Thursday, June 16, 2016

The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

Year 8, Day 167 - 6/15/16 - Movie #2,367

BEFORE: Nearing the end of the Burt Reynolds travelogue, let's see, I started in Atlanta with "Deliverance", then went to New York & Boston ("Starting Over"), then we went down to Florida for four films, then to Las Vegas for "Heat", then to L.A. for "Hustle", "Hooper" and "Best Friends", which included side-trips to Buffalo, NY and Virginia, but ended back in L.A.  Now Burt's off to Texas, and from here we head down to Mexico, I think, for the trip's conclusion.   

THE PLOT:  A town's sheriff and regular patron of a historic whorehouse fights to keep it running when a TV preacher targets it as the Devil's playhouse. 

AFTER:  Once again, an IMDB plot-line is not completely accurate - it's not a preacher trying to shut down the titular (heh...) whorehouse, he's more of a consumer reporter.  The character of Melvin P. Thorpe is based on the real-life newsman, Marvin Zindler, who filed news reports about the Chicken Ranch, and lobbied to get it shut down, not for moral reasons, but for its possible ties to organized crime.  He was also a pioneer of the sort of "Shock TV" that's all the rage now on the evening news all across the country, like "exactly how clean IS this restaurant?" and "what substances in your home could kill you?" (Details coming up after a look at tomorrow's weather....)  

And hey, the real Chicken Ranch was located in La Grange, Texas - that's probably the place that ZZ Top was singing about in their famous song "La Grange".  You know what I'm talkin' about...uhh how how how how....

But all that aside, I avoided this film for a very long time (though I admit I probably snuck a peek or two at it when I was a horny teen...) just because it seems like a very silly film.  And sure enough, it is.  How "Burt Reynolds Sings" managed to get a picture greenlit is beyond men.  But Dolly Parton does sing "I Will Always Love You" near the end in it, and that went on to become a huge hit for Whitney Houston years later in "The Bodyguard".  

NITPICK POINT: The song reveals that "Texas Has a Whorehouse In It" -  A? Meaning "one"?  Uhh, yeah, the state of Texas is, like, really big, and I'm guessing that if there's one, there's probably a dozen, and if there's a dozen, there's probably like a hundred.  Why would the opposition single out just one, instead of dealing with the larger, overall problems created by the sex industry?  The (non-) preacher is from Houston, and surely there are sex workers there, and strip joints and massage parlors, why not clean up your own backyard before going out to the country and finding a brothel to report on?

NITPICK POINT #2: For that matter, why is everyone so shocked that a whorehouse exists, when everyone in town already seems to be aware of it?  And it's not like they were turning a blind eye to it, some of the wives were even happy their husbands were going there, because it gave them something of a break.  I know, this doesn't justify bad behavior, but I just don't know how everyone can know something, and then suddenly be so up in arms against it.  If people were against prostitution, why didn't anyone try to shut the place down in the 1940's or 1950's or 1960's?  It just seems like the protests come out of nowhere, all of a sudden, just to create a conflict for this story.  I mean, if the police started cracking down on drug dealers in, say, Harlem, it would be newsworthy, but people wouldn't exactly be shocked to learn that there were drug dealers in Harlem. 

I know this is mainly a film about men sleeping with women, but still there's something sort of queer about it, in a weird way.  Maybe it's the presence of Jim Nabors, since we now know more about his sexual orientation and he was closeted at the time, but maybe it also comes from watching a bunch of college football players high-fiving each other as they stroll into the showers.  Sure, they may be congratulating themselves because of the women they'll be sleeping with later, but they're still naked while high-fiving, and most straight guys just don't do that.  And then the college players do a dance number, and from what I understand, most male theater performers who can dance like that aren't exactly interested in women...

Then we've got the presence of Dom DeLuise, whose character wears a corset, and he's one of those actors who always came across as more than a little fey, perhaps for comic reasons only, but you never know, do you?  Not that there's anything wrong with being queer, it just strikes me as funny that there was this generation of actors who (clearly?) were, but couldn't talk about it because society didn't allow for such things at the time, and maybe their lives would have been different or happier if they could have been out and proud.  But maybe they weren't gay, but just acted that way?  I'm thinking of actors like Vincent Price, Paul Lynde, Charles Nelson Reilly... I mean, on one level it just doesn't matter, but yet somehow it does, like these men might have even been married and had kids, but weren't allowed to be who they could have been, and that didn't help their families in the short term, or the cause of gay rights in the long run.  Like, whatever, man, as long as you're happy and healthy and your actions don't hurt anyone else.

Which brings me back to the actions depicted in this film - it's one thing to support prostitution, and in this case fall just short of calling for its legalization, but that's not really the whole story, is it?  I mean, if prostitution is just what they say it is, just paying for sex without the romantic entanglement, isn't that message sort of muddled when the sheriff is sleeping with the madam AND he's in love with her?  And then the case is made for prostitution being "easier" on men's wives, which is a bit of a dodge over what's really going on, isn't it?  And then since the hookers are portrayed as keeping an eye out for STDs, it's suggested that visiting them is somehow cleaner and healthier than having random sex with strangers, or keeping men from becoming rapists, but that's another dodge.  I mean, you can't SEE some STDs, and a quick rinse with soap and water hardly constitutes protection from them - and if a hooker spots a man with "the clap", what's she going to do, send him home and not make her money?  That seems a little short-sighted and far-fetched. 

Yeah, in the end it's still a very silly film, and shouldn't be looked to for a valid argument on the pros of, err, pros, or the legality or morality of the issue, and instead it just fills the time with Burt Reynolds and Charles Durning singing.  Pass.

Also starring Dolly Parton (last heard in "Gnomeo & Juliet"), Dom DeLuise (last seen in "The Cheap Detective"), Charles Durning (last seen in "Hard Time: Hostage Hotel"), Jim Nabors, Theresa Merritt (last seen in "The Goodbye Girl"), Barry Corbin (last heard in "Planes: Fire & Rescue"), Noah Beery Jr. (last seen in "Little Fauss and Big Halsy"), Mary Jo Catlett (last seen in "The Champ"), Raleigh Bond, Robert Mandan (last seen in "Macarthur"), Lois Nettleton, with cameos from Mickey Jones (last seen in "Starman"), Gregory Itzin (last seen in "Original Sin"), Timothy Stack, Alice Drummond (last seen in "Nobody's Fool")

RATING: 4 out of 10 local charities

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