Movie Name: The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Studio: Miller-Milkis-Boyett Productions
Release Date(s): June 23, 1982
MPAA Rating: R
Texas has a whorehouse in it…and everyone knows about it. The Chicken Ranch has operated for almost one hundred years and it is the worst kept secret in the state. The “lil’ Ole Bitty Pissant Country Place” has served everyone from dignitaries to the common man over the years, but when a shock journalist named Melvin P. Thorpe (Dom DeLuise) sets his sight on it, the Chicken Ranch is in danger. It’s madam Mona Stangley (Dolly Parton) and her ally Sheriff Ed Earl Dodd (Burt Reynolds) must save the Chicken Ranch!
Directed by Colin Higgins, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is a musical romantic comedy. The movie is based on the 1978 musical by Carol Hall which in turn was based on the real story of the Chicken Ranch in La Grange, Texas. The movie was censored in some places due to its title and received mixed reviews from critics. The film performed well at the box office and toppled E.T.’s record breaking run at number one. Charles Durning was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Musicals were dead by the time The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas was released. Most of the major musicals had been made and Hollywood wasn’t in “remake mode”. The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas wasn’t the best movie, but it was a different in that it was a genre that almost gone.
The story for The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is interesting in that it was based on real events. Some of the things that occurred in movie actually occurred in real life (like the ripping off of reporter Marvin Zindler’s toupee by Sheriff Jim T. Flournoy). Despite this, the story is a bit weak in that they have to make it a love story and find a reason to sing songs. It works sometimes and other times it feels kind of forced.
The cast for the movie is quite strong (circa 1982). Dolly Parton was a hot commodity and Burt Reynolds was a sex symbol (neither are great in their roles). Charles Durning is fun in his all-to-brief appearance as the Governor of Texas who sidesteps all the issues and Dom DeLuise is of course over-the-top as the reporter Melvin P. Thorp. Jim Nabors gets to play the straight-man as the narrator and the movie also features other characters actors like Robert Mandan, Mary Jo Catlett, Theresa Merritt, and Barry Corbin.
The musical is rather bland and traditional by today’s standards and that was part of why musicals died. The format of musicals can be kind of hard to take and The Best Little Whorehouse is dotted with people just bursting into song. Many of the songs aren’t very memorable either, but some of the songs like “I Will Always Love You” (which was written before the movie along with a few other songs) and “Texas Has a Whorehouse in It” are kind of catchy.
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is an average movie but a bit elevated in the oddity of when it was made. If it had been made in the heyday of musicals, it would be completely forgotten, but since it came out when musicals were almost non-existent, it makes it a rather unique gem. Don’t go into the movie expecting to be wowed, but it does have some fun moments and songs…and a bit of toned down ’80s raunch added to the mix.