Sadly, we’ve just learned that famed novelist and screenwriter Larry McMurtry has passed away at age 84. Famously known for his stirring depictions of the American West and unromantic take on life on the 19th-century frontier, McMurtry died in Texas on Thursday. His death was confirmed by Amanda Lundberg, a spokeswoman for the family. Though she reported the death, we’ve yet to learn why McMurtry passed away or where.
During his fifty-plus-year career as an influential writer, McMurtry wrote more than 30 novels and many books of essays, memoirs, and history. He also penned more than 30 screenplays, including the material for BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (which he co-wrote with his longtime collaborator Diana Ossana, based on a short story by Annie Proulx). McMurtry won an Academy Award in 2006 for the film, which starred Jake Gyllenhaal and the late Heath Ledger.
In addition to Brokeback Mountain, McMurtry also wrote the screenplay for Peter Bogdonovich’s The Last Picture Show, John Mellencamp’s Falling From Grace, as well as Reinaldo Marcus Green’s 2020 biographical drama Good Joe Bell. He also wrote a spoil of teleplays for projects like Memphis, The Streets of Laredo, Lonesome Dove: The Series, Comanche Moon, and much more.
While McMurtry’s name is synonymous with several classic works, Lonesome Dove has earned him the most acclaim. Based on his 843-page novel, Lonesome Dove revolves around two former Texas Rangers who renew their spirit of adventure as they and several other residents of a small Texas town join a cattle drive to the Montana Territory. McMurtry wrote the story as a slight to the romantic notions of the cowboy character. “I’m a critic of the myth of the cowboy,’’ he told an interviewer in 1988. “I don’t feel that it’s a myth that pertains, and since it’s a part of my heritage I feel it’s a legitimate task to criticize it.’’
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McMurtry’s writing was a perfect fit for the silver screen. His Horseman, Pass By was transformed into Hud, directed by Martin Ritt and starring Paul Newman. There’s also Terms of Endearment, which had been turned into a film directed by James L. Brooks and starred Shirley MacLaine, Debra Winger, and Jack Nicholson. The film had been such a show-stopper at the time that it won the Academy Award for best picture in 1983.
Beyond his writing and cinematic achievements, McMurtry was also the proud owner of a private library that would make any bibliophile weak in the knees. The collection held upward of 30,000 books and was spread across three houses. When McMurtry would speak about his extensive collection, he would say it was “an achievement equal to if not better than my writings themselves.”
For more on McMurtry’s legacy, including a look at his early days, be sure to check out NYT’s extensive tribute.
We here at JoBlo wish Mr. McMurtry safe passage to the Hereafter. Furthermore, we’d like to extend our most sincere condolences to Mr. Murtry’s family, friends, and fans. He will be sorely missed, but his amazing works will live on forever.