Lonesome Dove is the 1985 Pulitzer Prize-winning Western novel written by Larry McMurtry. It is an epic story about two former Texas rangers who decide to move cattle from the south to Montana. Augustus McCrae and Woodrow Call run into many problems on the way, and the journey ends with numerous casualties. Four years later it was made into a four-part TV mini-series, which won seven Emmy Awards and was nominated for 12 others. And what a wonderful thing it is.
When it was first broadcast – by CBS on February 5, 1989 – the Western was considered dead by most people, as was the mini-series. Yet an estimated 26 million people tuned in to watch it, and it went on to win two Golden Globes, and was voted Programme of the Year by the National Television Critics Association.
I was introduced to it recently by my friend Jake, principally because he intends doing the same journey soon, only this time in a rented hairdresser's Mustang rather than an appaloosa. I knew the book, and the adaptation had passed me by, but having just watched it in one gulp, I have to say it's the best mini-series since Band of Brothers. The most extraordinary aspect of the series is the performance of Robert Duvall, which I'm pretty sure is the best of his career. On his performance as Augustus McCrae he says, "I think I nailed a very specific individual guy who represents something important in our history of the Western movement. After that, I felt I could retire, that I'd done something."
Duvall is similar to Clint Eastwood inasmuch as he isn't afraid to speak his mind, which has endeared him even more to those of us who like grizzled loners. When asked why he wasn't in The Godfather: Part III, Duvall said, "If they paid Pacino twice what they paid me, that's fine, but not three or four times, which is what they did. Francis Coppola came to my farm ... went in to the kitchen. [I] said: 'I know you always wanted the crab cake recipe, let me cook it for you.' So I cooked the crab cake ... and he wrote it down ... and he forgot it, so he called twice. He was more concerned that he forgot the recipe than whether I would be in the film."
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'