With all the wildly inaccurate films about the life and times and Wyatt Earp (in other words, all of them), I figured that one purportedly based on the book Frontier Marshal by Stuart Lake (based on conversations with Wyatt himself) would be closer to the mark.
Boy, was I wrong!
Frontier Marshal is, in fact, the most historically silly Earp film I've seen, and I've seen a lot of them.
First, the good news. Randolph Scott, as always, is playing Randolph Scott, but his Earp is as good as anyone's. Cesar Romero makes a fine Doc Holliday. And the supporting cast includes John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr. and Ward Bond. We even get Eddie Foy Jr. playing the role of his father.
Then there's the slap in the face of history. Remember what I said about SPOILERS? Here they come. There's some silly talk early on about Doc's medical practice back in Virginia, and him birthing a lot of babies (Doc, of course, was actually a dentist). The reason for this tomfoolery becomes clear when the saloon keeper's kid is shot, and Doc is called upon to perform emergency surgery (Yeah, I know - an emergency root canal would've had less emotional impact).
Throughout the film, Wyatt has a hate-hate relationship going with Curly Bill. That, of course, is as it should be. But after Doc's love triangle finally works itself out (guess who he choses?), Curly Bill rides into town and shoots Doc dead. Bill then tells Wyatt he and his gang will await him at the OK Corral. So Wyatt marches off to the shootout alone, without his brothers (who are absent from the film) and without Doc (who dies six years before his time).
At the corral, which in this case appears to be more of a livery stable (a far cry from the vacant lot next to Fly's Photography Studio), Wyatt battles Curly Bill and his boys, including Indian Charley, who appears to have risen from the dead - instead of Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers (also not in the film). And it takes place at night instead of the afternoon. And when Curly Bill runs away, he's shot down in the center of town by Bad Girl, who thereby redeems herself and gets vengeance for Doc at the same time.
The film ends with the camera zooming on Boot Hill, where a new tombstone reads, John Halliday (sic) M.D. (should be D.D.S.), 1848-1880 (should be 1851-1887), Beloved and Respected Citizen of Tombstone (should read Hated and Feared Interloper).
Here's the play-by-play:
When Ward Bond (center) wimps out as marshal, Wyatt steps in to handle an emergency.
The emergency is Indian Charley, who's shooting up the Bella Union. Until Wyatt shoots him.
Wyatt drags Charley into the street. Looks mighty dead, don't he?
Wyatt braces Curly Bill (seated center) and the boys.
New marshal Wyatt catches Bad Girl helping a card cheat and dumps her in the horse trough.
Doc arrives in town. This is a staged photo, not in the film. Bad Girl tries to pit Doc and Wyatt against against each, not keep them apart. And Wyatt never wears a suit.
After chasing Doc all over the West, his ex arrives.
Another staged photo, but a good look at Good Girl.
When Curly Bill's gang comes hoorahing the town, Doc saves Wyatt from a backshooter.
Sadly, there are no lobby cards depicting Doc's demise or the debacle at the OK Corral.
Overlooked Films is a SWEET FREEDOM presentation.