Wyatt Earp is quite possibly the best western ever made. Unlike so many westerns which come before it, this isn’t about cowboys and Indians, it’s about bad men doing right protecting good people from even worse men. Yes, I’m sure the tale has grown taller on down the line, but, these people really did exist in the places at the times of this movie.
Yes, the shoot out at the O.K. Coral has been done and embellished by Hollywood to death, but, it wasn’t that overblown in this film. In fact, very little seemed overblown. This movie really does have the feeling it was trying to be as true to history as possible.
Wyatt Earp is an even bigger joy to watch now that it was when it first came out. Just look at the list of cast members! Kevin Costner does a good job in the lead role. Dennis Quaid as Doc Holiday completely steals the show though. He is so far into character you don’t even see Mr. Quaid.
Mark Harmon steps into one of his few bad guy roles playing Sheriff Johnny Behan. Yes, most of you see him at least once per week as Leroy Jethro Gibbs on NCIS which has been on for more than a decade, but, he did play some bad guys in his past. Quite honestly, when he played Ted Bundy in The Deliberate Stranger I thought his career was over. He was just so evil in a subtle way with that role I didn’t think anyone would hire him to play anything other than a psychopath after that.
Fantastic old movies like Wyatt Earp are great to watch now and watch a few times. The first time just enjoy the movie. The second time really look at the actors and have a few “where are they now” thoughts. You might even wish to pause the movie and do a few Web searches to see which ones got bigger and which ones washed out.
Now you are ready for the Easter Egg Hunt, faces in the crowd. Yes, it is a long hard road for an actor. They have to take dozens if not hundreds of non-speaking to just a couple of word roles. You may not believe just how far some of those “extras” went. I was shocked when just a few minutes in to the second disk a non-speaking character played by Adam Baldwin who also has a place in science fiction history as Jayne Cobb in Firefly. Yet another role where horse riding was involved, even if they did have space ships.
If wishes was horses we’d all be eatin’ steak.
For those who do not recognize the quote either watch the series or read up on Jaynisms.
Gene Hackman, well, he is Gene Hackman. Always a solid and gruff performance. Personally I view him as one of Hollywood’s most bankable actors.
I have one more “where are they now” type thing to point out. You might not even notice Bill Pullman playing Ed Masterson. I’m pretty certain not many outside of the industry did in 1994 when this movie came out. Science fiction fans will know him as President Thomas J. Whitmore from Independence Day. They will also now know him as Oswald Danes from Torchwood Miracle Day. I didn’t really understand what industry insiders meant when they said “acting range.” I always thought it had something to do with emotion. Now I believe it has more to do with the range of roles an actor can disappear into. Good acting is about a performance, great acting is about disappearing into a role so completely they audience doesn’t see you, they see the character.
Find a slow weekend where you have nothing to do, perhaps a slow week. Pop this in and watch something really good. After you’ve enjoyed it, play the “where are they now” game. Don’t cheat and do a Web search up front. See who you recognize.