Sunset (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Blake Edwards
Produced by Tony Adams
Screenplay by Blake Edwards
Story by Rod Amateau
Music by Henry Mancini
Cinematography Anthony B. Richmond
Edited by Robert Pergament
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release dates
  • April 29, 1988 (1988-04-29)
Running time
103 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $19,000,000 (estimated)[1]
Box office $4,594,452[2]

Sunset is a 1988 American action comedy film written and directed by Blake Edwards and starring Bruce Willis as legendary Western actor Tom Mix and James Garner as legendary lawman Wyatt Earp.

Based on a story by Rod Amateau, the plot has Mix and Earp team up to solve a murder in Hollywood in 1929.[3] Although largely fictitious, the story does contain elements of historical fact. Wyatt Earp did serve as an unpaid technical adviser on some early silent westerns and knew Tom Mix, who would serve as one of the pallbearers at the famed lawman's funeral.[4]

Although Willis received top billing in the film, Garner actually has much more screen time during the movie. This was the second film in which Garner played Wyatt Earp, the first being John Sturges' Hour of the Gun, released in 1967. This was director Edwards' second collaboration with Willis, whom he directed in Blind Date (1987).


In Hollywood in the late 1920s during the waning days of the industry's transition to sound film, producer and studio head Alfie Alperin wants to produce a great Western movie about Wyatt Earp. Tom Mix is cast as the great United States Marshal and the real Earp is on set as a technical adviser. But while Earp and Mix are involved in their movie adventure, they also get caught up in a real case of murder, prostitution, and corruption. Together they try to straighten out the problems of the missing son of Earp's former girlfriend, Christina. She is now the wife of studio boss Alfie Alperin and he isn't amused by Earp's investigations. Alfie's sister Victoria Alperin is dating a notorious mobster and all three were at the scene of the murder of madam Candice Gerard. Soon Earp unveils the true sadistic character of Alfie Alperin. Mix and Earp get to fight a real gunfight at a real isolated ranch, with Mix telling Earp "I wish there was a camera here" before drawing a real gun...
After the death of Christina, matters become personal for Earp, leading to the explosive climax between Mix, Alperin, and Earp.


Historical context[edit]

Although the film depicts two historical characters, Tom Mix and Wyatt Earp, who knew each other in Los Angeles, Sunset is mostly a fictional story. The action takes place in the year 1929, the year of the first Academy Awards presentation. It depicts Wyatt Earp arriving (and later leaving) Los Angeles by train; in fact, Earp had been living in the Los Angeles area since about 1910. It depicts Earp as single, in reasonably athletic condition, and carrying on a brief romance with young Cheryl (Mariel Hemingway); in fact, Earp, who was born in 1848, had long been married to Josephine Marcus. It similarly depicts Tom Mix as single and carrying on a prolonged and uninhibited romance with his assistant, Nancy; in fact, Mix was then, and for years afterward, married to his third wife. In the course of the film, Earp says that Calamity Jane's real name was Mary Jane Cannary; her first name was Martha, not Mary. It depicts Earp as technical advisor to a Tom Mix film of the gunfight at the OK Corral in which Mix portrays Earp; Mix made no such film and never portrayed Earp, who served as an unpaid advisor, years earlier, on some silent movies. The film depicts Earp attending the first Academy Awards presentation at a late evening dinner; in fact, the awards were presented at a brunch on May 16, 1929—four months after Earp had died at the age of 80.



Sunset featured numerous stunts similar to those performed in early silent films. The stunt coordinator for the film was Joe Dunne. Stunts were performed by Eddie Braun, Roydon Clark, Cheryl Wheeler Duncan, Tom Elliott, Cindy Folkerson, Allan Graf, Bill Hart, Bob Herron, Norman Howell, Jimmy Medearis, Denney Pierce, Jeff Ramsey, Neil Summers, Mike Washlake, Ted White, Brian J. Williams, Bobby Burns, Linda Fetters, and Keii Johnston, who was the stunt double for Bruce Willis.[5]

There appears to be running gag throughout the film, that Wyatt Earp cannot drive, though he does so on more the one occasion. James Garner was considered an expert stunt driver and did quite a lot of his own driving on his TV series, The Rockford Files.

Filming locations[edit]

  • Ambassador Hotel, 3400 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, USA
  • Bell Ranch, Santa Susana, California, USA
  • Culver City, California, USA
  • Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, USA
  • Melody Ranch, 24715 Oak Creek Avenue, Newhall, California, USA
  • Orange Empire Railroad Museum, Perris, California, USA (railroad scenes)[6]


The musical soundtrack for the film was scored by Henry Mancini.[5] The film features the song "Black and Tan Fantasy" by Duke Ellington and His Orchestra[7]

After filming James Garner said he would never work with Bruce Willis again. "Willis is high school. He's not that serious about his work. He thinks he's so clever he can just walk through it, make up dialogue and stuff. I don't think you work that way."[8]


Sunset earned negative reviews from critics, as it holds a 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 12 reviews. The film was a box office failure, produced on a $19 million budget, it made only $4.6 million domestically.

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • 1989 Academy Award Nomination for Best Costume Design (Patricia Norris)
  • 1989 Razzie Award for Worst Director (Blake Edwards) Won
  • 1989 Razzie Award Nomination for Worst Supporting Actress (Mariel Hemingway)[9]


  1. ^ "Box office / business for Sunset". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 9, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Sunset". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 9, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Sunset". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 9, 2012. 
  4. ^ "Earp Buried by Old West". Los Angeles Times. January 17, 1929. Retrieved June 9, 2012. 
  5. ^ a b c "Full cast and crew for Sunset". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 9, 2012. 
  6. ^ "Locations for Sunset". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 9, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Soundtracks for Sunset". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 9, 2012. 
  8. ^ "James Garner: You Ought to be in Pictures". Movieline. May 1, 1994. Retrieved 2012-04-19. 
  9. ^ "Awards for Sunset". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 9, 2012. 

External links[edit]