Gunfight at O.K. Corral (1957)




Director:  Frank Perry.

Starring:  Burt Lancaster (Marshal Wyatt Earp), Kirk Douglas (Dr. John 'Doc' Holliday), Rhonda Fleming (Laura Denbow), Jo Van Fleet (Kate Fisher, Doc's woman), John Ireland (Johnny Ringo, Clanton's hired gun), Lyle Bettger (Ike Clanton), Frank Faylen (Cotton Wilson, county sheriff, Griffin, Texas), Earl Holliman (Deputy Sheriff Charles 'Charlie' Bassett), Ted de Corsia (Shanghai Pierce, cattleman), Dennis Hopper (Billy Clanton), Whit Bissell (John P. Clum, editor, 'Tombstone Epitaph'/Head of Citizens Council), George Mathews (John Shanssey, Griffin saloon owner), John Hudson (Virgil Earp), DeForest Kelley (Morgan Earp), Martin Milner (James 'Jimmy' Earp).

This film is no match for the two Earp films, "Wyatt Earp" (1994) and "Tombstone" (1993).  It tried to deflate the legend of Earp, but I think it safe to say that, considering the times and all his warts, history shows that Wyatt Earp was a good man to make a legend.


An o.k. version of the Earp story.  This version is a little different from the true story.  In this one, Doc Holiday plays a more important role, almost equal in importance to Wyatt Earp.  A lot of the time is spent in Dodge City instead of in Tombstone where the gunfight at O.K. Corral took place. 

Earp and Holiday don't like each other at first.  But then Earp saves Holiday from a lynch mob.  To return the favor, Holiday saves Earp's life not only once but twice.  He says he does not want to feel indebted to Earp. 

In many of the Earp movies, they find the real fight at the O.K. Corral to be way too tame and way too short.  So they draw it out and have more guys that get killed, as in this version.  In the real history, the Clantons took their revenge on the Earps after the shoot-out.  But in this version one of the Earp brothers is killed before the gunfight, thus giving the Earps a rationale for the shoot-out.

You can't go too wrong with a team like Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas as Earp and Holiday respectively.   But I still prefer the more historically accurate films.   

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background: 

See Wyatt Earp (1994)



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