Archer City, Texas
Thirty years ago a movie set in Texas caught the imagination of the nation. The movie depicted the mediocre lives of two generations of aimless Archer City citizens dealing with their miserably bored lives played out against the bleak landscape of a dying Texas town that had seen the better days of a long gone oil boom. The closing of the Last Picture Show symbolized the decaying town and the changes coming to rural America in the 1950s. 

The Last Picture Show This movie was the first to gain notice for Cybil Sheppard and Jeff Bridges and a director named Peter Bogdanovich and a writer named Larry McMurtry who later became well known for another Texas-based story called Lonesome Dove. 

The movie is also remembered for a skinny dipping scene involving Ms. Sheppard and a taboo relationship between the football coach's wife played by Cloris Leachman and the quarterback, played by Timothy Bottoms. If you were a teenager when you saw this movie and you remember Cloris Leachman as being an old lady it is shocking to see it again 30 years later to find Cloris suddenly seems much younger. 

Archer City was not pleased at the way their town was depicted in the movie. However, they have learned to appreciate the notoriety it brought them. The theater in The Last Picture Show, called the Royal Theater, has been restored as an open air amphitheater. Next to it a larger screening room has been added. On April 4 and 5 of 2002 the aforementioned Cloris Leachman and Jeff Bridges returned to Archer City to attend the first ever screening of the Last Picture Show on a movie screen in Archer City.

You may note that the following photos are in black and white. If you have seen The Last Picture Show, you know why, if you don't know why, go see The Last Picture Show.

The road to Archer City, Texas. click a thumbnail to view a photo

The road to Archer City. About 30 miles south of Wichita Falls.

Archer City Limits

The entry to town. And a house which looks very much like the one where the coach's wife got 'help' from one of her husband's players.

The Last Picture Show Theater called the Royal Theater. In Archer City. The Last Picture Show, called the Royal Theater.
Ruins in Archer City. Ruins on the main street through town maintain that dying, decaying look that Archer City has been famous for for decades now.

Larry McMurty's Booked Up Bookstore in Archer City

In 1988 Larry McMurtry opened Booked Up, Inc. bookstore in Archer City. Booked up is in renovated buildings on both sides of Archer City's Main Street.

Booked Up has the biggest collection of used (antiquarian) books in America, with between 400,000 and 450,000 titles.

Booked Up came close to closing in 2005, taking a hit from the competition of Internet booksellers. After an outpouring of public support, Larry McMurtry decided to keep Booked Up up and running.

The Royal Theater

A look across the very broad street at the main intersection in town, looking at the Royal Theater, aka, The Last Picture Show.

Looking north on Archer City's main street.

A look north on the main street through Archer City.

The Archer City Water Tower.

The water tower by the high school.

Archer City Football

Last Picture Show began with football team members being teased for losing another big game. As many towns in Texas do, the Archer City townfolk attach a lot of importance to the win/loss record of their high school sports teams. In this photo you see large signs on the courthouse square celebrating the high school winning two state championships, once in the 60s and once in the 80s.

  A war memorial of the granite wall type of the Viet Nam Memorial in Washington, D.C., on the Archer County courthouse square. Here you can see the section listing those lost from Archer County in the Korean War, with the Royal movie theater across the street.
The Archer City War Memorial.

Archer City is about 100 miles west of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. The part of the war memorial you see in this photo lists Civil War dead. The monument labels it Civil War, not War of Northern Aggression, not War Between the States, but Civil War. This is the first time the use of that term has been found, by our eyes, on a Civil War monument in the South. Maybe this is explained by this being a rather new monument. Or maybe the further west you get in the South, the further you are from the heart of the Confederacy, perhaps a more Yankified view becomes the norm. Or maybe money was tight and they wanted to etch as few letters as possible.

The Last Picture Show

Before we leave Archer City, one last look at the Last Picture Show.....

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