Saturday, April 29, 2006


I've killed two birds with one stone by watching this movie: 1) I now know a little something about Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, at least the Hollywood version, and 2) I've finally seen a Randolph Scott western--something I've needed to do since I heard the hymn to Randolph Scott in BLAZING SADDLES. This was actually one of Scott's first westerns (they didn't become his bread and butter until the 50s), and probably a low-budgeted B-film at that, but it looks fine and Scott makes a good western hero. Here he plays Wyatt Earp, ex-Army Scout, who, after being shanghaied and beaten by a gang of bandits, becomes marshal in Tombstone, Arizona, a town of infamous lawlessness. Once he has his badge, Earp opens up his tin of whoop-ass and cleans up the town, earning the ire of John Carradine, saloon owner and head of the bandit group. When Doc Holliday (for some reason called Halliday in this film, played by Cesar Romero), an asthmatic loner and known ass-whooper, comes through town, he and Earp bond and together become targets for the bandits. It wouldn't be a real western without some women to cause trouble, and here there are two: Binnie Barnes as a whore with a hankering for Holliday, and Nancy Kelly as the nice girl from Holliday's past who poses a threat to Barnes. In this version of the O.K. Corral story, a bartender's boy is accidentally hit during a shootout, the Doc operates on him in the saloon and saves his life, then is killed, ambushed as he leaves the saloon; Earp single-handedly brings the rest of the gang to justice. In the last scene, Barnes, seeing her Palace of Pleasure turned into a bank as Tombstone goes legit, decides it's time to leave.

Scott and Kelly are good, but Romero is excellent as the gruff, sickly doctor; he does a nice job doing something different from his usual robust Latin lover. He looks a little too healthy for most of the film's running time, but he is convincing when he has his coughing fits. Barnes barely hides her British accent but is otherwise fine, and there are some familiar supporting faces in small roles, including Eddie Foy Jr. playing his own father, an entertainer who actually did play in Tombstone; Joe Sawyer and Lon Chaney Jr. as bandits; Ward Bond as the marshal in the beginning of the film who is too cowardly to do his job; and Charles Stevens as a crazed drunken Indian. Short and apparently (based on a quick Google search) not factual at all, but still a fun movie. It was based on a 1930s book about Earp and was remade later by John Ford as MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (which I'll watch if Fox shows it soon). [FCM]

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