Sunday, October 19, 2014

1957 - GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL - a big budget Western from the 1950's.

If High Noon started the "adult Western" craze in Hollywood 5 years earlier, Gunfight at the OK Corral could be the peak of this subgenre.  Producer Hal Wallis hired the best talent he could get beginning with Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster as Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp.  John Sturges starting to enter the best part of his career was the director and novelist Leon Uris wrote the screenplay.

However with all the talent involved this film really could have been a lot better.  Probably the chief problem was the screenplay.  For all the attempts to make the film "adult" Uris loads the story up with the usual cliches, the lawman whose woman wants him to give up being a sheriff, the kid brother gunned down by the evil outlaws, the rival gunmen who respect each other so much they become friends etc.  Come to think of it Leon Uris was the author of Topaz which turned out to be one of the worst Hitchcock films made.

This film certainly has a mucho macho cast.   Kirk Douglas, Burt Lancaster, John Ireland, Dennis Hopper, Martin Milner, Lee Van Cleef, Earl Holliman, Lyle Bettger and "Bones McCoy" DeForest Kelly.  There is enough manliness in that bunch to power about three westerns.  Lancaster is all straight laced virtue as Wyatt Earp and Kirk Douglas is all over the place with his overblown performance as the tubercular Doc Holliday.  If you are a woman in this cast trying to make an impression, you can forget it.

The previous version of this story, My Darling Clementine is considered one of John Ford's best films.  However Gunfight at the OK Corral won't ever be confused with that film. 

122 minutes.

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