Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)

I guess I have the same interesting relationship a lot of people have with firearms. I am a strong proponent of gun control because I believe that guns have never really done anything good. They can only accomplish something less bad because, with a gun,  somebody is eventually getting shot. People getting shot is kind of a bad outcome. I would like to live in a world where fewer people get shot or even none if we can swing it. But I understand that in fiction, guns are cool. All of the cool action heroes use guns at some point or another because the bad guys give them no choice. Of course, in the world of fiction, they rarely have ricochets or bullets missing their target and hitting an innocent person. I love westerns, action movies, and anime with guns. On another part of this blog, you can even read my ongoing series Redcross which features a fictional Arizona sheriff who wields her father’s gun.

I grew up in the city and went to a private school so most guns I saw were in fiction or were talked about on the news. My first actual experience with guns was when I went off to Camp Shohola up in Greeley, Pennsylvania. I regularly signed up for riflery class for several years while I was in camp. It was technically a sport but it was definitely for kids who did not actually want to do sports. We would fire rifles at a range from our bellies and shoot paper targets. Having that much force in my hands and breathing in all of that gun smoke was kind of exciting. My next experience with guns was when my uncle brought me to a SWAT team gun range and let me fire a SWAT service rifle which fired three bullets for each squeeze of the trigger. Other than paintball, my only other experience with guns was going to a gun range down in Florida where I fired actual guns. It was actually kind of scary.

The gunfight that actually happened at the OK Corral is one of the most famous that ever happened. So many movies have been made about the incident, so why did I pick this one? Well, it started with a G but more importantly, it was on my list of 1001 Movies To See Before You Die list that I have been consulting for ideas of what to watch. This is a classic and I felt it was important to see how this was done in the period when most of my favorite westerns were made. The actual famous gunfight only took 30 seconds from start to finish and three men lay dead at the end of it. The key figures involved were outlaw Doc Holliday and lawman Wyatt Earp. This happened in the infamous Tombstone, Arizona. Of course, I have visited Tombstone and Old Tuscon (a theme park and movie studio) where much of the film was shot. This film covers the two years before the famous gunfight.

Wyatt Earp is played by Hollywood legend Burt Lancaster. At this point in his life, he has been a lawman for twenty-five years. He is a little tired but he is a man who believes in justice and defending the people of the frontier. He always speaks in an even tone and his gaze is hard and serious. Doc Holliday is played by legendary action star Kirk Douglas. He is an old and sick but still debonair criminal who has pissed off seemingly every other criminal in the old west. He oozes charm and is getting tired of being a trouble magnet and having to protect himself from both the law and the other criminals. The two of them strike up an unlikely partnership out of necessity. Along the way, we also meet characters played by DeForest Kelley, Dennis Hopper and a whole host of western character actors. Everybody does a great job in a melodramatic sort of way and really brings the characters to life.

Overall, I really liked this movie. Since it takes period over a year in various towns in the west, it gets time to breathe. We get to know the characters and we get to see the development of the begrudging partnership and unlikely friendship between two men who should hate each other. The score is very middle of the road classical music (nothing like later Morricone stuff) but it suits the movie just fine. There is also some narration through song that actually works. The camera work is mostly nothing fancy but some of the shots are really masterful which makes the little touches all the more important. Some of the romance subplot feels unnecessary but it makes for some calmer story beats to rest the characters.

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4 Responses to “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)”

  1. Shari Elder Says:

    Sometimes, we create the most interesting heroes without guns. I’m thinking of McGiver who only ever used a pocket knife. Guns are an important part of history, but we tend to over romanticize them we think. And underestimate the training needed to use them carefully. Fun post.

    Like

  2. Rebecca Douglass Says:

    Nice review of the movie. I haven’t seen it, but I can relate to some of your feelings about the story (and about guns).
    Rebecca The Ninja Librarian’s Favorite Characters

    Like

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