The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas Nov 29, 2019 17:32:32 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Nov 29, 2019 17:32:32 GMT -5
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982)
Directed by: Colin Higgins
Directed by: Colin Higgins
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is far sweeter and more amiable than its title suggests. A good chunk of that radiant sweetness comes from its two leads, Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton, who tickle the fancy of one another in ways more memorable than romantic comedies ostensibly packing more innocent intent. A credit to both director/co-writer Colin Higgins (Harold and Maude, Foul Play), who works alongside Larry L. King and Peter Masterson, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas avoids sacrificing its incandescent charm for simple sleaze, and instead produces the kind of southern ditty that has become extinct in contemporary film.
Reynolds plays Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd, a well-respected man in his position, who has had a long relationship with Miss Mona Stangley (Dolly Parton), the owner of a local brothel called the "Chicken Ranch." Miss Mona always refers to Ed as "Ed Earl," said with her unmistakable southern drawl, making for a prolific and quietly humorous recurring beat throughout the film. Operating in the gray area of the law, Ed Earl doesn't take any direct action towards the ranch, not only out of respect for his lover but due to her own respect for her business. Mona will always go to bat for her girls if they do the same for her. "Keep your language clean, girls, keep your bedrooms neat," she tells them during her opening number. "And don't hang around the town cafe and say 'hi' on the street." All of the girls adhere to her rules out of both respect for her and their own line of work, making the film a refreshing piece of sex-positive attitudes.
But naturally, conflict must arise, and it does so in the form of Melvin Thorpe (played fittingly by Dom DeLuise), a do-gooder celebrity whose spontaneous live-telecast one day reveals to Texans far and wide that "Texas has a whorehouse!" The mainstream news sends Miss Mona and her business into a bit of a tailspin, as they try to hold off intensely (and emptily) negative press that accuses her and her girls of soiling the fabric of moral decency in Texas. Things heat up even more when Thorpe continues to launch a smear campaign, the likes of which getting the state, the governor (Charles Durning), and Ed Earl entangled about what is moral and what is legal in the land of the free — and whether the two should have any kind of mutual exclusivity.
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas isn't a "teachable" movie in the conventional sense, yet it does indeed offer better, more cogent arguments in defense of porn and prostitutes than politicians even in present day. Higgins, King, and Masterson avoid the expected trapping of producing a film that's easy on the eyes but light on any kind of subtext, instead opting for a more challenging sell, yet one that clearly has gone on to resonate even in the modern day. I have a sneaking (maybe optimistic) suspicion that if The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas was less socially adept and more Debbie Does Dallas, we wouldn't still be talking about it today. A big credit goes to the aforementioned trio, who assure from the start their project doesn't get mixed up in the same lame-brained realm as being a "T&A" feature.
Deserving of praise as well are both Reynolds and Parton, who fit their respective roles like a glove. They understand the appropriate tone and feel of the film as they both carry out their roles in a manner that fits with the screenplay, affirming the light but deceptively meaningful subtext of the film. Parton also comes to life during the many songs she performs. From the spry and informative "A Lil' Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place" to the soulful ballad "I Will Always Love You," she is lively in her singing performance, not to mention elevated by her quick-witted delivery outside of the musical numbers. Consider a scene when Miss Mona and Ed Earl are trying to make love, but their bedtime rendezvous is offset and delayed by his reluctance to don lingerie she purchased for him. The whole bit shows the free-wheeling Miss Mona, complemented by an exuberant Parton performance, and the reserved Ed Earl, made effective by an all-too-self-deprecating Reynolds, as dueling personalities that still find a way to come together regardless of whether or not the Chicken Ranch or sex is at stake.
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is a fun concept made into a better-than-expected film thanks to its recognition that, while breasts and buttocks may sell tickets, dialog, musical numbers, and intelligent conceit will lead to a lasting, memorable film.
Starring: Burt Reynolds, Dolly Parton, Dom DeLuise, Charles Durning, and Jim Nabors. Directed by: Colin Higgins.