Facts about Lonesome Dove, the TV mini-series
Arcane Facts about the mini-series Lonesome Dove:
1) Originally, Tommy Lee Jones was to play Gus, and Robert Duvall was to play Captain Call. After Duvall read the book, he wanted to play Gus, and the roles were switched.
2) The set was built just outside Del Rio, Texas.
3) Originally written by Larry McMurtry in 1971, as a movie script. He intended John Wayne to play Woodrow Call, James Stewart to play Gus McCrae, and Henry Fonda to play Jake Spoon, with Peter Bogdanovich directing. Wayne turned it down, and the project was shelved. Ten years later, McMurtry bought the script back, and wrote the book (on which this miniseries was based).
4) Principal photography lasted for 16 weeks at six days a week, and encompassed 89 speaking parts, 1,000 extras, 30 wranglers, 100 horses, 90 crew, and 1,400 cattle. Some scenes were so complex they were shot from six different cameras at once.
5) For authenticity, the producers decided to use real ranch horses. When the bullets hit below Gus's horse, the response was genuine, and Robert Duvall was bucked off. The cameras continued rolling, and the shot was kept in the final cut.
6) In 1985, Suzanne De Passe bought the rights to Larry McMurtry's unpublished novel for $50,000, with the idea of doing a miniseries in conjunction with the release of the book. Every major network in America turned her down. After the novel was published, became a massive success, and won the Pulitzer Prize, every network that had turned her down contacted her to try to persuade her to make the miniseries with them.
7) Two scenes are based on actual incidents that occurred during a cattle drive from Texas to Montana. Some cowboys ask "how far is it to Up-North?", believing it's a place, not a direction. During one river crossing, the cowboys strip off their clothes and ride their horses naked. Both episodes are in "We Pointed Them North", a memoir by Teddy "Blue" Abbott, a 19th century Texas cowboy who participated in a cattle drive from Texas to Montana. Abbott remained in Montana, married the daughter of cattle baron Granville Stuart, and become a relatively prosperous rancher.
8) The Ogalalla, Nebraska set was originally built for Silverado (1985), which also featured Danny Glover.
9) Woodrow Call's final line, "A hell of a vision", was taken from the book "Cow People" by J. Frank Dobie. He attributed it to Charles Goodnight, a real-life Texas cattle baron who was the model for Call.
10) Gus's 1847 Walker Colt is as iconic as the Texas Rangers. It was designed by Samuel Colt at the behest of Texas Ranger and militia Captain Samuel Walker. The pistol is 16 inches long, with a nine-inch barrel, and weighs almost five pounds loaded. It's intended as a heavy cavalry pistol, to be carried in a saddle-mounted holster. At short range, it can stop a man or horse with one shot. The long cylinder holds a .44 caliber bullet on top of 60 grains of black powder, making it the most powerful black-powder revolver ever made. In modern tests, the Walker is at least as powerful as a metal-cartridge .357 Magnum. However, the cylinders issued with the Walker were not initially strong enough to handle such a large powder charge, and improper loading gave the guns a reputation for cylinders exploding during firing. The later Colt Dragoon pistol was slightly smaller, with thicker-walled cylinders. Only about 1,100 Walkers were produced; 1,000 for Captain Walker's order, and 100 added by Sam Colt for a special gift and promotions.
11) After the novel won the Pulitzer Prize, John Milius and John Huston attempted to adapt it into a feature film before Suzanne De Passe and Larry McMurtry decided to do it as a miniseries.
12) Charles Bronson was originally offered the role of Woodrow Call, but turned it down. Robert Duvall was next cast, but the producers decided to give him the part of Augustus instead. James Garner was chosen next, but bowed out for health reasons. After Garner, Jon Voight turned down the role, and ultimately Tommy Lee Jones was cast. However, Garner and Voight portrayed Woodrow Call in sequels.
13) The following famous "Old West" firearms are used in the film: Gus McCrae - Colt Walker (in the novel, Gus carries a Colt Dragoon, an improvement on the Walker design, and it is Deets who carries the Walker); Gus McCrae and Woodrow Call - 1860 Henry rifle; Jake Spoon - 1875 Remington with a pearl grip; July Johnson, Blue Duck, and various Hat Creek hands - 1873 Colt Single Action Army, a.k.a. "Peacemaker"; Blue Duck - 1859 Sharps cavalry carbine; Dan Suggs - 1875 Remington revolver carbine; Roscoe Brown - 1851 Colt Navy with 1872 cartridge conversion; Dog Face (Blue Duck's sharpshooter) - 1859 Sharps buffalo rifle; Jim (the smaller of the two robbers who attack Roscoe) - "Buntline Special", a version of the Peacemaker, with a twelve inch barrel; Various - 1873 Winchester rifle.
14) The first episode got a 26.8 rating and a 38 share when it first aired on CBS in 1989. According to Executive Producer Suzanne De Passe, CBS was optimistically hoping for a 23 share.
15) many of the costumes and props (including Gus' outfit and Colt Walker 1847) are on public display, free of charge, as part of the Wittliff Collection in the library at Texas State University San Marcos, in San Marcos, TX; about 30 minutes SW of Austin.
Beauty is only skin deep but Texas is to the bone.