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Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

5.0 1
Director: John Sturges

Cast: Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming


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Of the many filmed versions of the October 26, 1881, O.K. Corral shootout in Tombstone, Arizona, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was one of the most elaborate and star-studded. Burt Lancaster plays Wyatt Earp, the renowned lawman, while Kirk Douglas is consumptive gambler (and gunfighter) Doc Holliday -- the two meet in difficult circumstances, as Earp discovers


Of the many filmed versions of the October 26, 1881, O.K. Corral shootout in Tombstone, Arizona, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was one of the most elaborate and star-studded. Burt Lancaster plays Wyatt Earp, the renowned lawman, while Kirk Douglas is consumptive gambler (and gunfighter) Doc Holliday -- the two meet in difficult circumstances, as Earp discovers that Holiday, for whom he initially feels little but loathing, is being held on a trumped up murder charge and being set up for a lynching, and intercedes on his behalf. The action shifts to Dodge City, Kansas, where Earp is marshal and Holiday, hardly grateful for the good turn, shows up right in the middle of all kinds of trouble, this time mostly on Earp's side of the ledger. And, finally, the two turn up in Tombstone, Arizona, where Wyatt's brother Virgil is city marshal, and where Wyatt finally gets to confront the Clanton/McLowery outlaw gang (led by Lyle Bettger as Ike Clanton). Since the time-span of the actual gunfight was at most 90 seconds, the bulk of the film concerns the tensions across many months leading up to the famous battle. As scripted by Leon Uris (from a magazine story by George Scullin), the story involves two unrelated but parallel plot-lines -- a long-standing vendetta against Holliday and the efforts of Earp to bring the Clanton/McLowery gang to justice -- that are eventually drawn together on the streets of Tombstone. Woven into these proceedings are Earp's and Holliday's romantic dalliances with lady gambler Laura Denbow (Rhonda Fleming) and Kate Fisher (Jo Van Fleet), whose switch in affections from Holiday to outlaw fast-gun Johnny Ringo (John Ireland) only rachets up gambler's rage and the reasons behind the bloody climax. There are plenty of bribery attempts, terse dialogue exchanges and "Mexican standoffs" before the inevitable gunfight takes place. Director John Sturges takes some dramatic license with this confrontation, as well, stretching things out to nearly six minutes, but this is after all an "A" production, and a minute-and-a-half of gunfire just wouldn't cut it. The huge cast of western veterans includes Earl Holliman as Charles Bassett, Dennis Hopper as Billy Clanton, Kenneth Tobey as Bat Masterson, Lee Van Cleef as Ed Bailey, Jack Elam as Tom McLowery, and John Hudson, DeForest Kelley and Martin Milner as Virgil, Morgan, and James Earp, respectively. And there's that Dimitri Tiomkin score, pushing the movie's momentum as relentlessly as the two driven heroes, complete with a song (sung by Frankie Laine) underscoring the major transitions of scenes that's impossible to forget, once heard. Sturges himself would produce and direct a more fact-based and realistic version of the story -- focusing mostly on its aftermath -- a decade later, entitled Hour of the Gun, starring James Garner, Jason Robards, Jr., and Robert Ryan, which wasn't nearly as attractive or successful. But after Gunfight At The OK Corral, there would not be so impressive a lineup of talent at the OK Corral again until the twin Earp biopics of 1994, Wyatt Earp and Tombstone.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Bruce Eder
It's one of the sad details of John Sturges' life that he never thought much of Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957). Perhaps he just resented the fact that it was a more popular and successful film than Hour of the Gun, the film account of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday's friendship that he produced as well as directed a decade later. Sturges always regarded Gunfight at the O.K. Corral as a Hal B. Wallis film on which he was just a hired hand, without a lot of control -- the script wasn't his and the project wasn't his, but he did his job well and then some, pulling out two of the more complex performances ever given by Burt Lancaster or Kirk Douglas, the former playing Wyatt Earp, as a frontier lawman who surprises himself with the violence that his decency can't prevent and, in fact, seems to instigate; and the latter as Doc Holliday, an embittered, self-destructive outcast, betrayed by his own body and the disease he can't shake, who finds a streak of decency in himself just large enough to give him a sliver of common ground with Earp. They're excellent on their own and off the scale when they're together in the same scene or shot. Additionally, Sturges set up some shots -- including a scene early in the movie between Lancaster and Douglas in a barber shop, involving a mirror, the cowboys' invasion of Dodge City and Lancaster's breaking up of their revels, and the build-up to the final shoot-out -- that are as good as any in the Western genre. And the final shoot-out, though hardly accurate historically, was about the best staged in any Western ever seen up to that time. Moreover, the supporting performances are mostly first-rate, from George Mathews to Jo Van Fleet, the latter giving a portrayal that is the perfect match for Douglas' doom-laden, self-tortured Doc Holliday, and Dennis Hopper gives one of his better performances from his early career as Billy Clanton, which anticipated his work in Curtis Harrington's Night Tide. That said, the movie does sacrifice a lot of historical accuracy; among many, many problems in this area, Wyatt Earp was nothing like the way he is portrayed in the script or by Lancaster (though he is so compelling in the part that one almost wishes it were true). Also, Rhonda Fleming's character is a somewhat awkward fit; she isn't essential to the plot, though Sturges does as much and as well with her as one could hope, and more than one would expect given the poor showing that most actresses (apart from Van Fleet here and Anne Francis in Bad Day at Black Rock) get in Sturges' movies. The title ballad, heard at various points in the movie as sung by Frankie Laine, may seem dated and hokey, but it does hold together a dramatic arc that stretches across months of time, three towns, and several vignettes that are often only linked in their backgrounds, and it is a very haunting tune as well. Sturges' subsequent film about Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, Hour of the Gun, done ten years later through his own production company, is more realistic and accurate in its historical portrayals, and less romantic and dramatic, but also less accessible.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Paramount Catalog
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Special Features


Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Burt Lancaster Wyatt Earp
Kirk Douglas John H. "Doc" Holliday
Rhonda Fleming Laura Denbow
Jo Van Fleet Kate Fisher
John Ireland Johnny Ringo
Lyle Bettger Ike Clanton
Frank Faylen Cotton Wilson
Earl Holliman Charles Bassett
Ted de Corsia Abel Head "Shanghai Pierce"
Dennis Hopper Billy Clanton
Whit Bissell John P. Clum
George Mathews John Shanssey
John Hudson Virgil Earp
DeForest Kelley Morgan Earp
Martin Milner James Earp
Lee Van Cleef Ed Bailey
Joan Camden Betty Earp
Olive Carey Mrs. Clanton
Brian G. Hutton Rick
Nelson Leigh Mayor Kelley
Jack Elam Tom McLowery
Dorothy Abbott Girl
William Norton Bailey Actor
John Benson Rig Driver
Don Castle Drunken Cowboy
Roger Creed Deputy
James Davies Actor
Joe Forte Actor
Frank S. Hagney Bartender
Len Hendry Cowboy
Charles Herbert Tommy Earp
Edward Ingram Deputy
Anthony Jochim Old Man
Ethan Laidlaw Actor
Morgan Lane Actor
Gregg Martell Actor
John Maxwell Merchant
Harry B. Mendoza Frank Loving
Tony Merrill Barber
Dennis Moore Actor
Max Power Actor
Richard Reeves Foreman
Lee Roberts Finn Clanton
Bing Russell Bartender
Courtland Shepard Card Player
Mickey Simpson Frank McLowery
Robert Swan Shaugnessy Man
Kenneth Tobey Bat Masterson
Henry Wills Alby
Trude Wyler Social Hall Guest

Technical Credits
John Sturges Director
Sam Comer Set Decoration/Design
John P. Fulton Special Effects
Edith Head Costumes/Costume Designer
Arthur Krams Set Decoration/Design
Frankie Laine Score Composer
Charles B. Lang Cinematographer
Winston H. Leverett Sound/Sound Designer
Harold Lewis Sound/Sound Designer
Warren Low Editor
Michael D. Moore Asst. Director
Paul Nathan Associate Producer
Hal Pereira Art Director
Leon Uris Screenwriter
Dimitri Tiomkin Score Composer,Musical Direction/Supervision
Walter Tyler Art Director
Hal B. Wallis Producer
Ned Washington Songwriter
Wally Westmore Makeup

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Gunfight at the O.K. Corral
1. Chapter 1 [7:58]
2. Chapter 2 [4:54]
3. Chapter 3 [6:05]
4. Chapter 4 [6:25]
5. Chapter 5 [4:24]
6. Chapter 6 [5:02]
7. Chapter 7 [5:18]
8. Chapter 8 [7:15]
9. Chapter 9 [7:56]
10. Chapter 10 [7:31]
11. Chapter 11 [6:20]
12. Chapter 12 [6:13]
13. Chapter 13 [6:58]
14. Chapter 14 [7:12]
15. Chapter 15 [6:11]
16. Chapter 16 [5:44]
17. Chapter 17 [7:20]
18. Chapter 18 [3:48]
19. Chapter 19 [9:46]


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Gunfight at the O.K. Corral 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Moviemojo More than 1 year ago
Ok we have Burt and Kirk need I say more, your gonna like this film.