|The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
DVD cover for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
||Robert L. Boyett
Edward K. Milkis
||Larry L. King
||William A. Fraker
||July 23 1982
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is a stage and film musical, based on a story by Larry L. King. Drawing from the true-life Chicken Ranch in La Grange, Texas, the original play addresses the issue of private behavior in conflict with public law. The real events adapted for the musical involved an overly zealous reporter (Marvin Zindler), whose coverage led to the closing of the Chicken Ranch.
The stage musical opened on Broadway in 1978, with songs by Carol Hall; the original cast starred Carlin Glynn and Henderson Forsythe. Released in 1982, the movie version—which starred Dolly Parton, Burt Reynolds, Jim Nabors, Charles Durning, and Dom DeLuise—retained many of Hall's songs and also added two others by Parton herself, most notably a two-stanza version of the immensely popular number "I Will Always Love You".
A touring revival of the play (with one new song by Hall), opened in 2001, starring Ann-Margret.
A sequel entitled The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas Goes Public, by the same authors, opened and closed on Broadway in 1994.
The story, set in Gilbert, Texas, concerns a brothel a little outside of town that has been operating for more than a century. In the late 1970s it is under the proprietorship of Miss Mona Stangley, who, while taking care of her girls, is also on good terms with the local sheriff, Ed Earl Dodd. When a crusading television reporter, Melvin P. Thorpe, "uncovers" the illegal activity (that is, makes an issue out of something that is common, but quiet, knowledge in Texas), political ramifications cause the place to be closed down.
Adjustments in later productions
- Although this basic plot-line remains the same between the original play and the film version, there is at least one significant difference in the characterization. In the film, Ed Earl and Miss Mona maintain an ongoing affair, while in the play they once merely had a night together some 20 years earlier (which the sheriff himself has forgotten). Their relationship in the film brings about not only the (added) accusatory scene, when the sheriff—disappointed that Mona has broken her promise (likewise added) to close the Chicken Ranch down long enough for things to cool off—calls her a whore, but also the "happy ending" at the very end, when he proposes marriage to Mona (which she accepts), even though that might endanger his chances to be elected as a state Senator. The denouement of the play, however, has them simply parting their ways.
- Some other character changes in the film include the addition of the sheriff's deputy, who serves as narrator (a service provided in the play by the Bandleader), and the somewhat more congenial social relationship between Ed Earl and the waitress in town named Doatsy Mae ("Dulcie Mae" in the film). In contrast, the initial plot element in the play involving Angel and Shy (newly arriving workers at the Chicken Ranch) is lacking in the film.
- In the 2001 touring production with Ann-Margret, the song "The Bus from Amarillo," which ended the original show, was moved to the end of Act I, so as to accommodate a new closing song for Mona, "A Friend to Me."
The film version of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas provided some challenges for its film company, Universal Studios, particularly with regards to advertising the film. In parts of the United States in 1982, the word "whorehouse" was considered mildly obscene, resulting in the film being renamed The Best Little Cathouse in Texas in some advertisements, while television advertisements for the film were either banned outright in some areas, or the offending word was censored.
Numbers as they appear in the stage version (by Carol Hall)
(Note: those titles in bold-face type were included in the film.)
- "20 Fans"
- "A Lil' Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place"
- "Girl, You're a Woman"
- "Watch Dog Theme"
- "Texas Has a Whorehouse in It"
- "Twenty-Four Hours of Lovin'"
- "Doatsy Mae"
- "The Angelette March"
- "The Aggie Song"
- "The Sidestep"
- "No Lies"
- "Good Old Girl"
- "Hard Candy Christmas"
- "The Bus from Amarillo" (this number ends Act I in the 2001 touring production)
- Finale (Note: this number, as recorded on the original cast album and differently on the 2001 touring production recording, is not included in the script of the play, which ends with "The Bus from Amarillo")
- "A Friend to Me" (added as the closing solo for the 2001 touring production, displacing "The Bus from Amarillo")
Added songs in the film (by Dolly Parton)
- "Sneakin' Around"
- "I Will Always Love You"
- The episode "Bart after Dark" (1996) from the animated television series The Simpsons parodies this story and includes a song of its own ("We Put the Spring in Springfield") sung as a production number in favor of the brothel.
- In the episode of the animated series The Venture Bros. entitled "Victor. Echo. November.", Dr. Venture mistakenly assumes that the film is a work of pornography.
- Hall, Carol. Vocal selections from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Melville, N.Y.: MCA Music, 1979.
- King, Larry L. and Masterson, Peter. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Music and lyrics by Carol Hall. French's Musical Library. New York, N.Y.: S. French, 1978. ISBN 0573681112
- King, Larry L. The Whorehouse Papers. New York: Viking Press, 1982. ISBN 0670159190
- The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas: original cast. Audio CD. MCA, 1997. MCAD-11683; MCA-3049.
- The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas: Music from the original motion picture soundtrack. Audio CD. MCA, 1987. MCAD-31007
- Best Little Whorehouse in Texas: New cast recording. Audio CD. Fynsworth Alley/Varèse Sarabande, 2001. 302 062 117 2.