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The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Colin Higgins
Produced by Colin Higgins
Robert L. Boyett
Written by Colin Higgins
Peter Masterson
Starring Burt Reynolds
Dolly Parton
Music by Carol Hall
Patrick Williams
Cinematography William A. Fraker
Editing by David Bretherton
Studio Universal Pictures
RKO Pictures
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) July 23, 1982
Running time 114 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $35 million
Gross revenue $69,701,637

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is a 1982 feature film adaptation of the musical of the same name released by Universal Pictures, which was written and directed by Colin Higgins. The cast included Dolly Parton, Burt Reynolds, Noah Beery, Jr., Jim Nabors, Charles Durning, Dom DeLuise, Robert Mandan, Lois Nettleton, Theresa Merritt, Barry Corbin, Mary Jo Catlett, and Mary Louise Wilson.

Durning was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. Golden Globe nominations went to the film for Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical) and Parton for Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical).



The plot is basically the same as that of the stage production, with one significant difference. In the original, Ed Earl and Miss Mona had a one-night stand fifteen years earlier, but in the film they maintain an ongoing affair.

The relationship in the film brings about not only the accusatory scene, when the sheriff—disappointed that Mona has broken her promise to close the Chicken Ranch down long enough for things to cool off—calls her a whore, but also the happy ending, when he proposes marriage to Mona, even though that might endanger his chances to be elected as a state legislator. (He is elected anyway.)

The Broadway score was embellished with two songs written by Parton, a duet of "Sneakin' Around" with Reynolds and a two-stanza version of the popular hit "I Will Always Love You".

The house used in the film is located at Universal Studios in Hollywood and can be viewed as part of the backlot tram tour. (It was also seen in the Ghost Whisperer television series episode "The Lost Boys.") The inspiration for the set came from a real ranchhouse located outside Austin, Texas, which is featured in scenes from the movie [1].

The role of Melvin P. Thorpe (portrayed by Dom DeLuise) is based on Marvin Zindler, an eccentric consumer reporter for Houston's KTRK-TV.


Film censorship

The film version presented some difficulties for Universal, particularly with advertising for the film. In 1982, the word whorehouse was considered obscene in parts of the United States, resulting in the film being renamed The Best Little Cathouse in Texas in some print ads, while television ads were either banned outright in some areas, or the offending word was censored. During interviews, Parton sometimes referred to the film as The Best Little Chicken House in Texas.

The film is sometimes accused of bowing to then-current racial attitudes by showing the sole black football player dancing with Ruby Rae, the sole black prostitute, although the latter also appears in a later scene in a tryst with a different, white, football player. However, it is worth noting that this is frequently done in entertainment even today, and has a reasonable basis in reality. Also, the film portrays two examples of three-way sex, one with two of the Chicken Ranch girls with one Aggie, and the other with two Aggies and one Chicken Ranch girl.


  • Other people that were up for Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton's roles in the film included Willie Nelson for the role of Ed Earl Dodd and Barbara Mandrell and Crystal Gayle for the role of Miss Mona Stangley.
  • The exterior of the Chicken Ranch was erected on the Universal lot where the Bates house from Psycho originally stood. The Bates house was moved to a more permanent location when filming began on Psycho II.
  • In terms of box-office, The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas was the most successful movie-musical of the 1980s.
  • The film went over budget because of the various production problems. Several directors came and went, the script was always being rewritten and Dolly Parton wrote several more songs than were eventually included.
  • The Chicken Ranch house went on to be the Firefly residence in House of 1000 Corpses.
  • Dolly Parton wrote several new songs for the film which were not used, including "Down At The Chicken Ranch" and "Where Stallions Run" -the latter was filmed, but cut prior to the film's release. It was restored for the network television broadcast of the film, as the film was too short for its time slot after the censors finished their broadcast edits and additional material was needed.

In Popular Culture

The film is referenced in the Venture Bros episode "Victor. Echo. November." when Doctor Venture plans on spending a quiet night in watching what he believes to be a hardcore pornographic film starring Dolly Parton, and is sorely disappointed, at one point exclaiming "They can't sing forever!".


  • The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas: Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Audio CD. MCA, 1987. MCAD-31007


  • 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 0-573-68111-2
  • King, Larry L. The Whorehouse Papers. New York: Viking Press, 1982. ISBN 0-670-15919-0


External links

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