Former Texas Rangers Augustus McCrae and Woodrow F. Call (Robert Duvall, Tommy Lee Jones) come out of retirement briefly to move cattle from Texas to Montana, but they also have other goals for the journey. A highly adored miniseries and it isn’t hard to see why. Great cast (especially Duvall), genuine locations and technical qualities, including sweeping visuals and a majestic score, that make this look almost like a big-screen Western. The old-fashioned story focuses on values; the meaning of true friendship, the horrors of life-and-death struggles between Indians and white newcomers, and the blurred line between crime and punishment. The last hour certainly delivers an emotional pay-off.
1989-U.S. Made for TV. 385 min. Color. Produced by Dyson Lovell. Directed by Simon Wincer. Teleplay: Larry McMurtry, William D. Wittliff. Novel: Larry McMurtry. Cinematography: Douglas Milsome. Music: Basil Poledouris. Cast: Robert Duvall (Augustus McCrae), Tommy Lee Jones (Woodrow F. Call), Danny Glover (Joshua Deets), Diane Lane, Robert Urich, Frederic Forrest… Rick Schroder, Anjelica Huston, Chris Cooper, Glenne Headly, Steve Buscemi.
Trivia: Originally shown in four episodes. McMurtry first wrote the story as a movie script for John Wayne, but the project never materialized; eventually he turned it into a novel. Charles Bronson was allegedly considered for the part of Call. Followed by four additional miniseries, starting with Return to Lonesome Dove (1993), as well as two TV shows, Lonesome Dove: The Series (1994-1995) and Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years (1995-1996).
Emmy: Outstanding Directing. Golden Globes: Best Miniseries, Actor (Duvall).
Last word: “It’s no secret that I had my share of conflicts with Robert Duvall. But I’ve since heard that he’s had a rough ride with most of the directors he’s worked with. I got along well with Tommy Lee and just about everybody else. But, look, that’s just the way Duvall works. You’ve got to accept that and get on with it. He’s a wonderful actor — and, really, that’s all that counts. I remember one absolutely magic moment in the film, the scene where they hang Jake Spoon. When the horse runs forward and leaves Jake to hang, the reaction on Duvall’s face is absolutely extraordinary. That’s such a powerful moment in the movie. But the thing is, when we showed him the first cut, we’d used a different take, by sheer accident. I hadn’t done the fine cut yet, and I’m sure that we would have found that take eventually. But Duvall picked that up straight away. He asked us to please use that other shot of him. And he was right.” (Wincer, Cowboys & Indians)