaws he had a disturbing epiphany. He realized that if he started up one of those chainsaws the sound alone would part that sea of shoppers giving him a quick path to the exit. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how iconic art is born.
5. One last thing about Gein. He inspired not only Leatherface, but he was also the demented muse for Norman Bates in “Psycho” and Buffalo Bill in “Silence of the Lambs”.
6. Perhaps the most horrifying aspect of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, for the actors at least, was that it was filmed in the middle of the scorching Texas summer. You can see the sweat dripping off, even streaming off, the actors. Hooper said everyone suffered mightily because there was no stopping to wait for cooler weather. And even though
some days were well over 100 degrees, they had to press on to get filming done in a month, come hell or high water – and hell is what they got.
7. In his much-praised book, “Chain Saw Confidential”, Gunnar Hansen, who played the character of Leatherface, said that the name of the depraved family in the first film is Slaughter, not Sawyer. If you look above the Coca-Cola sign at the gas station you will see “W. E. Slaughter BBQ.”
8. Hansen also said that the power of the chainsaw myth they created on film persists with such tenacity in Texas that people would not believe him when he said that no such chainsaw crimes ever happened in the state. People would say something like: “No, they happened. My cousin worked on death row over in Huntsville and saw Leatherface himself get the chair.” But this is understandable because the film falsely marketed itself as “based on a true story.”
9. The film cost less than $300,000 to make, and eventually grossed $30 million in the U.S. The movie had its opening in Austin, appropriately, since its director was a University of Texas professor and documentary cameraman. Though it is hard to believe, he tried to keep the gore and violence of the film to a minimum so he could get a “PG” rating. That didn’t work. He got an “R” rating.
10. Horror and humor are allies. The movie even spawned a hilarious Geico ad that has run the last couple of years – the one where four people are running from a killer and debating where to hide. One suggests they take the running car and another says that’s a horrible idea and suggests that they hide behind the chainsaws. Even Leatherface is astounded by their filmic ignorance.
10.5. The film’s gas station is now a kind of bed and breakfast in Bastrop. It’s called The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s “Last Chance Gas Station”. You can get BBQ and spend the night in a cozy cabin. Chainsaw alarm clocks are certainly available. I understand the BBQ ain’t half bad. At least the owners are not, like those in the film, focused only on serving their fellow man.
W.F. Strong is a Fulbright Scholar and professor of Culture and Communication at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. At Public Radio 88 FM in Harlingen, Texas, he’s the resident expert on Texas literature, Texas legends, Blue Bell ice cream, Whataburger (with cheese) and mesquite smoked brisket.
When I hear the great musical theme of Lonesome Dove, I am immediately grateful to Bill Wittliff because I know we wouldn’t have the deeply treasured miniseries if not for him. We would have Larry McMurtry’s novel for sure, but we would not have Wittliff’s equally brilliant adaptation of that masterwork if not for his undeterred resolve to get it done.
Bill Wittliff died on Sunday. I was, like millions of his fans around the world, and especially those in Texas, sad to see his rare intellectual light and his beneficent genius leave us. He was a man who often worked his magic behind the scenes and so many people were touched by his artistic brilliance without knowing it. He wrote the screenplays for much loved movies like Lonesome Dove, Legends of the Fall, The Perfect Storm, Raggedy Man, and for highly Texcentric films like Barborosa and Red-Headed Stranger. Some say Wittliff launched the Austin film industry.
Though Renaissance man is often overgenerous in its use, it fit Wittliff to perfection. He was a novelist, and a screenwriter, a photographer, a publisher and movie producer, a collector, an archivist, a historian and a lifelong professor who generously shared his knowledge of all things all the time. In more than a few instances over the past few years I’d fire off an email to him to ask for his insights on some obscure subject and he’d invariably surprise me with an authoritative answer within five minutes, sometimes less.
Four years ago I interviewed Bill for his new novel The Devil’s Backbone. Naturally we talked a good deal about Lonesome Dove and I want to share some of that interview because it gives us insights into the making of that masterpiece and into the mind and methods of Wittliff as well.
I first asked Bill about how long it took to produce Lonesome Dove and if he knew it would be the huge hit it turned out to be?
“For me Lonesome Dove was a solid two years,” Wittliff said. “It was a year writing the script, and then it was another year from locations and casting and all of that, to actually shooting it and then editing and the scoring – all of it – and distribution. Here’s what I did know. I knew, because I saw the dailies every morning – and I knew, you know, that what was going through the cameras was incredible stuff, incredible performances. What I didn’t know was that the audience would take to it the way they did. That I didn’t know. I knew it was going to be great and I knew it was going to be well really phenomenal. It was just incredible to watch – to sit there every day and watch Duvall and Tommy Lee and all of them deliver those lines. You simply could not be there and not know. But what I didn’t know is that the audience would take to it the way the did.”
One reason for this surprise, Bill told me, is that in 1988 there was only one thing deader than Westerns and that was the miniseries. And, he said, “we were making both.”
I was curious about his method of adapting the novel for television. I asked him how, out of this tumultuous novel of nearly 1,000 pages, he could choose what to include and what to exclude.
“Here’s what I did,” Wittliff said. “At that time I was driving a pickup. Suzanne, my partner, had someone read it on tape. We have a place on South Padre Island. It’s six hours to drive down there. So I would strike out in my pickup, which is to say you were in a closed in space. And start playing that and listening to it. You could see it. In listening to it you would say oh I don’t need that or oh that’s too close to this. Because I was driving I could kind of see a version of the movie unfold as I drove along. In six hours, as it turned out, of listening to Larry’s novel was just about one episode. So I’d drive to South Padre and when I got there I then I would start adapting that six hours, boiled down to two hours. Anyway, that’s how I did it.”
Finally, since McMurtry had written a number of screenplays himself, I asked Bill why Larry hadn’t written it himself.
“When they asked me to do it, I called Larry and I said, ‘Don’t you want to do this,’ and he said, ‘no, I’m cooked,'” Wittliff said. “Larry’s always been smart about movies and his books. I don’t know what Larry had his thumb on when he wrote it, but boy it rang all the bells. And Larry got up from the typewriter and walked off from it at least three times maybe four times. He said ‘well, no, that’s enough,’ but then he always came back. And Lonesome Dove, both Larry’s book and now the miniseries, have absolutely become a part of the American fabric. It’s just astonishing. I’ve got calls from Ireland, Europe and England, caught up in the Lonesome Dove thing as much as Americans and Texans are. It’s just been astonishing.”
You notice there how he shuns credit for his success. He was a selfless man. That is why he created the Wittliff Collections with his wife Sally at Texas State University. There you can find the papers of great Southwestern writers like McCarthy, Dobie, Graves, Cisneros and some of McMurtry’s, which will be his greatest legacy, because it provides a place and resources for young writers, and artists, and filmmakers to come and dream about works they might animate and worlds they might create.
Steve Davis the curator there, said, “Bill embodied the best of Texas — he was incredibly creative and was very generous to others — as seen in this wonderful collection that he founded, which will continue to inspire others for generations to come.”
Finally, it is only fitting that we hear from McMurtry himself. Larry sent this touching note to me just yesterday.
He wrote: “I met Bill years ago when he and his wife asked permission to publish IN A NARROW GRAVE, my first volume of essays under their singular and distinctive Encino Press. It is the most impressive of my more than fifty published volumes. He was an absolute genius photographer, as you can see from his Wittliff Collection photos. Bill skillfully adapted LONESOME DOVE into a beloved miniseries, and I know he will be deeply missed by Texans everywhere.”
Bill lived a beautiful, fun and inspirational life. I believe firmly that in thinking about his life he would agree with Gus McCrae, who said, “It’s been quite a party, ain’t it?”
Second shutdown apparently averted, but the focus remains on the border as the fight over a wall looks set to shift to a new venue, we’ll have the latest. Also, a property tax cut that could carry a high price tag for Texans. And honk your horn if you’re behind on your car payments…what a record number of auto loan delinquencies tells us about the health of our economy. Plus 10 oscar nods for the movie Roma: why the spotlight comes at a crucial moment for Mexico. Those stories and a whole lot more today on the Texas Standard:
The Trump Administration wants changes to a long-held agreement affecting young immigrants held in detention. We’ll take a look at what that would mean here in Texas. Also, it’s been quite a week in Brazil. An attack on a political candidate, a major fire, and now it’s Independence Day. We’ll talk to a Brazilian with a Texas perspective. And do you know what a gun is? It’s actually a lot more complicated than you might think. Why the question may be more important than the debate over 3D printing weapons. Plus we’ll question some of the common narratives about Texas history. And we’ll take a little escape to the movies. All that, politics, the Typewriter Rodeo and so much more on today’s Texas Standard:
According to a book co-written by the curator of the Austin History Center, the Harlem Theater was one of only seven black-owned theaters in the country in the early 20th century. And, compared to other theaters in Austin, where black customers were either not allowed or segregated to the balcony seats, it offered moviegoers their full rights. On Dec. 30, 1973, it burned to the ground. Neither the Austin Police Department nor the fire department has records of the fire. The community has only ideas about what caused it – perhaps arson, perhaps electrical fire – but no real answers.
Spoiler alert! In case you’ve been under a rock in Ogallala for the last three decades, this story contains spoilers for “Lonesome Dove.”
Since I am, like many Texans, an amateur expert on “Lonesome Dove,” people often ask me what I figure are the most loved quotes from the miniseries.
If I were wise, I would just say any of a hundred quotes could be someone’s number one, and leave it at that. But I have never let lack of wisdom stop me. I cannot resist the challenge of making a list. I know it is a delicate business; it is holy ground.
But the list I’m about to share is not just my opinion. I do have data on my side, based on feedback from a popular Facebook page devoted to “Lonesome Dove.” From that page I have been able to tabulate the most popular quotes or excerpts from the miniseries:
No 12. Woodrow has just buried Gus and puts up the grave marker made of the famous Hat Creek Cattle Company sign. Woodrow says: “I guess this’ll teach me to be careful about what I promise in the future.”
No 11. When the boys seem a little shocked by Gus’, shall we say, manly appetites, he says: “What’s good for me may not be good for the weak minded.”
No 10. Right after Gus has cut the cards with Lorie and she accuses him of cheating. He says, “I won’t say I did and I won’t say I didn’t, but I will say that a man who wouldn’t cheat for a poke don’t want one bad enough.”
No 9. Not long before Gus goes guns blazing into Blue Duck’s camp to save Lorie, he says, “They don’t know it, but the wrath of the Lord is about to descend on ‘em.”
No 8. Gus finds July Johnson burying his son, and Jenny and Rosco. July is naturally distraught, blaming himself, saying he should have stayed with them. Gus says: “Yesterday’s gone, we can’t get it back.” But he does assure him that if he ever runs into Blue Duck again, he will kill him for him.
No 7. Gus gets exasperated with Woodrow because Woodrow, to Gus’s way of thinking, is being dense. Gus says: “Woodrow, you just don’t ever get the point – ‘It’s not dyin’ I’m talkin’ about, it’s livin’.”
No 6. This quote punctuates the scene when Jake Spoon must be hanged along with the murdering horse thieves he has thrown in with. Jake pleads his case but Gus has little sympathy. He says, “You know how it works, Jake. You ride with the outlaw, you die with the outlaw. Sorry, you crossed the line.”
No 5. The San Antonio bar scene has several great lines together, so I decided to count them as one quote.
The bartender, upon insulting Gus and Call, gets his nose broken when Gus slams his face into the oak bar. Gus explains: “Besides a whiskey, I think we will require a little respect. . . . If you care to turn around, you will see what we looked like when we was younger and the people around her wanted to make us senators. What we didn’t put up with back then was doddlin’ service, and as you can see, we still don’t put up with it.”
As they rode away, Woodrow tells Gus he’s lucky he didn’t get thrown in jail and Gus says, “Ain’t much of a crime, whackin’ a surly bartender.”
No 4. A touching line, uttered by Gus as he lay dying. He says to Woodrow: “It’s been quite a party ain’t it?”
No 3. This one is a tie – so close I couldn’t separate them.
The first comes at the first of the movie, back at Lonesome Dove when Bol infers that Gus may be too old for romance anymore and Gus sets him straight. He says, “The older the violin, the sweeter the music.”
Following soon after that scene comes Call’s advice to Newt. Call hands him his first pistol and says, “Better to have that and not need it than need it and not have it.”
No 2. Gus lays out a prescription for Lorie’s future happiness. She is obsessed with going to San Francisco, and he wants her to understand that that dream is likely a misguided one.
“You see, life in San Francisco is still just life. If you want any one thing too badly, it’s likely to turn out to be a disappointment. The only healthy way to live life is to learn to like all the little everyday things – like a sip of good whiskey in the evening, a soft bed, a glass of buttermilk, or a feisty gentleman like myself.”
No 1. I began with Call and we end with him. Though Gus gets a great number of the best lines, Woodrow gets, without question, the most powerful, most quoted line of all.
After Call beat an army scout to a pulp, the horrified townspeople – who have never witnessed such violence before – are standing around in shock and seem to require an explanation. Call obliges them. He says, “I hate rude behavior in a man. I won’t tolerate it.”
There you go. That’s the top twelve according to the data. Now when you write to me to tell that the list is wrong or that I left out this or that, I ask only that you remember Captain Call’s admonition: No rude behavior.