For this Western Night gathering, David Morrell selected WICHITA (1955). Like many films concerning the life and times of Wyatt Earp, this one takes some liberties with the facts. MY DARLING CLEMENTINE certainly did, and it’s considered one of the best films about Earp. But while WICHITA is not CLEMENTINE, it is like a good old fashioned Saturday afternoon matinee.

The story focuses on Earp’s early experience as a lawman in the boom town of Wichita, Kansas, with Earp contending with rowdy cowboys bringing in a cattle herd, and the town fathers who want law and order, but not so much that it drives away business.

Director Jacques Tourneur cast Joel McCrea, (they were friends in high school), as Wyatt Earp who’s looking for a new line of work after months of buffalo hunting. There’s also Keith Larsen (WAR PAINT) as local newspaper reporter Bat Masterson, Vera Miles (THE SEARCHERS) as Earp’s love interest, Edgar Buchanan (SHANE) as a saloon owner with a short fuse, and Lloyd Bridges (HIGH NOON) as a weaselly, quick on the draw drover with a score to settle with Earp. Sam Peckinpah appears briefly as a bank teller.

The screenplay by Daniel B. Ullman (KANSAS PACIFIC and tv’s KUNG FU) moves briskly and features dialogue that can leave you smiling such as “I was born under a troublesome star” and “The only thing wrong with Bat is he doesn’t know how to be afraid.”

This was Tourneur’s first outing with Cinemascope, and he used it to rich and often lyrical advantage capturing wide vistas as well as close quarter interiors. Tourneur directed CAT PEOPLE, a horror classic made on a shoestring budget, and OUT OF THE PAST, considered a noir masterpiece. He was as comfortable in both of those genres as he was in Westerns that, along with WITCHITA, included STRANGER ON HORSEBACK and STARS IN MY CROWN, and each starred McCrea. 

With a running time of 81 minutes, WICHITA is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Amazon Prime.  The Blu-ray was released last August and features a new 4K scan of the original negative that is superb.

Along with David, award-winning author and New York Times best-selling author of FIRST BLOOD that introduced the character Rambo, our group includes Johnny D. Boggs, record nine-time Spur Award-winning author and Owen Wister Award winner whose work includes his latest LONGHORNS EAST, Kirk Ellis, Emmy-winning screenwriter and producer and also author of the book RIDE LONESOME about the production, themes and historical relevance of the classic Ranown Western films starring Randolph Scott and directed by Budd Boetticher, Kirk’s wife, Sheila, and Robert Nott, award-winning journalist and author of several books on Western films, including his recent THE FILMS OF BUDD BOETTICHER.

Thomas Clagett Post Image - Western BG

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