Texas State University Logo

Helpful Links

Join the Conversation

adjust type sizemake font smallermake font largerreset font size

'Lonesome Dove' is still drawing fans

Fort Worth Star Telegram (05/26/2004)
By Art Chapman

It has been 15 years since the names of Woodrow Call and Augustus McCrae became part of the American lexicon. A TV program introduced them to most of the country, although they first appeared in a best-selling novel.

The story was "Lonesome Dove" by Larry McMurtry, and it almost single-handedly rejuvenated the American western as a literary and film genre.

Now, that same story -- that same TV mini-series that debuted in 1989 -- is helping to turn a university library collection into a popular Americana attraction.

At Texas State University in San Marcos in Central Texas, the Alkek Library is host to the Southwestern Writers Collection and the Wittliff Gallery of Southwestern and Mexican Photography.

At the core of this alliance is the "Lonesome Dove" archives, donated to the university by Bill Wittliff, screenwriter and co-executive producer of the eight-hour CBS mini-series.

Wittliff and his wife, Sally, are also the founding benefactors of both special collections.

The "Lonesome Dove" archives include photos and documentation on wardrobe and set designs, script pages, costumes and props.

One of the more popular props is the burlap-wrapped "body" of Robert Duvall's character, Gus McCrae, and the arrows that caused his untimely -- and from the audience's perspective, unpopular -- demise.

The archives were once housed in the seventh-floor reaches of the library, but because so many visitors come seeking mini-series memorabilia, they've been moved to the first floor.

"It's amazing," assistant curator Steve Davis said of "Lonesome Dove's" continuing popularity. "Nearly every day, someone from somewhere in the world shows up to look at the archives. We have a permanent display out now, just as a service to those people."

Davis and the special collections staff recently completed a traveling "Lonesome Dove" exhibit. It is six large panels that trace the history of the story in film and in the book. It shows exactly how the film was put together, Davis said.

Collections curator Connie Todd, who worked with Wittliff on the mini-series, said the TV program has profoundly affected the library collections, both creatively and monetarily.

Wittliff started the Southwestern Writers Collection to house a core collection of J. Frank Dobie material. That was in 1986. Then "Lonesome Dove" came along.

Wittliff, an accomplished photographer, shot rolls of film during production of the mini-series. In the end, he had a photographic essay on the project.

"A couple of years after the show was on, he began printing them," Todd said. "He sent them to a gallery in Santa Fe, and they started jumping off the wall. And they have never stopped.

"`Lonesome Dove' has been very good to us."