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Lonesome Dove Film Archives

"Lonesome Dove is a great book that had the rare fortune of being made into a great movie. More remarkable still is the fact that the movie took none of the magic away from the novel. You can watch one and read the other, and still respond to the integrity of both. The two manifestations of the story are mutually reinforcing."

—Stephen Harrigan
from the introduction to A Book of Photographs from Lonesome Dove

Visit the Lonesome Dove Online Exhibition

Larry McMurtry's Lonesome Dove originated as a film scenario called "The Streets of Laredo," intended as a vehicle for John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and James Stewart. The project never materialized, and McMurtry eventually chose to expand the idea into an epic 843-page novel eulogizing the Texas past, both factual and mythical, as represented by the cowboy. The book was published in June 1985 and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction that year.

To turn the novel into film, Bill Wittliff, who had scripted other westerns, was signed to write the teleplay and serve as executive producer with Suzanne De Passe. When the miniseries premiered in February 1989, it shattered viewing records across the country and earned a lasting place in the hearts of millions of viewers. Considered by many to be the best Western film ever made, Lonesome Dove was nominated for 18 Emmy Awards and won seven. It was also honored with Golden Globe Awards for Best Television Miniseries and Best Actor; a Peabody Award; the D. W. Griffith Award for Best Television Series; the National Association of Television Critics Awards for Program of the Year and Outstanding Achievement in Drama; and the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Teleplay.

Among their prized holdings, the Wittliff Collections maintain the near-complete production archives for the Lonesome Dove miniseries, including original costumes, props, set designs, screenplay drafts, and 77 hours of film dailies representing every printed take made on set. Bill Wittliff donated his own materials and convinced many of the crew to do the same, including Lonesome Dove production designer Cary White and costume designer Van Broughton Ramsey, among others. The result is a unique archival treasury that preserves every aspect of the beloved film’s creation.

The complete inventory of the archive is online, and a good many of the materials are on permanent display at the Wittliff in the Lonesome Dove Collection Exhibition.

In 2007, the Wittliff Collections published the first edition of A Book of Photographs from Lonesome Dove in the Southwestern & Mexican Photography Book Series with the University of Texas Press. Bill and his wife Sally gifted over 200 of the original hand-toned darkroom prints to the Wittliff Collections permanent photography archive. In 2012, the companion volume, A Book on the Making of Lonesome Dove by John Spong was added to the series.