Wichita

Overview

Filmed around the same time as Gunfight at the OK Corral, Wichita is a more modest--and to some, more entertaining--slant on the Wyatt Earp legend. Joel McCrea does his usual smooth, underplayed job as Earp, who aims to bring law and order to the wide-open cow town of Wichita. His least popular move is to take away the guns of everyone in town, no matter how important. Only when town banker McCoy Walter Coy is hit with a personal tragedy does Earp's no-guns edict begin to make sense. Linking the episodic ...
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Overview

Filmed around the same time as Gunfight at the OK Corral, Wichita is a more modest--and to some, more entertaining--slant on the Wyatt Earp legend. Joel McCrea does his usual smooth, underplayed job as Earp, who aims to bring law and order to the wide-open cow town of Wichita. His least popular move is to take away the guns of everyone in town, no matter how important. Only when town banker McCoy Walter Coy is hit with a personal tragedy does Earp's no-guns edict begin to make sense. Linking the episodic storyline is an offscreen ballad, sung High Noon style by Tex Ritter. Interestingly, Joel McCrea would later star in the 1959 TV western Wichita Town--though not, of course, as Wyatt Earp Hugh O'Brien was busy with that character on another network!
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
Jacques Tourneur directed a handful of westerns, and all of them seem to stand out in the memory, despite competition from bigger-budgeted, higher profile entries by acknowledged specialists in the same genre (and sometimes on the same subject). Wichita has a beguiling simplicity to its script and the motivations of its characters that sets it apart from the more self-consciously complex psychological westerns then in vogue. It's a straightforward (and highly sanitized) re-telling of Wyatt Earp's first major stint as a lawman, in Wichita, Kansas. Joel McCrea's Earp is a far simpler (and more moral) man than the real article, and less introspective and self-consciously intense than Burt Lancaster's Wyatt Earp, as portrayed in John Sturges's Gunfight At The OK Corral, made a couple of years later -- but he's also got a rigidity of personality and purpose that, when brought to the surface, costs him and those around him dearly. On a purely plot and tactile level, Tourneur's movie is filled with sudden, startling, almost irrational outbursts of violence that kill distinctly innocent by-standers, and provide the motivation for Earp, the reluctant lawman, to finally promise death to those responsible, whether it comes from his gun or the end of a rope. This script presents most of the supporting players around Earp, apart from the conscience-stricken mayor (Carl Benton Reid), as being motivated by pure greed, or just plain territoriality -- the cow hands that love to shoot up the town don't want to give up a "right" that they've always exercised, and the businessmen who profit from the cattle herds being shipped out of Wichita don't want to upset their balance sheets. Earp, by contrast, seems removed from the world that they occupy, almost as though he resides on a different plane of existence -- he is motivated by a vision of what life should be. Set against him is the soft-spoken, murderous Doc Black Edgar Buchanan, who can't seem to perceive any need or event more than three minutes past his current circumstances. And populating the background are Peter Graves and John Smith, as a surprising pair of seeming interlopers who show up midway through the picture. Overall, Wichita is not as fine a picture as Tourneur's Canyon Passage, made a decade earlier, but the director gets most out of the difficult combination of a relatively low budget and anamorphic lensing -- this was one of Allied Artists' earlier efforts in color and scope -- with a brace of fine performances by a programmer cast that rises to the occasion. The movie's anamorphic aspect ratio (about 2.45-to-1) can be enjoyed on the 2009-vintage Warner Archives DVD-R reissue, though a 2012 showing on TCM utilized a less-than-adequate pan-and-scan master that made the picture look more threadbare than it needed to.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 3/23/2009
  • UPC: 883316126462
  • Original Release: 1955
  • Rating:

  • Source: Warner Archives
  • Presentation: Wide Screen
  • Time: 1:21:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 29,640

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Joel McCrea Wyatt Earp
Vera Miles Laurie
Lloyd Bridges Gyp
Wallace Ford Whiteside
Edgar Buchanan Doc Black
Peter Graves Morgan Earp
Keith Larsen Bat Masterson
John Smith Jim Earp
Walter Coy McCoy
Walter Sande Wallace
Rayford Barnes Hal Clements
Mae Clarke Mrs. McCoy
Gene Wesson first Robber
Jack Elam Al
Carl Benton Reid Mayor
Bob Wilke Ben Thompson
Technical Credits
Jacques Tourneur Director
William Austin Editor
Victor Heerman Producer
Stuart N. Lake Consultant/advisor
Harold Lipstein Cinematographer
Dave Milton Art Director
Walter Mirisch Producer
Tex Ritter Songwriter
Hans Salter Score Composer, Musical Direction/Supervision
Dan Ullman Screenwriter
Ned Washington Songwriter
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