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The Journey from Novel to Screen

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Annotated Copy of Lonesome Dove


One of the reasons Lonesome Dove succeeded so well as a film is that writer Bill Wittliff was able to condense Larry McMurtry’s storyline while at the same time expanding its dramatic power.

In this scene, set in Ogallala, the Hat Creek cowboys are confronted by U.S. calvary soldiers intent on taking their horses. The military scout, Dixon, is whipping young Newt, and Call rushes to Newt’s defense, battering the scout senseless and nearly killing him before Gus pulls him off.

This is page 661 of Wittliff’s annotated copy of Lonesome Dove, and the scene as described by McMurtry. The next page shows Wittliff’s screenplay and its reworked version of this same scene.