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USA 1957
Directed by
John Sturges
122 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Gunfight At The O.K. Corral

Although the title of John Sturges' film captures the essential point of the narrative, Gunfight At The O.K. Corral is not only a rather long-winded version of the most famous gunfight in the history of the Wild West but it plays fast and loose with that history (the real event took about 30 seconds and only Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton were killed). However with Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster in the leads and Sturges’ safe direction, the film was a hit in it day.

Based on a magazine article "The Killer" by George Scullin and scripted by Leon Uris it focuses on the relationship between Doc Holliday (Douglas) and Wyatt Earp (Lancaster) and more on the former than the latter, making Holliday a man with a death-wish and, it seems to be implied, homoerotic tendencies with Lancaster’s Earp as his opposite – a clean-living lawman, with a thing for a gorgeous lady gambler (Rhonda Fleming), a presumably invented sub-plot.

The film rumbles along, somewhat perfunctorily fading to black between scenes, as it moves through a series of familiar genre moments only somewhat enlivened by Douglas’s at times theatrical performance, one which is well balanced by Lancaster’s characteristic impassivity. Sturges revisited the story ten years later with Hour Of The Gun (1967) with a good deal more veracity in what was a more rewarding film but, ironically, without the box office success that this film had.




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