On a recent post about the Earps in Deadwood, a Clews visitor, Chase, left this remark:
Big deadwood fan myself (big westerns fan too). Maybe it's just me, but I dont like the way wrote Morgan's character. On another note, which movie did you like better, Tombstone or Wyatt Earp? It's hard for me to choose...if i could, i would blend the casts...keep costner as wyatt, keep val kilmer as doc holliday, etc
And my answer is, both, and neither. Both actors are easy on the eyes but anyway I still wonder -- why don't they stick closely to the history? Isn't that fantastic enough for Hollywood?
Because the real history of the OK Corral and the tremendous fallout have never been fully plumbed on film.
It is early afternoon on a fateful day - October 26, 1881 - in the frontier town of Tombstone, Arizona. Four heavily armed men have decided to take the law into their own hands. Gamblers and possibly thieves, a notorious gunslinger among them, they are determined to take vengeance for a series of trivial insults and imagined threats. Ignoring the orders of the county sheriff, they march grimly to an alley between a rooming house and a photographer's studio. There they catch sight of their intended victims....
So begins The Forgotten Trial of Wyatt Earp, a law review article by Steven Lubet that appeared in the University of Colorado Law Review. It's a terrific -- and accurate -- primer on the thorny legal questions raised by the actions of the Earps. After writing this article, Lubet expanded it into a book; I will include an Amazon link to the book at the end of this post.
And in the same vein:
Wyatt Earp is a cultural icon, a man of law and order, a mythic figure of a West where social control and order were notably absent. The West also had its share of “bad” men and notorious villains. Could it be that the legendary Wyatt Earp might have have less the hero than we have made him out to be? Was he, as some now contend, a killing, gambling, philandering, corrupt politician with close associations to known murderers and gamblers?
That is the lead on a piece written by Colleen Coughlin entitled Law at the OK Corral: Reading Wyatt Earp Films, originally published in the Legal Studies Forum. The author analyzed four films of the famous shootout:
- My Darling Clementine (1946), starring Henry Fonda; the Earps are "frequently filmed with sunshine surrounding them"
- Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), including a fictional "twist in the legend."
- Warlock (1959), "brilliant in its challenge to mythology"
- Tombstone (1993) "perhaps the most historically accurate of the films discussed."
These articles left me wondering two things -- One, why does the history not exactly match the popular cinema -- isn't the truth, with its subtleties and shades of gray, more compelling than the white hat/black hat thing?
And two, when did law reviews start publishing such interesting articles?