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Opinion In Market: Let's go back to Lonesome Dove

In Market: Let’s go back to Lonesome Dove

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Robert Francis
Robert Francis
Robert is a Fort Worth native and longtime editor of the Fort Worth Business Press. He is a former president of the local Society of Professional Journalists and was a freelancer for a variety of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, including American Way, BrandWeek and InformatonWeek. A graduate of TCU, Robert has held a variety of writing and editing positions at publications such as the Grand Prairie Daily News and InfoWorld. He is also a musician and playwright.

Downtown Fort Worth resembled its Cowtown moniker on Friday, Jan. 15, as the Lonesome Dove Trail began at the Trailhead in front of the Sid Richardson Museum with a sunrise chuck wagon breakfast.

The biscuits, cooked over an open fire tended by cooks dressed for the trail, were quite a bit different – maybe it was the flavor – from those found in fast-food drive thrus. And, cue the Ennio Morricone theme – on horseback were six tough hombres. The Magnificent Six were Mayor Betsy Price, Edward P. Bass, Kit Moncrief, Charlie Geren, Steve Murrin and Jim Gay.

They weren’t there to rob banks, spit on the sidewalk or drink sarsaparilla. The event was the opening of Lonesome Dove: The Art of Story, an exhibition inspired by the 1985 Pulitzer Prize-winning western novel by Larry McMurtry. The novel tells the story of two aging Texas Rangers – Woodrow Call and Gus McCrae – on a 2,500-mile cattle drive from the Rio Grande to Montana.

The exhibit runs through Sunday, June 19, and celebrates the novel as well as the six-hour CBS miniseries of the same name that won seven Emmy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards and a

Peabody Award, among others.

But the celebration doesn’t stop with the book or the1989 miniseries; it includes western art and historical artifacts from the period.

Masterpieces by Frederic Remington and Charles M. Russell – paintings that have never before been displayed together – will be exhibited with production materials from the miniseries, on loan from the Lonesome Dove Collection of the Wittliff Collections at Texas State University, San Marcos. The production materials from the Lonesome Dove Collection have never before been displayed outside of the Wittliff Collections, and some might never travel again due to their fragile condition.

It’s a great way to soak up some of Texas’ Western heritage without having to get your boots – or high heels – scuffed.

According to Mary Burke, director of the Sid Richardson Museum, the exhibit shows “how different craftsmen and artists depict” this key moment in history for Fort Worth, Texas and the Southwest.

Aside from the artistic masterpieces on display, there are historical artifacts from the time period, including a diary from 1868 compiled by a cowboy from Parker County, Burke said.

Also on display will be the first draft of the Lonesome Dove television script by Bill Wittliff.

The Sid Richardson Museum exhibit will be part of the January-through-June citywide celebration, known as ”The Lonesome Dove Trail,” which will include multiple Fort Worth venues plus one in Albany, Texas. The Trail will include exhibitions at four museums and screenings, seminars and a March 31 reunion gala of the cast and crew of the Lonesome Dove miniseries, including Robert Duvall (McCrae in the series), Tommy Lee Jones (Call in the series), Diane Lane, Anjelica Huston and others, to be held in the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards. The gala is sold out.

“Just as seen in the TV miniseries, the Remington and Russell paintings and sculptures in our exhibition illuminate the narrative of the late 19th century American West,” said Burke. “Our presentation of the West – through well-crafted words, video, set illustrations, costume designs, storyboards and works by Remington and Russell – is a first-of-its-kind exhibition for our museum, and it sets the stage for the entire citywide celebration.”

Highlights of Lonesome Dove: The Art of Story

• These Remington paintings will be shown: The Fall of the Cowboy, 1895, Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth; The Stampede, 1908, Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa; Fight for the Waterhole, 1903, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (through April 3, 2016); and Buffalo Runners – Big Horn Basin, 1909, Sid Richardson Museum.

• Additional integral works include two paintings by Russell on loan from the Amon Carter Museum and six Remington and Russell paintings from the Sid Richardson Museum’s permanent collection, as well as a rarely seen Remington painting and two Remington and one Russell bronzes from a private collection.

• Larry McMurtry’s annotated first page and last three pages of his first draft of Lonesome Dove (on loan from the University of Houston Special Collections) are displayed next to co-executive producer and screenwriter Bill Wittliff’s annotated copy of the epic book and the last three pages of the first draft of his screenplay for the TV miniseries, on loan from the Wittliff Collections.

• The trail map, casting page, storyboard sketches, set illustrations, costume drawings and other production materials are on loan from the Lonesome Dove production archives at the Wittliff Collections.

• A film clip of a cattle stampede in Lonesome Dove is on loan from Sonar Entertainment Distribution LLC, Los Angeles.

• The earliest known day-by-day journal of a cattle drive from Texas to Kansas by a Texas cowboy in 1868, the Jack Bailey Cowboy Journal, is on loan from the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

• The 1881 book, The Beef Bonanza: Or, How to Get Rich on the Plains, by James Sanks Brisbin, considered to be the most important promotional book for the cattle boom of the 1880s, is on loan from the Rees-Jones Collection, Dallas.

* The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame will be the second stop on the Lonesome Dove Reunion and Trail with “Bullets and Bustles: Costumes of Lonesome Dove,” opening February 19 and running through April 17.

The exhibition will feature the costumes of Captain Augustus “Gus” McCrae, Captain Woodrow F. Call, Joshua Deets, and Clara Allen. All costumes were conceived by Emmy award-winning costume designer Van Ramsey, and crafted for the filming of the TV miniseries, Lonesome Dove.

The Lonesome Dove Trail is presented by Texas State and hosted though a collaboration with prominent cultural and educational institutions and organizations including the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Cattle Raisers Museum, Center for the Study of the Southwest (Texas State University), Fort Worth Library, Lone Star Film Society, National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, Sid Richardson Museum, Sundance Square, Texas Christian University and The Old Jail Art Center. The title sponsor of the Lonesome Dove Reunion and Trail is Frost Bank.

The Lonesome Dove Trail


Sid Richardson Museum

309 Main Street

Fort Worth 76102


National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame

1720 Gendy Street

Fort Worth 76107


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