GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL. Paramount Pictures, 1957. Burt Lancaster (Wyatt Earp), Kirk Douglas (Doc Holliday), Rhonda Fleming, Jo Van Fleet, John Ireland (Johnny Ringo), Lyle Bettger (Ike Clanton), Frank Faylen, Earl Holliman, Ted DeCorsia, Dennis Hopper, Whit Bissell, DeForest Kelley, Martin Milner. Screenplay: Leon Uris. Director: John Sturges.

   I don’t think I’m exaggerating one iota when I say that there is an entire generation of Americans (mine) who grew up thinking they knew everything there was to know about the famed Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Well, as everybody knows now, and should have known then, there’s a lot more fiction than fact in the story of that gun battle, and what led up to it.

   I won’t go into that. I’m sure you can find plenty of sites on the Internet that go into that, in quite come detail,and it won’t take a lot of effort on your part to find one of them. Let’s suffice to say that for the most part the names are the same, although not always, and that Laura Denbow (Rhonda Fleming), Wyatt Earp’s romantic interest, seems to seems to have made up out of whole cloth. [CORRECTION: See Comment #3.]

   What this is is a buddy film, with the often prickly relationship between Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday holding the various short episodes together. In one Wyatt saves Doc’s hide, in the next Doc is the only one to come to Wyatt’s assistance.

   It is therefore the performances of Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas, perfectly cast that makes this movie so memorable. Burt is tall and and as upright as if he were to preach a sermon, and Kirk so scruffy and so disreputable a scoundrel that the audience can’t help but love him.

   Rhonda Fleming is but an afterthought, but a most beautiful one, but for some reason Jo Van Fleet, as Doc’s lady companion/common law wife whom he treats as if with a combination of dislike and contempt, but who has no choice but to come back each time for more. For some reason this made an impression on me when I first saw this movie in my mid-teens that it came back to me immediately when I saw it again last week.

   Although they appear into the movie only as the story needs them, there’s quite a supporting cast of cowboy actors who ought to be mentioned, particularly (and most recognizable) Lee Van Cleef, Jack Elam, Dennis Hopper and DeForest Kelley

   I see that I have not yet mentioned the gunfight. I found it both highly choreographed and confusing, and way down on the list of reasons why I think you should see this movie, if you haven’t already.