Earps ahoy! and the importance of Star Power …

22 Jun
Douglas, Lancaster, John Hudson, DeForest Kelley

Douglas, Lancaster, John Hudson, DeForest Kelley

In working on The Gunfight at the OK Corral page the question and inevitable comparisons arise between subsequent and previous versions of the ‘Earp Saga’ – as it has been called … My Darling Clementine; Gunfight at the OK Corral; Tomestone; Wyatt Earp (the movie) …

What are my conclusions  ? Comments ?

Firstly: Star Power.

Star Power covers a lot of ills … and saves the day. Sydney Pollack, who directed Jeremiah Johnson (and six other movies starring Robert Redford), had a simple theory about film making: employ established Move Stars.

A movie that may well be less that the sum of it’s holes … can be readily and easily saved by Star Power. Otherwise …  it can be shot to hell.

For instance, Wyatt Earp – the movie. Many Critics savaged this movie. And yes, it has flaws. Namely, it’s probably a bit long. And unfortunately, for myself, I find it boring in places. I don’t like to say that because I like Kevin Costner and Director Lawrence Kasdan. The first thing we notice about criticism of this movie (by the Critics themselves – and ordinary folks) is that the criticism of the film all seemed to be leveled at Costner – not Kasdan. Why? Kasdan Directed it – not Costner. One reason may be (by my observation) that some folks have a ‘hate on’ for Costner. Is this due to the incredible success of Dances with Wolves – which Costner directed and spearheaded (if you’ll excuse the expresion) – and Field of Dreams in which he starred. Simple jealousy? Maybe some people feel that he needed his balloon pricked – lest he become some kind of God. ??

In any event, it’s safe to say that Costner has been overly brutalized since his early success. Waterworld; Wyatt Earp … and a couple of others … have sure seen Costner’s once brilliant and unstoppable Star fall from the heavens. Some of that criticism has been a too vociferous – in my opinion.

Apart from this I think Wyatt Earp / the movie was shot down for a couple of other reasons:

1. People wanted – and expected – an action movie. But ‘ Wyatt Earp’ was really almost a documentary about the historical Earp and his family – not gunfighting – at the OK Corral – or anywhere else. Any anticipated ‘Action’ was almost incidental. It wasn’t Kasdans intention to create an action film – a traditioanal Western. And folks were disappointed/didn’t like that/didn’t ‘get it’.

2. It lacked Star Power. YES. There are several fine actors – and performances – in Wyatt Earp. BUT … Costner and crew simply lack the Star Power and charisma (that intangible magic that great Actors have) to pull it off. Gunfight at the OK Corral is long too – and slow in places (almost 3 hours!). BUT … it has Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas – two of the greatest Hollywood actors to ever grace ‘the Screen’ and ‘ride the range’. These guys are SO GOOD they can make you watch paint dry … and like it. THAT’s Star Power. Costner – bless his little Soul – just doesn’t have that same magic. Likewise My Darling Clementine is carried by Fonda and Victor Mature. Ironically – the ‘studio system’ (that Lancaster hated and rebelled against) was the very animal that produced him – and the likes of Douglas, Fonda and Victor Mature. For all it’s constrictive flaws, it produced some great movies (and plenty of bad ones) and some great Actors. One indeed has to wonder if Lancaster or Douglas would have ever achieved their (just) fame and exposure in todays system? I doubt it. In any event, Costner can’t measure up (not his fault) his Star Power to Lancaster, Douglas, Fonda or Mature. Years later Costner Directed the successful ‘Open Range’ with Robert Duvall, which I believe was made as his ‘answer back’ to the failings of ‘Wyatt Earp’.

3. It’s soo loooong. Again, not Costner’s fault. But the movie may well have used some chopping. Gunfight at the OK Corral was long too, but Lancaster and Douglas could carry it. Costner could not.

In all fairness, Tomestone, which was Directed by George P. Cosmatos – NOT Kirk Russell, also fails in this regard. The inevitable comparisons of Russell to Lancaster sees Russell fail. It can’t be done. I like Kirk Russell too – but he’s no Lancaster. WHO IS? (I also wonder if some of the acclaim for Tomestone was not again an indirect criticism aimed at Costner. ??)

All these things … and more … rumble and ramble about in my head.

Onward.

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