Once in a while, whether it be fate, luck or whether all the planets aligned properly; a group comes together and something wonderful happens. Cases in point include the 1927 Yankees’ Murderers’ Row, the Four Horsemen of Notre Dame, the 1980 US Hockey Team and of course; the cast of Lonesome Dove.
Admit it, Lonesome Dove has to be one of the best cast movies ever made. Can you think of anyone else who could have done as well, much less better than this cast? Oh, sure you might be able to mention an actor or two that would have been good, but how would that have affected the group dynamic as a whole?
- Gus: Robert Duvall was originally slated to play Call, but made himself into Augustus McCrae. To me, it will be his defining role as an actor.
- Call: Tommy Lee Jones melded his personality with that of Call’s and added a whole new dimension to the character.
- Lorena (Lorie): Larry McMurtry must have been thinking of Diane Lane when he created Lorie. She even has a small scar on her lip.
- Clara: Could any other actress have played Clara Allen, a woman strong enough to hold her own in a man’s world, yet tender enough to take in another woman’s child to raise as her own?
- Jake Spoon: Robert Urich “made his bones” on “pretty boy’’ roles and was excellent as the handsome yet weak-willed Jake.
- Newt: Rick Schroeder was young enough to lend the required naiveté to the role of Newt, yet had the talent to hold his own in this group of stars.
- Pea-Eye: Tim Scott has been a sidekick in many movies, but it takes a very good actor to play a simple man like Pea as well as he did.
- Deets: Morgan Freeman might have done well, but Danny Glover managed to bring a humility yet strength of character needed to carry this role.
- Dish Boggett: DB Sweeny was perfect for the role of the lovelorn Dish. Every time he looked at Lorie, he looked like a sad puppy.
- July Johnson: Admit it, Chris Cooper is a chameleon. He can play anything. He nailed the hapless July to a tee.
- Elmira: Glenn Headly was spot on in her portrayal of Ellie Johnson, a woman trapped by her decision to marry, and desperate to be with the man she thinks she loves.
- Blue Duck: Frederic Forrest was chilling as Blue Duck, the half-breed. He’s always been good in villainous roles but looked a tad overfed for an outlaw hiding out on the Llano Estacado. [Just my opinion]
- Roscoe Brown: Barry Corbin has to be one of my favorite actors and was outstanding as Roscoe. In a way, and I’m giving my age away here, he reminded me of Smiley Burnett [Gene Autry’s sidekick] in the way he handled the role as the constantly out of his depth Roscoe.
Even the supporting roles were well cast. From Lippy and the tragic Xavier Wanz, the cowboys such as the Rainey Brothers, The Spettles, Needle, Soupy, (and of course) Jasper Fant, the O’Brien brothers, Po Campo and Bol to Big Zwey and Luke. I guess some mention of the Suggs brothers and Frog-lip is needed also. There I just did it.
What I’m trying to say here is this; a lot of work and effort went into the casting of this movie; and if you ask me, it paid off in spades. It is by far the best piece of work ever to make it to television.