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Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

   

Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Rhonda Fleming, Jo Van Fleet, John Ireland

Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas star as larger-than-life heroes in Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, directed by John Sturges. First, frontier lawman Wyatt Earp (Lancaster) joins his three brothers in their feud against the villainous Clanton gang, a local clan of cattle thieves in Tombstone, Arizona. When Earp defends the sickly gambler John “Doc” Holliday (Douglas) and puts a stop to the Clanton’s lawlessness, the ruthless outlaws seek revenge and murder one of Earp’s brothers. This leads the men into the most devastating showdown in Wild West History! Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is a timeless, cinematic tale of good versus evil.

Editorial review of Gunfight at the O.K. Corral courtesy of Amazon.com

Novelist Leon Uris wrote the script for this Western directed by John Sturges (The Magnificent Seven) and based on the life and times of Wyatt Earp (Burt Lancaster) and his sickly companion, Doc Holliday (Kirk Douglas). The action inevitably leads to the legendary battle between the two heroes and the villainous Clanton gang, but the film is also very much about the conflicts each man faces with women, with one another, and with their own destinies.

Lancaster is terrific as the downbeat Earp, and Douglas has one of his best roles as the consumptive Holliday. The thoughtfulness of the tale is matched by Sturges’s captivating way with the dramatic duel. All in all, the film appeals both as a solid action piece and as a fascinating, two-character study. –Tom Keogh

Cast of characters

  • Burt Lancaster (The Island of Dr Moreau) … Marshal Wyatt Earp. The straitlaced, by the book lawman.
  • Kirk Douglas (The Juggler, Lust for Life) … Doc Holliday. A former dentist, who’s slowly dying. He vacillates in his treatment of Laura, between kindness and not caring. But he comes to consider Wyatt Earp as his only friend — “Preacher”
  • Rhonda Fleming (The Big Circus) … Laura Denbow. Professional gambler who becomes Wyatt Earp’s fiancee. Who breaks off their marriage when he leaves to go “just once more” as a gunfighter. After he’s sworn to her that he’s retiring from the dangerous line of work.
  • Jo Van Fleet (I’ll Cry Tomorrow) … Kate Fisher. Doc Holliday’s girl, an on-again, off-again romance. She tends to hurt Doc back, by dallying with other men.
  • John Ireland (Red River, Spartacus) … Johnny Ringo. Kate uses him to hurt Doc — and make him jealous.
  • Frank Faylen (It’s a Wonderful Life, Dance, Girl, Dance) Sheriff Cotton Wilson. Once a man that Earp respected. Now, he’s siding with the Clantons. But Ike won’t stand for deserters …
  • Earl Holliman (Visit to a Small Planet, Forbidden Planet) Deputy Sheriff Charlie Bassett. A very reliable, likable helper to Earp. That gets him shot.
  • Whit Bissell (I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Monster on the Campus) … John Clum
  • George Mathews (Pat and Mike) … John Shanssey. Owner of the bar, who tries to warn — and help — Doc Holliday.
  • John Hudson (The Screaming Skull) … Virgil Earp. Wyatt’s brother, who stands with him at the final gunfight.
  • DeForest Kelley (Star Trek, The Wrath of Khan) … Morgan Earp. Another lawman brother.
  • Martin Milner (13 Ghosts, Adam-12) … James ‘Jimmy’ Earp. Yet another lawman brother. The Clantons murder him, mistaking him for Wyatt.

Villains

  • Lyle Bettger (The Greatest Show on Earth, Destry) … Ike Clanton. Head of the Clantons. A man willing to “bend” the law. Or break it, if he thinks he can get away with it.
  • Dennis Hopper (Easy Rider) … Billy Clanton. Ike’s youngest brother. Wyatt tries to get him to avoid the final shootout, and live.
  • Lee Van Cleef (The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance) … Ed Bailey. He initially comes looking to avenge the death of his brother at the hands of gunslinger Doc Holliday.
  • Ted de Corsia (20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) Shanghai Pierce. He and his henchmen ride into town, wound deputy Bassett and attack a dancehall. But Wyatt and Holliday hold the men and defuse the situation
  • Jack Elam (Support Your Local Sheriff, Kansas City Confidential) … Tom McLowery

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