Sometimes the answers to seemingly complex social problems are hidden in plain sight. Social engineers, lawmakers and “experts” from all around spout off an endless stream of statistics to support or rationalize their position one side or the other of the “gun control” issue. Now I don’t like the term “gun control” for it is ambiguous and usually used to mask the real intent of those advocating it so for the purpose of this discussion let us just say “more restrictive guns laws”. One might think that this is a relatively new idea, it is not! You can go back to the Roman Empire and find the existence of cross bow control, you can look to England and find attempts to disarm the various colonists under their imperial thumb – the American colonists come to mind as an unsuccessful attempt to debar the use of arms to an indigent population. There are many examples of the failure of laws which attempt to disarm the violent in our society but none are more graphic as examples or easier to measure in effect than those in the “wild west” of America circa 1870-1900.
Reporting from Tombstone, Ariz. — A billboard just outside this Old West town promises “Gunfights Daily!” and tourists line up each afternoon to watch costumed cowboys and lawmen reenact the bloody gunfight at the OK Corral with blazing six-shooters.
But as with much of the Wild West, myth has replaced history. The 1881 shootout took place in a narrow alley, not at the corral. Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday weren’t seen as heroic until later; they were initially charged with murder.
And one fact is usually ignored: Back then, Tombstone had far stricter gun control than it does today. In fact, the American West’s most infamous gun battle erupted when the marshal tried to enforce a local ordinance that barred carrying firearms in public. A judge had fined one of the victims $25 earlier that day for packing a pistol.
In rebuilding my ‘Gunfight at the OK Corral‘ page I got to thinking about Lancaster’s portrayal of Wyatt Earp. In earlier films Lancaster had become famous for his trademark smile – which he is said to have referred to as “the grin” – most obvious in ‘Vera Cruz’ (one of My Favorite Westerns). Therefore his stoic and stern portrayal of Wyatt Earp in ‘Gunfight at the OK Corral’ is a stark and deliberate contrast. Was Earp really like this? Because this same humorless image of Earp is carried on through most of the other popular Earp Films: ‘Hour of the Gun‘; ‘Tomestone’ and ‘Wyatt Earp’. Only Henry Fonda‘s portrait of Earp in ‘My Darling Clementine‘ (1946) seems to put a more human face on Earp. Director John Sturges (‘Gunfight at the OK Corral’) continued with this strict image of Earp in ‘Hour of the Gun’ (1968) which starred James Garner as Earp. Garner’s ruthless portrayal of Earp is even more striking because of Garner’s usual soft and often comedic persona from the ‘Maverick’ TV series. It is safe to say however, that Sturges wasn’t very concerned with a historical portrayal of Earp (Lancaster doesn’t even sport a mustache) or the gunfight at the OK Corral. But it seems ironic that the film that makes the greatest effort to paint a historical document of Earp (Lawrence Kasdan‘s ‘Wyatt Earp’ starring Kevin Costner as Earp) is probably the least popular of five films.
I wuz just trying to figure out how to adjust the line spacing on the page … when suddenly … something went terribly wrong … the whole page disappeared … into cyberset. (Cyberset is the Western equivalent of ‘riding off into the sunset’ … ‘cept you don’t ‘ride off’ …. you just vanish … No glory … No completion … No sunset … No kiss. It just takes one slip of your trigger finger …. and before yu can holler “Look out Billy!” the whole damn page disappears. Oft times never to be retrieved …. or even tracked … particularly by a tenderfoot blogger like myself.
And I never learned or noticed – that there was an emergency page retrieval button at the bottom … until I rode back later. Alas … too late.
Worse yet I never figured out how to do that damn line spacing thing until later.
Sooo … I’m having to rebuild the whole page – or at least what I had done so far – which was quite a bit. I will be able to do get it almost identical though, but that will take a while …
“Talk about cowboys. That’s my passion. I think it’s just wonderful when the studios revert back to doing westerns again.” – Ernest Borgnine.
Ernest Borgnine (born Ermes Effron Borgnino) appeared in many Westerns (The Revengers; The Trackers; Hannie Caldur; Chuka; Manhunt; Badlanders; Vera Cruz; Johnny Guitar; The Stranger Wore a Gun …) and Television Westerns (Wagon Train; Laramie; Zane Grey Theatre …) in an entertainment career that spanned 61 years.
Try to find another screencap with this many heavyweights in it!
Ernest appears in two of My Favorite Westerns: The Wild Bunch and Vera Cruz.
I’ve started a new Page called Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Instead of inserting a profile every time one of these great Cowboy actors appears in one of My Favorite Westerns, I decided to start this Page.
This is especially for those Western Movie Stars like Slim Picken, Jack Elam, Matt Clark … and a couple of dozen other Cowboys who appeared in many Western Movies – but most in supporting roles. You’ve probably seen some of them many times, but didn’t know their names – or background. Hopefully this page will give them their due …
Peter Fonda (Director and Actor) trades in his chopper (Easy Rider), but still discovers that people try to gun him down. But unlike like Easy Rider which achieved accolades and much money, The Hired Hand (also made on a ‘shoestring’ – by movie standards) was initially shunned and shelled by critics and fans alike. Years later it’s edited re-release was greeted with justified applause.
It is unique. Reflective and gorgeously shot … flowing in its own steam. A minor Classic.
Just starting to working the Jeremiah Johnson profile.
Jeremiah Johnson has always presented one overall dilemna for me: Why cast Robert Redford as Jeremiah Johnson?
Redford did a great job, but he sure wouldn’t have been my choice. As a matter of fact, he almost seems like a case of outright ‘miscasting’. Redford, a good looking ‘matinee idol’ type and Johnson being a raw hard-boned ‘liver eating’ murdering mountain man. Does that fit for you?
Seems more likely a part for Lee Marvin, Tom Sellick, Charles Bronson, Lancaster … ?? or ten other guys before I’d think of Redford.
But … he pulled if off. Amazing.
So Jeremiah Johnson makes it to My Favorite Westerns list.
Another interesting casting problem looms for Tom Cruise – who is said to be putting together a re-make of The Magnicent Seven. Good grief ! How do find a cast that will inevitably be compared to the likes of Yul Brunner, James Coburn, Steve Mcqueen, Charles Bronson, etc. Is that at all possible? It’s going to be interesting to find out who they come up with.
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.
Beginning work on The Last of the Mohicans page. Right now I’m inserting quotes from the movie – and there are several good ones. There’s many excellent images also.
One way you can tell if a movie / writing / is ‘Inspired’ work – is by the number of memorable quotes or unique expressions that come out of it. Star Wars, for instance, had several (“Use the Force Luke”, “May the Force be with you” … several others – that have almost become household expressions. Shakespeare has to be the outstanding example of inspired writing … so whoever wrote that stuff was a genius to be sure.
As I mentioned before, one notable theme that surrounds nearly every movie here is the conflict between the money brokers and the artist (Director). Even Michael Mann had his issues due to reports that he was taking too long and that he often reshot scenes as many as 20 times. Thus the company sent someone down to (literally) look over Mann’s shoulder during shooting and urge him to not be so particular. Ultimately, (as in most cases) the movie made 72 million dollars – a lot of loot in 1992. It was a great success.
I continue to refine, edit, update and change all my pages: Gunfight at the OK Corral; Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid … so if you check back on occasion you will see new content, etc. This will ALWAYS be the case. These Pages are never finished – as I find more and more material as I go along.
I’ve decided I need to create another section called The Great Western Directors.
I hadn’t intended this, but it’s become unavoidable. The reason being that in working on my celebration of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, I’ve discovered so much material and information on Sam Pekinpah that it could almost take up half the blog spot by itself.
Pekinpah was a very interesting man – and a great Director. He made about 5 Westerns – most notably The Wild Bunch and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid – and his impact on filmdom itself has been so powerful (not just Westerns) that he cannot be ignored. Quite a few other people feel the same: there is so many documentarys, songs, numerous articles, and interesting commentary from people that worked with him, for him and against him that I think it will prove interesting to many Western fans – and add to their appreciation of his work.
Other Directors of note (off the top of my head) include: John Ford, Howard Hawkes, Sergio Leone, John Sturges, Anthony Mann, … and there will easily be another three or four that I wish to honour.
Typically, the more I work on this blog the bigger the project becomes. I do wonder if I shouldn’t be more restrained in what I am putting out because I’m not sure how willing people will be to look through such a lot of material. Yet, as I said, some of it is so interesting that I feel folks will find it of interest also … ??
Hollywood rumour mills are churning out a story that Tom Cruise is spearheading a remake of the Magnificent Seven. It seems to be in “concept” stage only at present.
In an age where we have a dearth of Western films, any such rumour is greeted with enthusiasm.
The immediate question arises: WHO ? will be the Seven ??
Casting will spell the success – or failure – of the whole project – and presents a very daunting task: how can you match or equal the almost unparalelled cast of the original movie ? that starred Yul Brunner, Steve McQueen, James Coburn, Charles Bronson, Robert Vaughn, Eli Wallach, Horst Buchholz …
Nearly every actor in the Seven was – or became – a bonafide movie Star in their own right.
Who would you cast as the Seven? Consider that Cruise likely will hold one role – possibly that which was played by Brunner (wonder if he’ll shave his head?)
It’s going to be interesting to see what they come up with.
Slowly putting in my content for Pekinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. I have a ton, but have still been slowed down by this persistent flu – which I’ve had for 2 weeks now. It’s a killer.
The story behind the making of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid in very interesting. Pekinpah’s ongoing fight with studio over content and costs. Reminds me of John Huston’s battle with the studio during his making of Unforgiven (starring Burt Lancaster and Audrey Hepburn). Both of these films still turned out to be Classics despite all the infighting and interference. To production people, movies are about money – that’s all. But to Pekinpah and Huston movies are about Art. Can you imagine somebody telling these guys how to make a movie? Incredible.
Making a movie is a tough task – involves hundreds of people. When you think of all the things that go wrong, it’s a wonder that anything gets turned out at all.
I was laid low by a nasty flu for over a week. I’m not over it yet, but I think I’ll feel well enough to do some work here.
Mainly, I’ve continued research on Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. It’s worth noting that Pekinpah’s version of ‘the kid’ saga does pretty well follow the actual historical chain of events. So those who often criticize many western movies for historical inaccuracy should take note. There are some liberties taken, such as Kristopherson’s age (32) compared to ‘the kid (20).
I’ve included a link to the Wiki which details the events. But with or without any such inaccuracies this would have been a fine piece of Western film making.
3 or 4 pages to go on Gunfight at the OK Corral. One page series of short profiles of the actors who have played Wyatt Earp in film over the years. I’ve added photos of each actor – which wasn’t that easy to do. Two or three were hard to find – especially photos of the actor in that particular role. I can tell you that it sometimes takes hours – even days – searching around the net for material. It’s enjoyable – but does take time.
Added a page on the Guns used in the movie, which are usually (not always) the authentic weapons that were used in real life – if it’s not a fictional movie. Here we encounter the unusual circumstance of a weapon called the Buntline (Special) which Wyatt Earp supposedly used. In truth, there is no known record of such a gun. And the weapons that were used at the famous Gunfight are well known. It seems people wish to believe in this and it was likely perpetuated by a TV show. ?
Continuing to add pages to Gunfight at the OK Corral profile …
Thing is … I keep finding new stuff … and changing things. So I’m editing and adding new material as a go along.
Combined with my inexperience at Blogging, it’s taking quite a bit of work and I’m only able to add 2 or 3 sections a day.
BUT … it’s a labour of love … and I’m enjoying it. And I never want to get into a space where I’m just throwing things on there just to get it done.
So … I should have Gunfight at the OK Corral pretty well finished in about 3 days … I’m guessing.
Then it’s on to the next movie which I think will be Pekinpah’s ‘Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid’.
In any case these profiles are never finished. I rarely ever look at them when I don’t see something that needs fixing – or improving. Not to mention the fact that I keep finding new material. So if you check back here you will continually find that these profiles are changing, expanding and growing.
“A man’s got to have a code, a creed to live by.” – John Wayne
I’ve started to place the first of My Favorite Westerns:’ Gunfight at OK Corral’ made in 1957 and starring Burt Lancaster as Wyatt Earp and Kirk Douglas as Doc Holliday. It will take me a few days to complete this page and I will be adding things consistently.
Gunfight at the OK Corral is not my number one Favorite Western. I don’t have a number one Favorite – I have about 20 favorites that I lump all together – in one vacuous mass of Western Joy.
I love ’em all.
I toss in a few personal insights along with factual information and trivia on the separate pages. Hopefully this will spur interest and enjoyment for readers. But it will be enough if I am just able to re-kindle your enjoyment and appreciation of these wonderful movies.