AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY: 14th August, as a Special Feature in Arrow Academy’s Blu-ray set of My Darling Clementine
RUNNING TIME: 71 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
In Tombstone, Arizona, a bitter rivalry exists between the villainous Ben Carter, owner of the Palace of Pleasure, and the owners of the Belle Union. Ben gets alcoholic Native American Charlie drunk so he can cause trouble at the Belle Union, but when the overly cautious town marshal does nothing, ex-Army scout Wyatt Earp, who was trying to get some sleep, steps in. After being beaten up by Ben’s men, Wyatt becomes marshall. Prostitute Jerry tries to get her boyfriend Doc Halliday, a former doctor turned gunfighter who’s dying of tuberculosis, to kill Wyatt, but they become friends instead. Then Doc’s former sweetheart Sarah Allen comes to town….
After loving My Darling Clementine, I was most interested to see this earlier version of the same story, though I in no way expected it to match John Ford’s film. It is indeed a far inferior film, but watching it soon after the other picture is really quite an odd experience, because the 1946 film took quite a lot from it. Two scenes – Wyatt sorting out the drunken Native American, and Wyatt catching Chihuahua helping an opponent to cheat at cards and throwing her into a bath – are almost the same, while others, like Doc saving someone’s life, are very similar if undeniably altered. There’s even the romantic dynamic of Doc being involved with a prostitute and then having his ex-girlfriend show up, though it plays out differently. It rather astonished me how much of the film was similar, though I should probably have noticed that scriptwriter Sam Hellman had a story credit on the later picture. Of course there are major differences too, and if you thought that Mr Darling Clementine was ridiculously inaccurate, then you’ll be shocked that this one if even more ficticious, right up to the climax which has Wyatt go up to the corral to face his opponents, which are not even the Clanton clan, alone! Small wonder that Wyatt’s widow, who had forced the producers of the 1934 Frontier Marshall to change Wyatt’s name, threatened to sue unless they stopped calling this new version Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshall!
Opening with a montage of the finding of gold, the building of Tombstone and the trouble that begins to occur in it, this version doesn’t even attempt to be poetic and artistic, it’s just a basic ‘B’ Western through and through. Director Allan Dwan has little style, and almost throws away the actual OK Carroll showdown, but, aided by a script which probably has more action than Ford’s film [and certainly more double entendres from Doc’s hooker girlfriend], he does know how to make a pacy picture which certainly doesn’t outstay its welcome. Randolph Scott, a hero of countless Westerns, is adequate as Wyatt while Cesar Romero is rather good as the tortured Doc [here called Halliday, not Holliday, for some reason], though he should have probably played Wyatt. The interesting cast also includes John Carradine and Lon Chaney Jnr. in quite memorable parts, while Charles Stevens repeated his role as the drunken Native American in the 1946 film, Ward Bond played parts in both the 1939 and the 1946 version but also the 1943 one, and the part of comedian Eddie Foy was played by his real life son! Don’t expect much from this programmer, but it should entertain and provide some excitement.