The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas

The number of leading critics who stumbled, as one would say, over the opening credits, makes the profession look really questionable. Leaving aside the English papers and Halliwell (”flat and feeble”), there is the New York Times fuming in exasperation, and the Sun-Times rather sadly bemused.

The warm memories are pleasantly evoked as in Toulouse-Lautrec or Kienholz, or Fellini or Kelly. Higgins is quite an expert, with a constant stream of inspiration. One doesn’t know where to begin refuting the critics, their every observation is wrong. Note the choreography of the Aggie boys and the Dogettes, which among its other virtues is a subtle modulation through square dance and Charleston and jive by way of Michael Kidd. Watch Higgins supervise a gag as the camera hones in on Sheriff Dodd (Burt Reynolds) bearing down on Melvin E. Thorpe (Dom DeLuise) in the gazebo, forcing Thorpe to backtrack down the steps into the crowd, where he belly-slaps a gawking cameraman to catch the Sheriff’s excoriations, which make the evening news.

Jim Nabors as the Deputy settles the locale as Mayberry, which is, however, in a dry county, hence abstracting the mystery. Be that as it may, the foregone conclusion is exhaustively laid at the feet of the crusading Thorpe and his bosom buddy the Governor (Charles Durning), two performances each worth twice the price of admission.

The opening sequence has a whore sipping through a straw, while the cowboy in the adjacent shot gives a yee-haw, and then a gag is developed on the idea of how the Chicken Ranch got its name, the venerable institution did in former times accept payment in poultry, men are seen offering a cock apiece to the employees (one Texan has two). The punchline is a flock being fed outdoors.

Dolly Parton and Theresa Merritt enact Mae West and Louise Beavers as part of the general historical survey. Parton en négligée is a fine sight, and she sings as well.