Again and again Stuart N. Lake’s biography Wyatt Earp: The Frontier Marshall is turned to for answers. Lake’s version of Wyatt Earp as champion gunfighter was clutched to in 1931 when the world was in desperate need of a hero to save it from The Great Depression. In the nineties we have gangs, drive-by shootings, a corrupt president, a starving world, the Gulf War, a hurting world that wants peace. On comes Lawrence Kasdan and his Wyatt Earp (1994), quickly following Tombstone (1993), a movie based on Wyatt Earp’s life in the frontier Arizona town where all the bad guys wear red sashes—their gang colors. Both movies turned to Lake’s vision of Wyatt Earp. When the world turns sour, call Wyatt Earp, and America feels better knowing that some tough cowboy is fighting for its well being. However, in the script of Wyatt Earp he co-wrote, director Kasdan tried for something different than the hero of Tombstone and other Earp movies, like John Ford's My Darling Clementine (1946). Kasdan tried to demythologize the savior. Kasdan offers us a human being who runs to alcohol when times get tough, who steals a horse and beats up a stand-up citizen when things do not fly his way. But Kasdan ends Wyatt Earp with the fact that his legendary name created by Lake will always be remembered heroic. No matter what Kasdan tried to do with this movie, the hero that everyone was looking for smothered his voice. Wyatt Earp became a savior to his people long ago, and they will not let him die.
Copyright (c) 1999 by Joseph Daniel Gibbs, Undergraduate at Lehigh University.
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