“If the west wants law and order, it’ll have to do it without me.”
A rugged gambler and frontier marshal (Walter Huston) — loosely based on Wyatt Earp — is conscripted by a group of Tombstone citizens to bring “law and order” to the notoriously wild and woolly western town.
Based on W.R. Burnett’s novel Saint Johnson, this early talkie (scripted by John Huston) has the distinction of being the first cinematic portrayal of Wyatt Earp (though he’s given a different name). Walter Huston plays the legendary gambler-gunman, who apparently lived enough of a highly storied and dubiously legal life to prompt the publishing of a fictionalized biography two years after his death. Regardless of its historical veracity, this straightforward western is essentially a tale of hopeless attempts to impose “law and order” in a town where guns are ubiquitous; it culminates with a speedily edited, highly effective shootout sequence which remains its highlight. Otherwise, there’s not much here to hold onto, though fans of early oaters will likely enjoy it.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- The finely edited closing gunfight sequence
No, though anyone interested in early “talkie” Westerns or cinematic depictions of the O.K. Corral gunfight will want to check it out. Listed as a film with Historical Importance and a Personal Recommendation in the back of Peary’s book.