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McMurtry's Westerns shoot straight from the hip

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Brokeback Mountain, opening next week,

is a groundbreaker: a gay Western. But the adaptation of Annie Proulx's short story

has traditional roots. Its co-screenwriter (with Diana Ossana)

is Larry McMurtry, whose novels-to-film usually have nothing to do with city slickers. Here are three:


1963, Paramount, unrated, $15

Hud is a heel, but you feel for him when this tomcat-in-a-Cadillac (Paul Newman) complains about all the sweaty grunt work he does on his father's Texas ranch amid all the old man's sermons about integrity. Melvyn Douglas plays Dad and Patricia Neal the housekeeper who exposes Hud's rottenest side. Neal won the best-actress Oscar, Douglas took supporting actor, and James Wong Howe was recognized for some of his greatest cinematography in a 52-year career. The source was McMurtry's novel Horseman, Pass By.

The Last Picture Show

1971, Sony, R, $20

Because the studio unexpectedly OK'd shooting in black-and-white, this really looks like a vintage Hollywood classic. Director Peter Bogdanovich, Cybill Shepherd, Jeff Bridges and Oscar-winning Cloris Leachman make welcome appearances in one of DVD's best making-of documentaries. Among the subjects addressed: Bogdanovich's cajoling of Ben Johnson to play Sam the Lion, which got him a supporting Oscar, and the headaches involved finding someone to lend a pool for a swimming-party scene involving nude teen characters.

Lonesome Dove

1989, Artisan, unrated, $15

Robert Duvall gives one of the best performances of his career in this 6 1/4-hour (and never dull) marathon from McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize winner. Joining Duvall on a Texas-to-Montana cattle drive is Tommy Lee Jones as another former Texas Ranger. There's enough plot to support meaty roles for Anjelica Huston, Diane Lane, Frederic Forrest, Robert Urich, Barry Corbin and the rest of a handpicked cast. Seven Emmys and a huge viewing audience weren't wrong. This is the best Western since Sam Peckinpah stopped doing them in the early '70s.

Murderball; Mr. & Mrs. Smith; the 2005 World Series DVD

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