Oregon grown Sam Elliott began his career in Westerns. This one is a daisy.
Sam “Moustache Champion Of The World” Elliott plays Virgil Earp, brother to Kurt Russell’s Wyatt Earp in this big budget restaging of the gunfight at the OK Corral. Both Elliott and Russell step aside, and let Val Kilmer’s tubercular, sardonic, ferociously loyal Doc Holliday saunter off with the picture.
Students of the Western can move from Tombstone to the other OK Corral reenactments. Some are straightforward, as in Wyatt Earp (1994) which starred Kevin Costner. Some are revisionist, as in Open Range (2003), also starring Kevin Costner, which tells a similar gunfight story, but from the point of view of the Clantons/outsider figures.
John Ford’s contribution to this Western sub-genre is My Darling Clementine starring Henry Fonda. My Darling Clementine is an Oregon film, by virtue of Walter Brennan’s ice cold performance as Old Man Clanton.
Why do American directors love this story, and perpetually re-make it? Must have something to do with the fact that a) it is based on a real gunfight and b) Wyatt Earp ended up in Hollywood. Then there’s the death dealing/death seeking ex-dentist, Doc Holliday, who remains one of the most charismatic enigmas in the history of the West.
I hereby claim Tombstone as an Oregon film, on the basis of Sam Elliott’s performance as Virgil Earp.