Gunfight at the O.K. Corral


Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

Critics Consensus

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Total Count: 11


Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,808
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Gunfight at the O.K. Corral Photos

Movie Info

Of the many filmed versions of the October 26, 1881, O.K. Corral shootout in Tombstone, Arizona, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral was one of the most elaborate and star-studded. Burt Lancaster plays Wyatt Earp, the renowned lawman, while Kirk Douglas is consumptive gambler (and gunfighter) Doc Holliday -- the two meet in difficult circumstances, as Earp discovers that Holiday, for whom he initially feels little but loathing, is being held on a trumped up murder charge and being set up for a lynching, and intercedes on his behalf. The action shifts to Dodge City, Kansas, where Earp is marshal and Holiday, hardly grateful for the good turn, shows up right in the middle of all kinds of trouble, this time mostly on Earp's side of the ledger. And, finally, the two turn up in Tombstone, Arizona, where Wyatt's brother Virgil is city marshal, and where Wyatt finally gets to confront the Clanton/McLowery outlaw gang (led by Lyle Bettger as Ike Clanton). Since the time-span of the actual gunfight was at most 90 seconds, the bulk of the film concerns the tensions across many months leading up to the famous battle. As scripted by Leon Uris (from a magazine story by George Scullin), the story involves two unrelated but parallel plot-lines -- a long-standing vendetta against Holliday and the efforts of Earp to bring the Clanton/McLowery gang to justice -- that are eventually drawn together on the streets of Tombstone. Woven into these proceedings are Earp's and Holliday's romantic dalliances with lady gambler Laura Denbow (Rhonda Fleming) and Kate Fisher (Jo Van Fleet), whose switch in affections from Holiday to outlaw fast-gun Johnny Ringo (John Ireland) only rachets up gambler's rage and the reasons behind the bloody climax. There are plenty of bribery attempts, terse dialogue exchanges and "Mexican standoffs" before the inevitable gunfight takes place. Director John Sturges takes some dramatic license with this confrontation, as well, stretching things out to nearly six minutes, but this is after all an "A" production, and a minute-and-a-half of gunfire just wouldn't cut it. The huge cast of western veterans includes Earl Holliman as Charles Bassett, Dennis Hopper as Billy Clanton, Kenneth Tobey as Bat Masterson, Lee Van Cleef as Ed Bailey, Jack Elam as Tom McLowery, and John Hudson, DeForest Kelley and Martin Milner as Virgil, Morgan, and James Earp, respectively. And there's that Dimitri Tiomkin score, pushing the movie's momentum as relentlessly as the two driven heroes, complete with a song (sung by Frankie Laine) underscoring the major transitions of scenes that's impossible to forget, once heard. Sturges himself would produce and direct a more fact-based and realistic version of the story -- focusing mostly on its aftermath -- a decade later, entitled Hour of the Gun, starring James Garner, Jason Robards, Jr., and Robert Ryan, which wasn't nearly as attractive or successful. But after Gunfight At The OK Corral, there would not be so impressive a lineup of talent at the OK Corral again until the twin Earp biopics of 1994, Wyatt Earp and Tombstone. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Burt Lancaster
as Wyatt Earp
Kirk Douglas
as Doc Holliday
Rhonda Fleming
as Laura Denbow
Jo Van Fleet
as Kate Fisher
John Ireland
as Johnny Ringo
Lyle Bettger
as Ike Clanton
Frank Faylen
as Cotton Wilson
Earl Holliman
as Charles Bassett
Ted de Corsia
as Shanghai Pierce
Dennis Hopper
as Billy Clanton
Whit Bissell
as John P. Clum
George Mathews
as John Shanssey
John Hudson
as Virgil Earp
DeForest Kelley
as Morgan Earp
Martin Milner
as James Earp
Kenneth Tobey
as Bat Masterson
Lee Van Cleef
as Ed Bailey
Joan Camden
as Betty Earp
Olive Carey
as Mrs. Clanton
Nelson Leigh
as Mayor Kelley
Jack Elam
as Tom McLowery
Don Castle
as Drunken Cowboy
Mickey Simpson
as Frank McLowery
Charles Herbert
as Tommy Earp
Lee Roberts
as Finn Clanton
Frank Carter
as Hotel Clerk
Bing Russell
as Bartender
John Benson
as Rig Driver
John Maxwell
as Merchant
Ethan Laidlaw
as Bartender
Frank S. Hagney
as Bartender
Henry B. Mendoza
as Cockeyed Frank Loving
Roger Creed
as Deputy/Killer/Townsman
Joe Forte
as Card Player
Jim Davies
as Card Player
Max Power
as Card Player
Courtland Shepard
as Card Player
Len Hendry
as Cowboy
Trude Wyler
as Social Hall Guest
Paul Gary
as Killer
Bill Williams
as Stuntman
Robert Swan
as Shaugnessy Man
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Critic Reviews for Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

All Critics (11)

Audience Reviews for Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

  • Jun 18, 2014
    Spartacus and, well, to simply sum up the awesomeness, "Burt Lancaster" join forces in the Old West to take down some sorry criminals, so for those of you who like action, get excited, and for you historians, well, tough luck. If anyone thought that the portrayal of this film's titular gunfight in "Wyatt Earp" was underwhelming, what with its fading to black and all, I can at least give it credit for the accuracy, because the whole brawl didn't last but about 30 seconds or something, but here, they "Tombstone" that baby up, which would be great and all if it didn't take them about as long to get to the gunfight here as it did in the three-hour-long "Wyatt Earp". Yeah, speaking of "Tombstone", maybe I can respect "Wyatt Earp" a little better than most everyone else can because I kind of feel sorry for Wyatt Earp himself, because Hollywood just keeps messing with his truth, although, in all fairness, I don't know how sorry you can feel for someone who ended up being played by Burt Lancaster. Yeah, Robert Strout, I understand that you're worried about being moved to Alcatraz to be put to death, and being separated from the birds that you took in as your only friends, but at least you go out looking good. Yeah, like I said, they Hollywooded this thing up, although, if they were really working up the fan service here, then they missed out on a perfect opportunity to look at that picture of Earp at age 33 and make Lancaster's moustache more magnificent than ever, at least to show that it was possible. ...If you're snickering, I don't know if it's because you're in denial about also having a dude crush on Burt Lancaster, or because you're thinking about how before "The Magnificent Seven", John Sturges missed out on an opportunity to make this "The Magnificent Moustache". You certainly can't call this "The Magnificent Two", because as decent as it is, it's far from magnificent, for a number of reasons. Underdeveloped, the film doesn't have a whole lot of time to stop everything and remind you of the lives of the figures it portrays, but storytelling, being lacking in immediate development and, to a lesser extent, gradual exposition, really feels as though it's expecting you to know these characters, and puts little attention into fleshing them out in the concept of this story. There are some twists to characterization, but it's mostly thin, no matter how much time the film spends meditating upon its characters by forcing in convoluted subplots and other layers, if not simply limping out on material. The film drags its feet to a runtime of about 122 minutes, and this kind of should-be minimalist narrative shouldn't be so lengthy, no matter how much the filmmakers work to bloat the narrative in a way that only '50s Hollywood could. The more the film progresses, the more it gets to be surprisingly audacious with harsh and realist content, but much more often than not, the film is way too Hollywood for its own good, with cheesiness that ranges from something as inconsequential as a lazily lame theme song that is sickeningly blunt in its folksy lyricism, to glaring dialogue and plotting histrionics which don't even give this true story the courtesy of moderate historical accuracy. At the very least, this hopelessly Hollywood melodrama could have corrupted the genuineness of its narrative uniquely, rather than shamelessly slip into trope, until reaching some refreshingly effective dramatics that often do nothing more than make the unrefreshing aspects all the harder to ignore. Really, it feels as though John Sturges' direction is much more genuine and inspired than Leon Uris' writing, and while that results in enough effective storytelling aspects to save the film from mediocrity, there's still something lazy and messy about this film. The final product ultimately falls as an underwhelming and overblown Hollywood affair, but not quite flat, because, like I said, there is plenty of inspiration to meet ambition, even in the look of the period piece. There are surprisingly not too many sets in this portrayal of the Old West, yet most every one is extensively drawn by art directors Hal Pereira and Walter Tyler enough to be to attractively distinguished, to the point of immersion value and reflecting a technical proficiency about as much as the titular gunfight. The final action sequence is rather aggravatingly inaccurate, but as far as sheer Hollywood spectacle is concerned, its technical sharpness, tight staging and high tension make it well worth waiting for through all of the meandering nothingness. Of course, where the film could have fallen flat because of its being either do-little or forcibly overblown, John Sturges' direction keeps momentum up, break up some tonally overblown with surprisingly piercing plays on sweeping scoring by Dimitri Tiomkin, if not chilling quietness, that, through unexpectedly powerful and edgy dramatic highlights, reinforce an engagement value which entertainment value never lets abate. If Sturges does nothing else, he keeps a sense of pacing smoother than the structural pacing, sustaining a certain liveliness through and through that makes this portrayal of the events leading up to and the actual event of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, at the absolute least, entertaining. Intrigue perhaps wouldn't have been sustained through all of those storytelling missteps if the story itself wasn't intriguing in concept, and while the narrative is too minimalist to be crafted into a histrionic, two-hour-long Hollywood opus, its portrayal of men of the law jeopardizing their legal integrity and lives for the sake of justice is intriguing as a Hollywood drama, and as a character drama. If nothing else brings effectiveness to the character aspects of this film, it's the performances, or at least the leading ones, because whether it be Burt Lancaster as a charming Wyatt Earp who must choose between his love and the law, or Kirk Douglas as the slick, but flawed, and - especially for a film so thin - well-layered Doc Holliday, the leads deliver on electric charisma and dramatic stature, as surely as they deliver on dynamite chemistry. Lancaster and Douglas simply deliver, just as they always have individually, and together, they craft a presentation of the Earp and Holliday duo that is more memorable than the film itself, which isn't to say that there isn't enough entertainment value to get this effort by, for all its shortcomings. In closing, in spite of some underdevelopment, the film drags its feet as overblown in structure and in drama, being too cheesily and, for that matter, formulaically Hollywood to come close to rewarding, despite the flaws' being challenged by the immersive production value, biting directorial highlights and strong performances - at least by the solid lead duo of Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas - that make John Sturges' "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" occasionally effective and consistently entertaining as a messy, but fair melodramatic account of one of the most intense periods in the lives of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Aug 29, 2011
    Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is a very effective western, featuring great chemistry between Lancaster and the legendary Kirk Douglas, with a good minor role by a young Dennis Hooper. While it has dubious historical value as a representation of the actual gunfight, the script is surprisingly smart, full of classic western lines. Also made the more charming by a great score and original song. Solid late 50s western.
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 04, 2010
    The Wyatt Earp-Doc Holliday legend got another going-over in this rather good Western. Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas portray these larger-than-life gunfighters, who shoot it out with the nefarious Clanton family in 1881 Tombstone. The movie effectively builds up its tension until the climactic gunfight. Believe me in this story is half fictional because of the wife of Wyatt Earp and the battle of O.K. Corral.
    Dean M Super Reviewer
  • Jun 01, 2010
    Many versions were made about the infamous gunfight, but this is the first variation of the story that I have seen. Wyatt Earp, although a real-life western figure, was a generic clean-cut hero, and is played by Burt Lancaster with the standard hero persona. But Doc Holiday, one of the grittiest western characters ever, was the trickier of the two to portray, and putting Kirk Douglas, a very talented actor, in the role was a very great move, as he has done justice to the gambling-addicted ally of Earp. Of course, many people watched the film solely for witnessing the eponymous set piece, and I have to say, it was a great build-up to the anticipated climax. The said shoot-out was directed by John Sturges without any music to let viewers feel the raw ferocity of the ricochets and gunshot sounds. Another high point of the film is its theme song, which is although corny-sounding today(I bet even back then), does not fail to accompany all our LS syndrome, with me ending up humming a tune or two.
    Ivan D Super Reviewer

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