Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (film)

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Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral film poster.jpeg
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral/Last Train from Gun Hill film poster
Directed by John Sturges
Produced by Hal B. Wallis
Written by Leon Uris
from a story by
George Scullin
Starring Burt Lancaster
Kirk Douglas
Rhonda Fleming
Jo Van Fleet
John Ireland
Music by Dimitri Tiomkin
Cinematography Charles B. Lang Jr.
Edited by Warren Low
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • May 30, 1957 (1957-05-30)
Running time 122 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $2 million[1]
Box office $10.7 million[1]

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is a 1957 American film starring Burt Lancaster as Wyatt Earp and Kirk Douglas as Doc Holliday, based on a real event which took place on October 26, 1881. The picture was directed by John Sturges from a screenplay written by novelist Leon Uris.

The shootout was depicted in the movie as a heavily-armed firefight that took place at medium range. The historical event itself lasted only about 30 seconds, and was fought at close range with only a few firearms.

Plot[edit]

In Fort Griffin, Texas Ed Bailey (Lee Van Cleef) comes looking to avenge the death of his brother at the hands of gunslinger John H. "Doc" Holliday (Kirk Douglas). Seeing him in a bar, Holliday's girl, Kate Fisher (Jo Van Fleet), returns to Holliday's room, where the two argue -- while Holliday throws knives at the wall -- once she brings up Holliday's once-prominent family. At the same time, well-known marshal Wyatt Earp (Burt Lancaster) arrives in Fort Griffin thinking he will take outlaws Ike Clanton (Lyle Bettger) and Johnny Ringo (John Ireland) into custody, but instead finds out that the local sheriff, Cotton Wilson (Frank Faylen), released them despite the outstanding warrants for their arrest. Wyatt questions Holliday regarding the released outlaws, but he refuses to help the lawman, as Holliday holds a grudge against Wyatt's brother, Morgan. Holliday eventually confronts Bailey and challenges him to a gunfight, but Holliday kills Bailey with a knife-throw when Bailey attempts to shoot him in the back. Holliday is arrested for murder, though Wyatt and Kate allow him to escape from a lynch mob.

In Dodge City, Kansas, Wyatt finds out that Holliday and Kate are in town. Wyatt orders Holliday to leave, but when Holliday tells him he has no money, Wyatt allows him to stay if he promises to not fight while he is in town. Meanwhile, a gorgeous gambler named Laura Denbow (Rhonda Fleming) comes to town, but is arrested for playing cards since women are not allowed to gamble. She is eventually released, and allowed to play in the side rooms of the saloon. Eventually, Wyatt is forced to deputize Holliday because a bank robber kills a cashier and Wyatt's other deputies are out in a posse catching another outlaw. The bank robbers attempt to ambush Wyatt outside of town, but are instead killed by Wyatt and Holliday.

Back in Dodge City, Holliday learns Kate has left him for Ringo. When Ringo taunts Holliday to a shootout and throws liquor on him, Holliday steadfastly refuses to fight him, and instead leaves. Later that night, Shanghai Pierce (Ted de Corsia) and his henchman ride into town and attack a dancehall, but Wyatt and Holliday hold the men and defuse the situation. As Ringo attempts to shoot Holliday, Holliday shoots him in the arm. Holliday returns to his room and Kate is waiting for him, but he refuses to take her back. By now, Wyatt and Laura have fallen in love, but when he receives a letter from his brother, Virgil, asking him to come clean up Tombstone, Arizona, she refuses to go with him and Holliday.

In Tombstone, Wyatt finds out that Ike Clanton is trying to ship thousands of heads of Mexican cattle out of Tombstone but cannot as long as the Earps control Tombstone's railway station. Though his brother, Morgan (DeForest Kelley), criticizes Wyatt's association with Holliday, but Wyatt tells them that the gunslinger is welcome in Tombstone as long as he stays out of trouble. Cotton, the cowardly county sheriff from Fort Griffin, offers Wyatt a $20,000 bribe ($468,655 in 2013 dollars)[2] if he allows the stolen cattle to be shipped, but Wyatt refuses. He rides out to the Clanton ranch to tell them that he has been made a U.S. Marshal and has legal authority in every county in the United States. Finding no recourse, the Clantons decide to ambush Wyatt, but kill James Earp instead.

The next morning, Ike and five of his henchman go to Tombstone to face off against the Earps at the O.K. Corral. Holliday, who is sick from tuberculosis, joins despite his illness. Though Virgil and Morgan are wounded in the gunfight, all six in Clanton's gang are killed, including Billy, who was given a chance to surrender but refuses. After the fight is over, Wyatt joins Holliday for a final drink before heading off to California to meet Laura, as promised.

Cast[edit]

Historical inaccuracies[edit]

There are historical inaccuracies contained in the film depiction of the Gunfight at O.K. Corral:

  • Virgil Earp was already a deputy U.S. Marshal when he arrived in Tombstone, while Wyatt had little, if any, legal authority.
  • Wyatt came to Tombstone with a common-law wife, whom he later sent away to stay with his family—in order to get her away from opiates.
  • The real gunfight was a 30-second long, face-to-face affair with only a few firearms, not a medium-range, heavily armed shootout as in the film.
  • Johnny Ringo was not present at the OK Corral gunfight. He later killed himself.
  • Ike Clanton brought murder charges against the Earps and Doc Holliday. The Cowboys claimed the Earps had killed the outlaws as they attempted to surrender. During the Spicer hearing, the coroner and witnesses presented conflicting evidence about whether the Cowboys had their hands in the air or guns in their hands or were trying to draw their weapon when the fighting started.
  • Morgan and Virgil Earp were wounded and Holliday was grazed by a bullet. Wyatt was unhurt.
  • Judge Wells Spicer ruled that the lawmen acted within their authority.

Shooting[edit]

Part of the movie was shot on the set of Paramount Movie Ranch.

Reception[edit]

The film was a big hit and earned $4.7 million on its first run and $6 million on re-release.[1]

Sturges revisited the same material when he later directed a more historically accurate sequel of sorts, Hour of the Gun, starring James Garner as Earp, Jason Robards as Holliday, and Robert Ryan as Ike Clanton. That film begins with a more accurate version of the O.K. Corral gun battle then moves forward into the aftermath for the balance of the movie.

Awards[edit]

The film was nominated for two Academy Awards.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Glenn Lovell, Escape Artist: The Life and Films of John Sturges, University of Wisconsin Press, 2008 p151-153
  2. ^ http://www.westegg.com/inflation/ Consumer Price Index Calculator
  3. ^ "The 30th Academy Awards (1958) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Retrieved 2011-08-21. 

External links[edit]