“That’s a natural-born lawman if I ever saw one.”
Sharpshooter Wyatt Earp (Joel McCrea) enters Wichita, Kansas hoping to start a business, but quickly becomes lured into work as a marshal after a fatal night of lawless shooting. When Earp, with support from rookie reporter Bat Masterson (Keith Larsen), implements a ban on privately held guns, the pre-eminent townspeople — including a banker (Walter Coy) whose daughter (Vera Miles) Earp is in love with — fear this will lose them business, and try numerous tactics to get him to either soften up his policies or leave town.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Jacques Tourneur Films
- Joel McCrea Films
- Lloyd Bridges Films
- Sheriffs and Marshals
Director Jacques Tourneur is best known for helming numerous horror classics — including Cat People (1942), The Leopard Man (1943), I Walked With a Zombie (1943), and Night of the Demon (1957) — as well as atmospheric noir outings such as Berlin Express (1948), Out of the Past (1948), and Nightfall (1957); but he was proficient across genres and also made a small handful of westerns, including Canyon Passage (1946) and this fictionalized tale of historic frontier marshal Wyatt Earp. The screenplay is notable for its still-relevant presentation of the ongoing gun-control debate: while Earp recognizes that the reckless cowpokes can’t be trusted not to harm the townspeople (especially after the senseless and shocking death of a 5-year-old boy), the citizens themselves assert that “Without guns, even the good citizens aren’t protected.” The driving role played by the profit motive is also presented front and center here: the new town of Wichita is willing to put up with a huge load of nonsense and danger (“Everything Goes in Wichita!”) as long as the cowboys’ newly earned money keeps rolling in; at one point a character states, “There’s a possibility we’ll all be ruined if the marshal isn’t curbed in his methods.” It’s worth watching to see how all this drama unfolds, especially given that a major corrupt character “is the one to suffer the worst loss before he learns his lesson.”
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Fine direction and cinematography
Yes, as a solid outing by a master director.
- Good Show
- Important Director