Before I chose a film for this project, I wanted to discover a truth to history. History will always be argued and fought for. I wanted to find a film that fought to show the truth. Pick a director that tried to document history, no matter what the truth reveals. I did not want to pick the favorite Oscar-winning movies that had a great story. I wanted truth. I am sick of being lied to. I am sick of having the “good” story stuck down my throat.
The Wild West, the frontier, and the cowboy that roams the demonic land are the soul of America’s History. America, the New World looking to move West. Manifest Destiny has always been an America dream. The Promise Land. The Promise of the Brand-New Future that will always be better than the one we have and live. However, before the twentieth century started, the Pacific Ocean was found, and the West was gone. Fading fast as the tide washed away a dream. The ocean drowned the West. No more West, no more America. Right? Wrong. America has gripped onto the Wild Frontier country more than they did when there was a West. Now America remains nostalgic toward the West like it is our country’s religion. Americans look to the six-gunshooter as the American Hero. John Wayne became and is the prototype American boy. I jumped into the Western genre, and I choose the legendary lawman, Wyatt Earp.
Lawrence Kasdan's Wyatt Earp certainly was not my favorite choice at first. The movie is three plus hours long. I first saw Tombstone my freshman year in college 96-97. Mike Ruth down the hall in my dorm owned the movie, and we must have watched Tombstone at least thirty times that year. One three-day weekend we managed to watch Tombstone eight times. Tombstone by far has got to be the most action-packed, gun-slinging, hard-talking Western that I have ever seen. Before this movie, I had never heard of the name Wyatt Earp. But after this movie, I was quoting Wyatt Earp lines. This movie makes me want to be back in the West, when “real men” lived. Where men slap men in the face and yell, “I said throw down boy. . . . Are you gonna do something? Or just stand there and bleed?” (Kirk Douglas playing Wyatt Earp). Mike and I would take turns quoting the movie all year. After the year was up, I drove across country and stopped in Tucson, Arizona, to visit my friend's Uncle, who just happens to be a bounty hunter and ride a horse to catch cattle rustlers. I could not believe that cattle rustling still takes place. Uncle Bob had mentioned to me that Tombstone was so close to fact it was scary. Well, I was sold, I wanted to do my research on Wyatt Earp and the O.K Corral. I wanted to stop by Tombstone. This movie started it all for me for this class. Sure I love Westerns, who doesn’t? Wyatt Earp was different. He was a lawman, with a bad attitude, who did not take shit. Tombstone made one great artistic choice that links it to today’s modern world. In Tombstone, all the cowboys wear red sashes, just like our gangs today. Tombstone summons Wyatt Earp to kill the organized mob cowboys, and the world is looking for a Wyatt Earp to save us from gangs and drive-bys. After seeing this movie without research, I naively thought the cowboys actually all wore their red sashes. After much research I found there was no such truth, but there is blood, guts, and sex in this movie. However, this movie is very much real and historically based; the crime represents today’s society. Believe it or not, but the West was tamer than the 90’s.
My Darling Clementine (1946)
I was urged heavily to use My Darling Clementine for our class. However, I watched it and found nothing too terribly interesting other than John Ford directed it, the scenery was beautiful, Henry Fonda’s great, and the film was entertaining. Go back to the classics Ed Gallagher, my professor, said. I watched My Darling Clementine and saw not one ounce of truth. The entire film is invented. The credits read, “based on a book by Stuart N. Lake,” which I am sure is Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshall. This movie turned me off. I had such high hopes, of a really fantastic Wyatt Earp “truth.” My Darling Clementine -- the title alone suggests absolutely nothing of Wyatt Earp. I was considering using this film, if I was forced to, as propaganda of the West. John Ford captures the romance of the Western film all in one shot. An hour into the movie, Wyatt Earp decides to dance with a beautiful woman on the floor of the soon-to-be church. The church is not quite up yet, but a frame is built. The wild terrain remains in the background, two America flags flying in the sky, and civilization sprouts in the middle of the desert, singing and dancing jubilantly. Director John Ford made the story because he was so talented. Ford made the Wyatt Earp mold in My Darling Clementine. To this day, some fifty years later, John Ford’s Wyatt Earp movie lives on as the classic. The film that started it all.
More Wyatt Earp Movies:
Law and Order (1932) (1940) (1953), Tombstone Canyon (1932), Law for Tombstone (1937), Frontier Marshall (1939),
Shadows of Tombstone (1953), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1956), The Devil at 4 O'Clock (1961), Hour of the Gun (1967), Doc (1971), The Life & Legend of Wyatt Earp 1848-1929 (1994), The Life and Times of Wyatt Earp (television series), Wyatt Earp/ Wild Bill Hickock, simitar video 85 minutes
Copyright (c) 1999 by Joseph Daniel Gibbs, Undergraduate at Lehigh University.
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