The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp
|The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp|
|Written by||Paul Landres
|Directed by||Frederick Hazlitt Brennan
Daniel B. Ullman
Mason Alan Dinehart
|Country of origin||USA|
|No. of seasons||6|
|No. of episodes||229|
|Executive producer(s)||Louis F. Edelman
|Running time||30 mins.|
|Original run||September 6, 1955 – June 27, 1961|
The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp is a western television series loosely based on the life of frontier marshal Wyatt Earp. The half-hour black-and-white program aired for 229 episodes on ABC from 1955 to 1961 and featured Hugh O'Brian in the title role.
O'Brian was chosen for the role in part because of his physical resemblance to early photographs of Wyatt Earp. The series was produced by Desilu Productions and filmed at the Desilu-Cahuenga Studio. Sponsors included General Mills, Procter & Gamble, and Parker Pen Company. An off-camera barbershop quartet sang the theme song and hummed the background music in early episodes. The theme song "The Legend of Wyatt Earp" was composed by Harry Warren. Incidental music was composed by Herman Stein.
The first season of the series purports to tell the story of Wyatt's experiences as deputy town marshal of Ellsworth, Kansas (first four episodes) and then in the larger Wichita, Kansas. In the second episode of the second season, first aired September 4, 1956, he is hired as town marshal of Dodge City, Kansas, where the setting remained for three seasons. The final episode set in Dodge City aired on September 1, 1959; beginning the next week the locale shifted for the last two seasons to the southwest about Tombstone, Arizona Territory.
Use of Buntline Special
In the show, O'Brian carried a Buntline Special, a pistol with a twelve-inch barrel, which triggered a mild toy craze at the time the series was originally broadcast. There is no credible evidence that Wyatt Earp ever owned such a gun. The myth of Earp carrying a Buntline Special was created in Stuart N. Lake's best-selling 1931 biography Frontier Marshal, later admitted by the author to be highly fictionalized.
Featured cast members
Buddy Roosevelt and Jimmy Noel appeared as unnamed townsmen in sixty-five and sixty-three episodes of the series, respectively. William Tannen (1911-1976) played Deputy Hal Norton in fifty-seven episodes which aired between 1955 and 1958. Randy Stuart was cast in twelve episodes in the 1959-1960 season as saloon and hotel owner Nellie Cashman in Tombstone, a romantic interest for Earp. In five episodes, John Anderson played Earp's brother, Virgil Earp. Between 1958 and 1961, Morgan Woodward portrayed loyal deputy "Shotgun" Gibbs in forty-two episodes. Douglas Fowley and Myron Healey were cast forty-nine and ten times, respectively, as Earp's close friend John H. "Doc" Holliday. Mason Alan Dinehart, also known as Alan Dinehart, III, son of film stars Alan Dinehart and Mozelle Britton, was cast in thirty-four episodes between 1955 and 1959 as Bat Masterson, a role filled on the NBC series of the same name by Gene Barry. Dinehart played Masterson from the ages of approximately nineteen to twenty-three.
In the first season, Don Haggerty appeared in nineteen episodes in the role of newspaperman Marsh Murdock, a friend of Earp's. Paul Brinegar played Mayor Jim "Dog" Kelly in twenty-four episodes, and Don Haggerty was cast in the role of Marsh Murdock in twenty-one segments. Trevor Bardette was cast twenty-one times as the unscrupulous Newman Haynes Clanton, known as Old Man Clanton, when the setting of the series moved to Arizona. John Milford appeared in eight episodes as the historical Ike Clanton. In seven episodes in 1959 and 1961, Carol Thurston played the fictitious Emma Clanton, daughter of Old Man Clanton and an unlikely romantic interest for Earp. James Seay was cast sixteen times as Judge Spicer.
William Phipps in sixteen episodes played the gunman and rustler Curly Bill Brocius. In the episode "The Clantons' Family Row", Brocius is facing a potential gunfight with Johnny Ringo (Peter M. Thompson), who is irate that Brocius accidentally shot and killed Ringo's horse though he replaced the animal with another. Earp works to stop the gunfight from happening, and Doc Holliday proceeds to take bets on the outcome.In "Let's Hang Curly Bill", an older marshal, Fred White (Sam Flint), is mortally wounded when he takes the gun from a drunken Curly Bill, who is celebrating his birthday in a saloon in Tombstone. A town mob demands that Curly Bill be hanged, but Earp places dynamite under the main street to protect his prisoner until the trial. Earp must defend Curly Bill in court because it was White who accidentally caused Curly Bill's gun to discharge; White signed a statement attesting to the facts prior to his death. Doc Holliday notes at the end of the episode that Earp could have merely let Curly Bill hang for past crimes had he not been a just marshal.
Damian O'Flynn, a Boston native, was cast in a combined sixty episodes, as Judge Tobin in the Dodge City segments and as Dr. Goodfellow, when the setting shifts to Tombstone. In "Frontier Surgeon" (January 19, 1960), Dr. Goodfellow must obtain a truce with Marshal Earp who is apprehending a wounded outlaw. The man will die if moved after surgery, but he does not wait the three days to recuperate out of distrust of Earp and the protection of the $15,000 loot he and his gang have taken from Wells Fargo.
Walter Coy appeared twice on The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, as Henry Mason in "The Doctor" (1960) and as Ben Thompson in "Dodge Is Civilized" (1959). In eight other episodes beginning at the start of the series, Denver Pyle portrayed Ben Thompson, the gunfighter who was Earp's sometimes rival and reluctant friend and who later became the marshal in Austin, Texas.Pyle was cast as Thompson beginning with the second episode of the series. In "Bill Thompson Gives In" (September 20, 1955), Earp uses a pair of Indian scouts, rather than a posse, to help capture Ben Thompson and his brother, Billy Thompson (Hal Baylor)" who when inebriated killed the previous Ellsworth sheriff, Chauncey Whitney.The killing was subsequently ruled accidental.
In "Marshal Earp Meets General Lee", Earp uses creativity to defuse a tense situation involving a former Confederate officer and cattle drovers who threaten to tear down Ellsworth. Earp simply declares January 19, 1874, the 67th birthday of General Robert E. Lee, as "Robert E. Lee Day" in Ellsworth and pays respect to Lee as a defeated warrior.
A number of notable actors had parts in the series. Glenn Strange, before being cast as bartender Sam Noonan on Gunsmoke, had an uncredited role in the ninth episode of The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, in which Phillip Pine played the outlaw John Wesley Hardin. In the story line, Hardin arrives in Wichita to avenge Earp for having run out of a town a friend of Hardin's. The Hardin character unveils tricks he has learned with his revolvers. Earp is suspicious when Hardin kills a man in the saloon who drew first according to witnesses, including the unnamed man played by Glenn Strange. Barbara Bestar plays Hardin's wife, Jane Hardin, who encourages him to head north to Nebraska. Three months later Strange played Jeff Pruitt, a corrupt theater manager in "The Frontier Theatre" (February 7, 1956), with Joan Freeman as Jeannie Harlow, the 14-year-old daughter of a competing theater operator.
Barry Truex, son of actor Ernest Truex and stepson of Truex's third wife, Sylvia Field, appears as Lonnie McVey, or the young outlaw called "The Kansas Kid", in the 1956 episode "The Desperate Half-Hour". In the story line, the Kid returns to his parents' home in Wichita for refuge. Earp learns that the Kid is wanted for robbery but not murder as claimed by a sheriff, played by Trevor Bardette. George Chandler plays the discouraged father, John McVey.
In the 1956 episode "One of Jesse's Gang", Angie Dickinson plays Ann Drew, who slips a gun to her jailed husband, Harry (John Craven), a former associate of the Jesse James gang. Having vowed never to return to prison, Harry is killed while escaping.
Linda Stirling plays Joan Laramie in "The Suffragette", a story about woman's suffrage in the American West. In this episode, Marshal Earp, who admits his sympathy with the suffragettes, tries to keep the peace between the women and the supporters of a Kansas state senator who leads the opposition.
In "The Pinkertons" (1956), Douglas Evans plays detective agency head Allan Pinkerton, who is seeking to recover $40,000 in stolen money but interferes with Marshal Earp's attempt to catch the entire gang of Crummy Newton (Richard Alexander). Lloyd Corrigan played the western author Ned Buntline in three episodes.
In "Woman Trouble" (1957), Earp encounters a group of outlaws posing as "True Light" missionaries, who dispatch a young woman named Jennie Brandt (Nancy Hadley) into Dodge City to seek Earp's affection and to learn the details of a pending Wells Fargo gold shipment. Earp, however, has done his homework on the True Light movement and detects that something is amiss.
James Coburn portrayed Buckskin Frank Leslie in the 1959 largely comedy episode, "The Noble Outlaws". In the story line, Ned Buntline visits Tombstone to meet with the Clantons to gain information for a new book, but Earp asks Leslie to teach Buntline that outlaws are anything but "noble".
In "Hang 'em High" (1957), Earp and Masterson (as the newly elected sheriff of Ford County) tangle with secreted vigilantes called the "White Caps" after a judge orders the hanging of Dal Royal (Darryl Hickman) who refuses to defend himself in court for fear the gang will murder his girlfriend, the daughter of a prominent rancher. The story line includes a fake hanging and burial to smoke out the gang.
In the 1958 episode "The Gatling Gun", Earp and his Indian guide, Mr. Cousin (Rico Alaniz), follow orders from General William Tecumseh Sherman to recover a Gatling gun captured by the Nez Perce. Richard Garland plays the part of the compassionate Chief Joseph, who laments the state of war between the Indians and a militia of land grabbers. Marshal Earp uses his conversation with Chief Joseph to decry the treatment of the Indians and to proclaim his Christian belief that all will obtain fair treatment in the hereafter if not in this life. The episode is set in Idaho, far from Dodge City.
In "She Almost Married Wyatt", with Ann Daniels as Cathy Prentice, it is revealed that Earp is an active deacon in his church in Dodge City. The 1959 episode "Horse Race", with Paul Picerni as Chief Bullhead, espouses the theme that the Indians must accept the white man's system of justice which seeks truth regardless of how the evidence in each case develops.
Denver Pyle also appeared as the "Reverend" Oliver Tittle, an unlikely crusader against gambling in the first episode of 1959, "A Good Man". In his crusade against the vice, Tittle come into conflict with saloon owner Ganly, and Earp must intervene to keep the peace between the two antagonists. In the first episode of 1960, Pyle returned to the series to play Dobie Jenner, who appears in Tombstone after a four-year imprisonment to find his former partner in crime, George McKean (Carleton G. Young), married to Phoebe (Rachel Ames), the woman Jenner loves.
In "The Truth About Rawhide Geraghty" (1959), Earp agrees to ride shotgun for the retiring 69-year-old stagecoach driver Rawhide Geraghty, played by Eddy Waller, who is making his last run for Wells Fargo from Tucumcari, New Mexico Territory, to Amarillo, Texas. The trip is hazardous with bandits and hostile Apache, and Rawhide fears he will not complete the run.
Another 1959 episode "Juveniles - 1878" attempts to address the occurrence of juvenile delinquency on the American frontier. Earp discovers that a 17-year-old runaway who arrives in Dodge City with ready cash and wanting to purchase a pistol may be from a well-to-do family; he manages to locate the youth's father, a judge back east.
In "Silver Dollar" (1960), a young blonde saloon girl called "Silver Dollar" arrives in Tombstone to work at the Alhambra. While she can charm most men and take their money, Marshal Earp suspects there are serious questions about her past and sends a wire to find out for sure. Silver Dollar is played by Dusty Anders, whose entire acting career was confined to five network appearances between 1959 and 1960.
In "Don't Get Tough with a Sailor", Earp encounters a Captain David Rowland (John Litel), a wealthy rancher and United States Navy veteran who, with a group of his former sailors, maintains his own law near the Mexican border, complete with his own jail. When Rowland incarcerates the duplicitous Sheriff Johnny Behan, Earp must intervene despite his admiration for the captain and Mrs. Rowland (Madge Kennedy).
Other guest stars
Other notable performers were Jim Bannon (three times), Roy Barcroft (three times), Lane Bradford (six times, including the role of the Cheyenne Chief Two Moon in the 1957 episode "Indian Wife"), Robert Bray (three times), Andy Clyde (as Billy Buckett), Tris Coffin, Francis De Sales (three times), Richard Devon (twice), Tiger Fafara, Ron Foster (as Johnny in "Arizona Lottery"), Connie Gilchrist (in "Pinkytown", the story of an outlying saloon community which resists annexation into Dodge City), Ron Hagerthy, Robert Harland, and Brad Johnson (twice, including the role of Bat Masterson's brother Ed Masterson in the 1957 episode "The Nice Ones Always Die First").
Still more guest stars included Ed Hinton, Jonathan Hole (twice), Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr., I. Stanford Jolley (six times, including "A Papa for Butch and Ginger"), Brett King (twice), Jimmy Lydon (twice), Francis McDonald (in "Old Jake", a story of revenge stemming from the Sand Creek massacre), Tyler McVey (seven times), Gregg Palmer (five times as Tom McLowery), House Peters, Jr. (four times as Wichita saloon owner Dave Bennett), John M. Pickard (three times), Paula Raymond, Bing Russell (twice), Stuart Randall (seven times), Glenn Strange (five times), Gloria Talbott, John Vivyan, Gloria Winters, Grant Withers (twice), Sheb Wooley (twice), and Anna May Wong.
Infinity Entertainment Group released the complete first season on DVD in Region 1 for the first time on April 21, 2009. This release has been discontinued and is now out of print. On October 28, 2011, Inception Media Group acquired the rights to the series. It subsequently rereleased the first season on DVD on December 13, 2011. Season 2 was to be released on March 12, 2013.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date|
|Season 1||33||December 13, 2011|
|Season 2||39||March 12, 2013|
O'Brian recreated the role of Earp in two episodes of the CBS television series Guns of Paradise (1990) alongside Gene Barry as Bat Masterson and again in 1991 in The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw, also with Barry as Masterson. An independent movie, Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone, was released in 1994 featuring new footage of O'Brian as Earp mixed with flashbacks consisting of colorized scenes from the original series. The new sequences co-starred Bruce Boxleitner (who had himself played Earp in the telefilm I Married Wyatt Earp), Paul Brinegar (who joined the Rawhide cast as Wyatt Earp shifted to Tombstone in the 1959 season), Harry Carey, Jr. (who had, a year earlier, played Marshal Fred White in Tombstone (film)), and Bo Hopkins.
With the emergence of television in the 1950s, producers spun out a large number of western-oriented shows. At the height of their popularity in 1959, there were more than two dozen "cowboy" programs on weekly. At least five others were connected to some extent with Wyatt Earp: Bat Masterson, Tombstone Territory, Broken Arrow, Johnny Ringo, and Gunsmoke.
Two episodes of The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp are aired each weekday at 4 p.m. EDT on the Encore Western Channel. The first two episodes from September 6 and 13, 1955, were aired again on February 28, 2014. The episodes are presented in order of original air date.
- Shillingberg, William B. (Summer 1976). "Wyatt Earp and the Buntline Special Myth". Kansas Historical Quarterly 42 (2): 113–154.
- "Full Cast and Crew for The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
- ""The Clantons' Family Row", December 8, 1959". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
- ""Let's Hang Curly Bill" (January 26, 1960)". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
- ""Frontier Surgeon" (January 19, 1960)". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved January 20, 2014.
- "Bill Thompson Gives In", September 20, 1955". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
- ""Marshal Earp Meets General Lee", September 27, 1955". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
- "Bob Steele (1907-1988)". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved March 3, 2014.
- ""John Wesley Hardin", November 1, 1955". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved March 6, 2014.
- ""The Frontier Theatre", February 7, 1956". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved October 8, 2013.
- ""The Desperate Half-Hour", February 28, 1956". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved October 9, 2013.
- "One of Jesse's Gang, March 13, 1956". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
- "The Suffragette, March 27, 1956". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
- "The Pinkertons, March 20, 1956". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved October 11, 2013.
- "Woman Trouble, December 17, 1957". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved November 21, 2013.
- ""The Noble Outlaws", November 24, 1959". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved January 23, 2013.
- ""Hang 'em High", March 27, 1957". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved November 1, 2013.
- ""The Gatling Gun", October 21, 1958". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved June 15, 2013.
- ""She Almost Married Wyatt" (February 24, 1959)". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
- ""Horse Race" (March 3, 1959)". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
- ""A Good Man" (January 6, 1959)". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved July 13, 2013.
- ""A Murderer's Return" (January 5, 1960)". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved August 12, 2013.
- ""The Truth About Rawhide Geraghty" (February 17, 1959)". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved July 9, 2013.
- "Juveniles - 1878 (March 10, 1959)". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
- ""Silver Dollar" (February 2, 1960)". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved September 12, 2013.
- "Don't Get Tough with a Sailor (February 23, 1960)". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved September 21, 2013.
- "Indian Wife, December 10, 1957". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved November 21, 2013.
- ""Old Jake", The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, April 9, 1957". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved March 29, 2013.
- The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp - New Studio Picks Up the Rights, Begins with Season 1 Re-Release
- The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp - 'Season 2' Press Release and Package Art
- "Retro : The Wonder of Wyatt: Mixing the Old Series With New Scenes Brings Earp Back to TV--and Tombstone". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-12-05.
- Guinn, Jeff. The Last Gunfight: The Real Story of the Shootout at the O.K. Corral and How it Changed the American West (1st Simon & Schuster hardcover ed. ed.). New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4391-5424-3.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.|
- Wyatt Earp and the "Buntline Special" Myth
- The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp at the Internet Movie Database
- The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp at TV.com
- Wyatt Earp: Return to Tombstone at the Internet Movie Database
- The Gambler Returns: The Luck of the Draw at the Internet Movie Database
- The Guns of Paradise at the Internet Movie Database
- Production notes on TV series