When The Last Picture Show released in 1971, the Texas-set high school drama became a hit with audiences across the nation thanks to it’s frank depictions of sex and small-town scandal. However, the qualities that made the film successful also made it incredibly controversial, particularly in the part of the country where the film set. The film infamously banned in some parts of Texas as a result of a nude scene that involved actress Cybill Shepherd. Join Facts Verse as we explore the controversial nude scene that BANNED The Last Picture Show.
Anyone that has seen The Last Picture Show will be more than familiar with the scene where the character of Jacy, played by actress Cybill Shepherd, takes her top off by the pool. Though the actress 21 years old at the time that she portrayed the character. The character herself only supposed to be in high school. Because of this fact, as well as several thematic elements present throughout the film, the nude scene met with a good deal of ire from the public. However, it met with even more positivity!
The Last Picture Show came out in 1971, only a year after Cybill Shepherd had broken out onto the modeling scene with her appearance on the cover of Glamour magazine. Peter Bogdanovich directed The Last Picture Show. And it was Peter’s wife that showed him the picture of Cybill on Glamour’s cover. Peter’s wife at the time was also his creative partner in the early days of his career. And she believed that Cybill might make a perfect star for the film that her husband was working on. That film was an adaptation of the 1966 semi-autobiographical novel The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurty. Larry would go on to adapt his novel into the script that Peter ended up filming. As well, Peter took his wife’s advice and hired Cybill to play the part of Jacy.
When Peter’s then-wife, Polly Platt, recommended Cybill Shepherd to play the part of Jacy in her husband’s upcoming film. She had no idea that he would end leaving her for the young model. Peter and Cybill started having an affair while working together on the set of The Last Picture Show. And putting an end to his and Polly’s marriage. Polly was Peter’s go-to production designer at the time. And meaning that she was on the set of the film the entire time that the romance was blossoming between her husband and his young star. To make matters even worse, Peter and Polly had two kids!
While the behind the scenes drama of The Last Picture Show certainly noteworthy. And more drama came when the film was released. Cybill Shepherd had agreed to film a nude scene for the film. Although the actress 21 years old, the fact that her character supposed to be a teenager made the nude scene quite controversial. Coupled with the generally mature themes of the movie, the film not met too positively in small town America. Particularly in the part of the country where the film set.
The Last Picture Show was set in a small town in Texas. And it ended up being banned in many small towns throughout Texas due to the titillating and decidedly controversial nude scene involving Cybill, who was then one of the most lusted-after models in the entire country. According to legend, the negative reaction to the film’s seedier elements also drew some ire from star Ben Johnson. Apparently, when Ben read the script, he nearly turned down the role he was being offered in the film due to the fact that he thought it was a dirty movie. However, director John Ford ended up advising him to take the part. Ben trusted John, so he took his advice.
Ben Johnson was wise to trust director John Ford when he advised him to take his part in The Last Picture Show. And because the role ended up winning Ben an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. A district attorney in Texas apparently had the same reaction as Ben. Because the film deemed obscene by the city of Phoenix, requiring it to judged by the federal court. The federal court declared the film safe for viewing, ending much of the controversy.
Peter Bogdanovich had previously been a film critic before becoming a filmmaker. Prior to The Last Picture Show, Peter had directed the feature Targets. The Last Picture Show has proved the biggest success of the director’s career by far. In addition to the aforementioned win for Ben Johnson, the film netted one other win and eight total nominations. The second win came as a result of Cloris Leachman’s performance as Ruth Popper. And which saw her win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Sadly, Peter would see dwindling success in his later career after the successful follow-up feature Paper Moon. As well, his romance with Cybill wouldn’t last past the 1970s! If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Also, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
The Last Picture Show famously filmed in black and white at a time when color had become the norm in film. The decision made as a result of some sage advice from Orson Welles. Given that the film a period piece taking place nearly two decades before the time that the film released. The film being black and white proved effective.
Despite the controversy that surrounded The Last Picture Show in some small towns across America, the film was a major commercial and critical success. Arguably, the same things that made the film controversial in those said small towns were the same aspects that the rest of America related to. The film certainly wouldn’t have made the same impression without Cybill’s iconic nude scene. But it was also much more than just a dirty picture meant to titillate.
Peter and Polly divorced just before The Last Picture Show made it’s debut in theaters. And Peter subsequently became officially involved with Cybill until 1978. After the success of The Last Picture Show, Peter had another success with Paper Moon. However, after the release of Paper Moon, Peter’s career took a downward trajectory.
Cybill wanted Peter to make her another starring vehicle that would bring her as much attention as The Last Picture Show did. And he attempted two times to little avail. Those two attempts were 1974’s Daisy Miller and 1975’s At Long Last Love. Both of the films failed at the box office, and also ripped apart by critics. Many blame the failure of these two features for the subsequent disintegration of Peter and Cybill’s relationship. After Peter had failed to give Cybill a starring vehicle worthy of her talents, Martin Scorsese cast her in his 1976 feature Taxi Driver. Her role in the film revitalized Cybill’s success after her couple of failures.
The drama that occurred on the set of The Last Picture Show was arguably just as interesting as the drama that the film depicted. However, everything ended up turning out okay by the time that nearly the entire cast and crew of The Last Picture Show returned to it’s small-town location to film the sequel Texasville in the 1980s. Peter returned to direct, Cybill returned to star, and Polly returned as production designer. This marked Polly’s first time working on one of Peter’s films since Paper Moon, which she had agreed to stay on for despite the fact that she and Peter had divorced.
When it came time to film Texasville, everybody had let go of the past and moved on. Cybill had been divorced twice, and Polly had found a great deal of success in entertainment without her husband. Peter had also found a new girl, although this girl was perhaps even more problematic than Cybill had been during the days of The Last Picture Show.
After Cybill broke up with him, Peter set his sights on a new, and even younger, love interest. This love interest was 18-year-old Dorothy Stratten, whom Peter had met while attending a party at the Playboy Mansion. Peter subsequently cast her in his 1981 feature They All Laughed and romanced his young star just the same as he had romanced Cybill years before on the set of The Last Picture Show. Once again, the romancing proved effective despite Peter’s much older age. However, disaster loomed just around the corner for the new Hollywood couple.
When Dorothy took up with Peter, she was married. Dorothy left husband Paul Snider to be with Peter, and Paul was not happy about this whatsoever. In fact, Paul was so livid about the situation that he murdered Dorothy. With the star murdered, the studio no longer wanted to release They All Laughed. Believing in the posthumous star potential of his late love, Peter purchased the rights to distribute the film out of pocket and screened the film himself to little success.
The death of Dorothy represented a dark period for Peter until he took with her still-alive teenage sister, Louise. It was Louise that was Peter’s wife on the set of Texasville. The two married in 1988 when Peter was 49 and Louise was only 20. This made Louise a contemporary of Peter’s own children. And meaning that her stepchildren considered her more of a sister than a mother. However, the family still apparently got along fairly well and considered Louise a nice addition!
Despite their immense age difference, Peter and Dorothy stayed married for well over a decade before eventually divorcing in 2001. Peter is currently 82, and hasn’t remarried since divorcing Dorothy. Although The Last Picture Show has recently turned 50 years old, it can still titillate audiences today! However, those looking for the real controversy nowadays should look at the director’s life.
Although The Last Picture Show proved so controversial upon it’s initial release that it was banned in parts of the country. The film seems relatively tame by today’s standards. Now it’s time to hear from you: do you think that Cybill Shepherd’s nude scene in The Last Picture Show deserved to get the film banned. Or do you think that moral objectors to the film were overreacting? As always, like this video to show your support. And subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!