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The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas
Dir. Colin Higgins (1982)
Based on a true story, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is in the storied tradition of the kind of goofy ribald musicals (anyone remember Shirley MacLaine as a hooker in Sweet Charity?). This story started as a magazine article by Larry L. King, was adapted into a Tony award-winning musical, with a film adaptation in 1982. The most successful movie musical of the 1980s, Whorehouse had some trouble with advertising on its initial release. Since the word "whorehouse" was considered obscene, in some parts of the country the ads for the film called it The Best Little Cathouse/Chicken House in Texas. And on its release in the United Kingdom, it was seized by the Slough Police because they thought it was a dirty film.
Helmed by Nine to Five director Colin Higgins, the ever-divine Dolly Parton stars as Mona Stangley, the proprietress of the nicest brothel in Texas, and Burt Reynolds as the town Sheriff, Ed Earl Dodd, who's been taking advantage of the product for years. But Parton and Reynolds' happy arrangement is threatened when television reporter Melvin P. Thorpe (Dom DeLuise), based on the real-life Texas personality Marvin Zindler, gets wind of the illegal goings-on.
The film is a dandy showcase for the singular, life-affirming charms of Parton, and Charles Durning received an Oscar nomination for his singing and dancing role as the Governor of Texas. (Also: it sounds a little like Jim Nabors' narration affected the accent of 30 Rock's Jack McBrayer, aka Kenneth the Page, deeply, we think.) Parton and Reynolds have a sweet chemistry, and the film offers exactly what you'd expect: a shirtless Reynolds, chest hair resplendent, singing "Sneakin' Around" with a Fredericks of Hollywood-clad Parton. The results are totally endearing. Brilliantly, Parton's 1973 single I Will Always Love You was re-recorded for this flick, adding pathos and feeling to the campy goings-on.
Classic Parton for you: presenting herself as a good-time gal that shouldn't be taken seriously, when she's a pioneering female artist and one of the best country musicians ever. We will always love her, for sure, even when she's playing a madam.
Watch the film now for free on Hulu: