Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) review


This is a great Western. It portrays the showdown between US Marshal Wyatt Earp, his brothers and friend Dr. John 'Doc' Holliday against cattle rustler Ike Clanton and his men in Tombstone, Arizona.

Stand out performances by Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster in the leads. Also features appearances by a very young Dennis Hopper and DeForest Kelly (Bones from Star Trek)!



Holliday's family was struck hard by the Civil War and his parents gave everything they had left to send him to dental school. He became a dentist, but stopped seeing patients apparently because they complained about his cough. Doc likely had tuberculosis. He carries around a picture of them in a pocket watch and is clearly wracked with guilt and shame over what he's become - a gunfighter. His parents are dead, yet he feels he's let them down and contributes to a feeling of self-hatred and worthlessness. Explains why he is drinking, smoking and gambling himself into an early grave through such hard and unhealthy living. Even when explicitly asked if he had a death wish he muses that perhaps he does.

Wyatt wants to marry Laura, a beautiful gambler, but feels compelled to help his brothers first which leads to a fight and him departing for Tombstone.



Wyatt tries to warn the youngest brother off gun fighting. Several times in the film we're told how sad and unglamorous the lifestyle is and the human toll it takes, especially on those closest.

The cinematography is really nice. Excellent acting by the leads and solid acting by the supporting cast. Very nice pacing. Excellent score which really complemented the flow of the movie
and key plot points.



We get to see the heavy price that is paid for choosing to be a gunfighter or a lawman. Neither side is glorified. Earp is the lawman who cannot be bought off, a tower of moral strength who just wants to get married and settle down on a ranch of his own in California. Holliday is a drifter, a gambler who lives by his wits and the quickness of his draw, self-loathing and weary of the live he's found himself in at this stage of his life. Their friendship and the personal drama they face define this film, even more so than the iconic final showdown in my view. I highly recommend this film.

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