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If you grew up anywhere in Texas, you knew at an early age they was selling somethin' out there - and it wasn't poultry!—Deputy Fred
A 1978 stage musical by librettists Larry L. King and Peter Masterson and songwriter Carol Hall, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas ran on Broadway until March 1982, and then staged a return engagement a few months later which ran until that July on the day after its film adaptation debuted. The film version, directed by Colin Higgins, starred Burt Reynolds, Dolly Parton, Jim Nabors and Charles Durning as the Governor of Texas, and had several extra songs performed and written by Dolly Parton, including "I Will Always Love You."
Mona Stangley is the owner of the Chicken Ranch, a brothel which has been open for business for a century. She is on good terms with Sherriff Ed Dodd, with whom she once had an affair. Unforturnately, their good times are disrupted by Moralist Reporter Melvin P. Thorpe, who brands the Chicken Ranch "The Devil's Den." When Thorpe acts to try to shutdown the Chicken Ranch, Stangley and Dodd must take action.
This show features examples of:
- Downer Ending: The play ends with the whorehouse being shut down, the Sheriff and Mona not getting together (since there is only implied to be a past series of flings between the two) and Mona singing the downer song "One Way Ticket to Nowhere".
- Executive Meddling: Likely what led to the film's happy ending and the additional songs written by Dolly Parton.
- Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Mona
- Intentionally Awkward Title: Ads for the film version in some states had to alter the film's title.
- Miss Kitty: Mona
- Moral Guardians: Melvin P. Thorpe
- Oh Crap: Thorpe gets one when Ed gives him a right hook after he insults the Chicken Ranch with Dodd behind him.
- One-Scene Wonder: Charles Durning as The Governor of Texas in the film version, especially with his big number "The Sidestep." His performance got the film its only Academy Award nomination.
- Unresolved Sexual Tension: Mona and the Sheriff.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: The musical was inspired by the Chicken Ranch Brothel in La Grange, Texas. Various names were changed as the characters were dramatized, but the basic facts of the closure because of the investigative reporter were true. However, Thorpe's real life counterpart Marvin Zindler wasn't a moral crusader, but he did get attacked by the sheriff.