Hollywood and the O.K. Corral

Portrayals of the Gunfight and Wyatt Earp


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About the Book

A lot can happen in 30 seconds. In the case of the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral, 30 seconds found three men dead, left two men wounded and ultimately captured the imagination of generations of Americans. Wyatt Earp, an against-all-odds hero who was literally the last man standing; Doc Holliday, Earp’s unlikely crony; the tragic tale of the Earp family—all of these elements make the story of the O.K. Corral irresistible to a great many people. Hollywood filmmakers were quick to recognize the legend’s attraction—and its potential. As early as 1939 (with the production of Frontier Marshal), moviemakers were recreating the gunfight at the O.K. Corral and its attendant happenings in Tombstone, Arizona, on October 26, 1881. The following decades produced various renderings of the story, some more historically accurate than others but all with the American flair for entertainment.
This volume examines eight movie renderings of the legendary gunfight. Produced from 1939 to 1994, these movies each use Wyatt Earp and other real-life characters as their sources. The work focuses on the filmmakers’ treatment of the history and the skill with which each balances fact with the necessity of entertainment. The ways in which Wyatt Earp is presented in each film and this portrayal’s relationship to the period in which the film was made is also examined in detail. Films discussed are Frontier Marshal (1939), Tombstone: The Town Too Tough to Die (1942), My Darling Clementine (1946), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), Hour of the Gun (1967), Doc (1971), Tombstone (1993), and Wyatt Earp (1994). Period photographs are also included.

About the Author(s)

Michael F. Blake, an Emmy-winning makeup artist and leading film historian, has worked in the film industry for nearly fifty years. He has written for American Cinematographer, Performing Arts, Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune. He lives in Arizona.

Bibliographic Details

Michael F. Blake

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 265
Bibliographic Info: 85 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2007
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2632-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-0677-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      vii
Preface      1

1. October 26, 1881      5
2. Hollywood Discovers Wyatt Earp      23
3. Frontier Marshal (1939)      31
4. Tombstone: The Town Too Tough to Die (1942)      48
5. My Darling Clementine (1946)      61
6. Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957)      92
7. Hour of the Gun (1967)      120
8. Doc (1971)      144
9. Tombstone (1993)      154
10. Wyatt Earp (1994)      202

Epilogue      227
Notes      229
Bibliography      245
Index      249

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “fascinating”—Wrangler’s Roost
  • “fascinating…rich details…interesting”—Cowboys & Indians
  • “McFarland is to be commended for publishing this academic volume on an almost forgotten genre”—Suite101.com/Western Collectables
  • “Michael F. Blake takes 30 of the most famous seconds in American history and tracks their wanderings through 60 years of moviemaking, adroitly documenting their evolution from fact to legend. A wonderful premise for a book that makes fascinating—and surprising—reading for students of history as well as film.”—James Curtis, author of W.C. Fields: A Biography and James Whale: A New World of Gods and Monsters
  • “Nobody writes it better than Michael F. Blake, and Hollywood and the O.K. Corral is his best—so far.”—Andrew J. Fenady, producer and writer of John Wayne’s Chisum (1970) and Western Writers of America Owen Wister Award Honoree (2006)
  • “Michael F. Blake’s Hollywood and the O.K. Corral rounds up the film industry’s major depictions of Wyatt Earp and the famous gunfight with the hard hitting punch of a .45 long Colt slug. The Emmy Award winning Hollywood insider and respected film historian pulls no punches as he gives readers a nuts and bolts behind the scenes look at the various cinematic retellings of the O.K. Corral legend. The chapter on the making of the 1993 near classic Tombstone alone lays back the usual Hollywood veil of illusion to give a fascinating look at modern western filmmaking and the contributions of many unsung crew members, most notably that film’s original director and screenwriter Kevin Jarre. Hollywood and the O.K. Corral combines real western history with celluloid history for a must read for western buffs and film aficionados alike.”—Dan Gagliasso, documentary film director and Western Writers of America Spur award winner