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Buried in the credits of The Life And Legend Of Wyatt Earp is the one
that lists Stuart N. Lake as the consultant. That makes it an official
Wyatt Earp had the distinct advantage that he lived long enough to have outlived most of his contemporaries and then at the very end of his life in 1929 commissioned his memoirs. Writer Stuart N. Lake did a series of interviews with Wyatt before he died and it was on that basis that a fine biography was published about him. Of course it was strictly from the Earp point of view.
When Earp died, Lake became custodian of the legend. Most of the films subsequently made concerning Earp if you'll look at the credits are based on Lake's book. And of course Wyatt is a cowboy hero. It took the recent films by Kevin Costner and Kurt Russell to kind of put Earp and his accomplishments in perspective.
To deal with towns like the frontier Wichita, Dodge City, and Tombstone you couldn't be a Boy Scout. Wyatt Earp was certainly not that and neither were his brothers Virgil and Morgan. Still this show preserves the legend as it would since it was based on the book of the legend maker.
I don't think any real person has been so blessed as Wyatt Earp to have had the variety of people playing him. Tom Mix, Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea, Henry Fonda, Burt Lancaster, James Stewart, James Garner as well as Russell and Costner, I can't think of anyone who's been better preserved for posterity by Hollywood.
Add to the list Hugh O'Brian who got his career role in this series and never was ever really able to shake loose from the casting. He's as good a cowboy hero as they come.
Many of the stories from the series came from Lake's book. I urge you to read it if you can find a copy. There have been a number of attempts to debunk the Earp legend, but his fame and glory will live long, just as the series theme tells us.
For my wife when she was a girl, Hugh O'Brien was Wyatt Earp. A cleaner better hero would be hard to find. When he finally killed someone, Wyatt was devastated and the star portrayed it beautifully. Oddly, there is some evidence this was historically accurate. No semi-professional gambling, no failed businesses, no "wives" and yet the staging of the famous Tombstone street fight was, garb apart, among the least inaccurate. Based on Stewart Lake's imaginative biography this series did for the 1950s what Lake's book did for the 1930s: cemented the Legend of Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp for as long as anyone remembers the Old West. Recently (2009) I watched the episodes contained in a boxed set of DVDs and was frankly astonished at Hugh O'Brien's portrayal of Wyatt Earp. There was an edge, a darkness to his Earp that I missed when I was young. O'Brien certainly captures the nobility that Lake's book placed to the fore but the actor also captured very subtly the coldness, the reserve, the calculating quality of the real Earp. I now, half a century after first watching "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp", have belatedly realized what a fine actor Hugh O'Brien was. Thank you, Mr O'Brien!
The 226 half-hour episodes of the western series "The Life and Legend
of Wyatt Earp" were originally broadcast on ABC from 1955-1961. This
DVD set contains a selection of 26 episodes from throughout the run of
the series. Thus the secondary title "From Ellsworth to Tombstone".
The series is somewhat obscure relative to that era's lineup of adult westerns although it was the most realistic of the group and even managed a surprising degree of historical accuracy. It is loosely based on the career of the real-life Wyatt Earp (played by Hugh O'Brian) and sequentially follows the assorted career moves and location changes of this lawman/saloonkeeper.
The series starts with Wyatt becoming the marshal of Ellsworth, Kansas. A few episodes later he moves to Dodge City (shades of "Gunsmoke's" Marshall Dillon). The last two seasons take place in Tombstone, Arizona and feature the famous shootout at the O.K. Corral (which is included in this DVD set).
O'Brian's acting in the series is a vast improvement over his performance in "Rocketship X- M" a few years earlier. He plays Earp as a strong and rugged character but with a nice touch of humanness and wry charm. Many sidekicks come and go over the course of the series but none rise to the level of a Chester or Festus from "Gunsmoke" or even a Pat Brady from "Roy Rogers". Two actors play Doc Holliday (Douglas Fowley and Myron Healey) and Mason Alan Dinehart plays Bat Masterson. Interviews with O'Brien and Dinehart are included on one of the DVD's.
Because the episodes were only a half-hour and because no cast member other than O'Brian really caught on the reputation of the series has suffered in comparison to other examples of the genre. But it features some quality western action without the fluff and philosophy of the longer shows. And it is fair to say that it had considerable influence on development of the adult western series.
Then again, what do I know? I'm only a child.
I'll tell you a story a real true life story. A tale of the Western frontier. The West, it was lawless, but one man was flawless, And his is the story you'll hear.
Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, brave courageous and bold. Long live his fame and long life his glory, and long may his story be told.
Well he cleaned up the country, the old wild west country. He made law and order prevail. and none can deny it The legend of Wyatt forever will live on the trail.
Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, brave courageous and bold. Long live his fame and long life his glory and long may his story be told.
This tremendously popular and long-running half-hour series featured changes of locale, added characters and deaths, and in several cases changes of the actors plying parts. Central to the proceedings from first to last from 1955--1961 was lean and athletic Hugh O/Brian as a plausible young Wyatt Earp. Into this the life of this fictionalized American icon, other characters real and imagined were introduced. The series was first located in Kansas cattle towns such as Wichita and Dodge City; then O'Brian moved to Tombstone, Arizona. He became and remained a town marshal during this time. Other regulars of note in this very intelligently-made, innovative and realistic series--one whose 'history' was decidedly not of a documentary variety--included Lloyd Corrigan as Ned Buntline, Alan Dinehart as Bat Masterson, several Doc Hollidays, Gloria Talbott, Don Haggerty, Denver Pyle, Damian O'Flynn, Carol Stone as Kate Holliday, Selmer Jackson, Randy Stuart, Wlliam Tannen, Paul Brinegar as Mayor "Dog" Kelly, Trevor Bardette as Old Man Clanton, Steve Brodie as Sheriff Johnnie Behan, Ross Elliott and others as Wyatt Earp's brothers, etc. The peculiar and memorable structure of the show allowed "changes" in character, relationships, locations, etc. when many series did not permit such alterations. In addition, the show's producers used some actors in guest roles many times, including Sam Flint, Steve Pendleton, Rico Alaniz and more. Guest stars of note included Anna May Wong, Arthur Space, Ann Robinson, Howard Petrie, George Wallace, Richard Travis, Robert Lowery, James Coburn, Peggy Knudsen, Fay Baker, Carolyn Craig, Jim Bannon, Nancy Hadley, Whitner Bissell, Angie Dickinson, Francis de Sales, Peter Mamakos, Ed Nelson, Richard Devon, Lane Bradford, Dorothy Green and John Vivyan, plus many more. Directors of record included Paul Landres and Frank McDonald. The staff of writers included Frederick Hazlitt Brennan, John Dunkel and Dan Ullman. These professionals kept up the show's very consistent quality throughout, I suggest. During its run, this series was shot by six cinematographers but only two art directors, by Ralph Berger and Albert M. Pyke, created its authentic western 'look'. Set decorations were done by Jack Mills and Kenneth W. Swartz. Bruce Bilson was second-unit director, with Hollywood veteran Roy Rowland as executive producer. The producers employed a gun expert, several production specialists and very good but less-expensive talents in order to keep up their high-standard of quality. The series ended with a memorable five-part but not-very-accurate gunfight at the OK Corral. This by my lights was a first-rate narrative TV series, I assert, one which was much imitated for decades afterward. Also of note was the show's theme song, whose picture of Earp set the tone for Eliot Ness, The Lawman, and Kojack among many other TV lawmen to come.
When TV Land recently began showing reruns of "Wyatt Earp," I had forgotten that, apparently in the early episodes, the only music heard was an a cappella male quartet. Not only did they sing the theme song, but periodically during those episodes, to augment certain special "drama," they would chime in, humming either low in the background for sentimentality, or swelling to full volume when the emotions were supposed to be at peak. The only lyrics heard were those of the theme song; otherwise, the musical accompaniment consisted entirely of that periodic humming in four-part harmony. Written out, it appeared, "mmmm-oooooo-AAAAHHHH-OOOOOHHH!!" Bypassing a full orchestra was one sure way to save a chunk of cash for the budget. Then in other, perhaps later, episodes, orchestral music replaced that humming, and the a cappella quartet only sang the theme song. I must admit that the humming contributed a rather corny element to the show.
I was a big fan of this show back when it was popular; I thought Wyatt Earp was 'the thing'. There was always plenty of action from Wyatt and Doc, and when they weren't taking care of business, Shotgun Gibbs could be counted on for some good gunplay. Two of my favorite western actors were in this one which was another reason for my interest - Myron Healy and Morgan Woodward, 2 of tinseltown's primo bad guys [who did stoop to playing good guys every now and then]. To see these two actors now I must watch some old western that might pop up on tv from time to time. I'll wager the real Wyatt wasn't a handsome, flashy dresser like O'Brien: more like an unwashed thug. Ah, Hollywood.
When this series was on it was my favorite show. Obviously, Hugh
O'Brian starred in every episode. His name should be shown at the top
of the cast list for the main series page as well as each episode page.
Season 1, Episode 1: Mr. Earp Becomes a Marshal Original Air Date: 6 September 1955
Season 1, Episode 2: Mr. Earp Meets a Lady Original Air Date: 13 September 1955
Season 1, Episode 3: Bill Thompson Gives In Original Air Date: 20 September 1955
Season 1, Episode 4: Marshal Earp Meets General Lee Original Air Date: 27 September 1955
Season 1, Episode 5: Marshal Earp's Romance Original Air Date: 4 October 1955
Season 1, Episode 6: The Man Who Lied Original Air Date: 11 October 1955
Season 1, Episode 7: The Gambler Original Air Date: 18 October 1955
Season 1, Episode 8: The Killer Original Air Date: 25 October 1955
Season 1, Episode 9: John Wesley Hardin Original Air Date: 1 November 1955
Season 1, Episode 10: The Bank Robbers Original Air Date: 8 November 1955
Okay, here's my gripe. If you're going to make a Western series about a
famous American Old-West character with a MUSTACHE, which, by the way,
was the lawman's most prominent feature, FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE! MAKE THE
ACTOR GROW A CRUMMY MUSTACHE! Or, if he refuses, FOR PITY'S SAKE, HAVE
MAKE-UP GLUE ONE TO HIS UPPER LIP! I mean, THIS IS Hollywood, for
cryin' out loud!
Also, Wyatt Earp WAS NEVER MARSHALL OF TOMBSTONE! I don't know where they got this stuff.
Hugh O'Brien (who was once introduced as "Hug" O'Brien on "The Hollywood Palace" by Raquel Welch. She, of course was playing dumb-ditz that night and it had to be explained by the host - Bing Crosby? - that the "h" made the "g" silent) was a little froo-frooed with the silk vest and all that.
And, what was up with that theme song? Any Western that had a barber-shop quartet sing its theme song deserves no respect! "Wyatt Earp. Wyatt Earp. Brave, courageous and bold. Long live his name and long live his glory," etc. Please! The words were a bit more Ivanhoe-ish than fit for a rootin' tootin' shoot 'em up Western.
All funnin' aside, yeah, as a tyke, I liked this show. It was a good old Western with gun-slingin' and horses.
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