Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
Directed by John Sturges (who made Bad Day at Black Rock and The Great Escape), the film really centers on Douglas as Holliday. He's the first character introduced, known as a killer, who takes out Lee Van Cleef by throwing a knife. Earp needs some information from him, and they reluctantly become friends, saving each other's lives.
The two eventually head to Tombstone to help out Earp's brother, Virgil, and it all leads to the famous shootout. There are many inaccuracies, though: Holliday did not accompany Earp to Tombstone, Johnny Ringo was not in the gunfight; the gunfight was not a protracted affair, but lasted only thirty seconds; there is no mention of Curly Bill Brocius or Johnny Behan, nor of either of the two women Earp was involved with (instead they fictionalize a woman for him, played by Rhonda Fleming) and Big Nose Kate, here played by Jo Van Fleet, did have a tumultuous relationship with Holliday, but never took up with Ringo.
Still, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is a passable Western for a Saturday afternoon. Douglas, who I'm fast learning was an under-rated actor, plays Holliday a little differently than the others I've mentioned--he's more robust (though still tubercular) and more of an asshole. But the core of this film, as with the others, is the friendship he has with Earp. When Van Fleet asks him not to go to the fateful shootout, Douglas says, "I'd rather die with the only friend I've ever had."
The direction of the film is not good--the pacing is off, for one, and the script by novelist Leon Uris has too many dead ends. The relationship between Fleming and Lancaster goes nowhere, and could have been completely cut.
There are a lot familiar actors in the film, who went on to TV careers, such as DeForest Kelly as Morgan Earp, Martin Milner as James Earp (who is again incorrectly made the youngest brother and killed off) Earl Holliman as Charlie Bassett, a Dodge City lawman, and a baby-faced Dennis Hopper as Billy Clanton.