Archive for the ‘The Real West’ Category

On this day in 1836, The Alamo fell as Mexican forces led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna stormed the fortress after a 13-day siege. All of the Texan defenders (almost 200 of them), including William Travis, James Bowie and Davy Crockett, were killed in battle.

The image is the 24-sheet poster (or billboard) for John Wayne’s epic tribute to those who served at The Alamo. Today’d be a good day to watch it.

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The gunfight at the O.K. Corral took place 136 years ago today — around 3 PM to be exact, as Wyatt Earp, his brothers and Doc Holliday took on a group of outlaws called the Cowboys.

Over the years, it’s spawned some terrific movies, from Allan Dwan’s Frontier Marshal (1939) to John Ford’s My Darling Clementine (1946) to John Sturges’ Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957, above) to Tombstone (1993).

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Today was my mom’s birthday. She was a Texan, and The Last Command (1955) is a film she loved. Here are a few stills from it.


Of course, it’s Republic’s take on the story of the Alamo, directed by Frank Lloyd — made after John Wayne left the studio.


Sterling Hayden is Jim Bowie, Richard Carlson is William Travis, Arthur Hunnicutt is Davy Crockett and J. Carroll Naish is Santa Ana. Ernest Borgnine, Jim Davis, John Russell and Slim Pickens are also in it.


It doesn’t have the spectacle of Wayne’s The Alamo (1960), but I recommend it highly. So does my mom. Olive Films needs to give it a DVD and Blu-ray release.

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This week marks the 177th anniversary of the fall of The Alamo. I’d just typed John Dierkes’ name when my wife brought the anniversary to my attention. So as a tiny tribute to those who fought and died in the Texas Revolution, a photo of Dierkes in John Wayne’s The Alamo (1960) seemed an obvious choice.


And it seemed downright wrong to not include Wayne, too. (Plus, Dimitri Tiomkin turned up in a Jack Benny episode last night.)

As long as this country values freedom and bravery — we still do, don’t we? — we’d better not forget these “Texians.”

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On this day in 1887 in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Doc Holliday’s tuberculosis (and dependence on alcohol and laudanum) got the best of him.

Here’s Kirk Douglas as an ailing Holliday in Gunfight At The O.K. Corral (1957), with Burt Lancaster as Wyatt Earp. Some versions on the Holliday story/legend claim Earp was with him when he died. He was not.

Holliday’s tombstone reads “He died in bed.”

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On this day in 1881, around 3PM, the infamous Gunfight At The O.K. Corral took place in Tombstone, Arizona. It involved Wyatt Earp, his brothers Virgil and Morgan, and Doc Holliday taking on the Clanton-McLaury gang. In a lead-filled 30 seconds, three men (Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers) were killed.

Here’s a couple shots from John Sturges’ 1957 take on the event, Gunfight At The O.K. Corral, starring Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster. It’s just one of many films to deal with the shootout, and to theorize on how it actually happened. It’s more likely that they came up with a good action sequence and left it at that. This one gets extra points for the simple fact that Lancaster spends a lot of time running around with a sawed-off shotgun.

This seems like a good time to post the lyrics to Gunfight‘s theme song, written by Dimitri Tiomkin and Ned Washington, and sung by Frankie Laine. It’s woven throughout the film very effectively.

OK Corral, OK Corral
There the outlaw band make their final stand
OK Corral
Oh my dearest one must die
Lay down my gun or take the chance of losing you forever
Duty calls
My back’s against the wall
Have you no kind word to say
Before I ride away

Your love, your love
I need your love
Keep the flame, let it burn
Until I return
From the gunfight at OK Corral
If the Lord is my friend
We’ll meet at the end
Of the gunfight at OK Corral
Gunfight at OK Corral

Boot Hill, Boot Hill
So cold, so still
There they lay side by side
The killers that died
In the gunfight at OK corral
OK corral
Gunfight at OK corral

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On this date in 1866, the Reno brothers gang robbed the Ohio and Mississippi Railway. This was the first train robbery. The contents of the safe were insured by the Adams Express Company, who hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to track down the robbers. Life for the Reno boys would never be the same.

The photo is from Rage At Dawn (1955). Randolph Scott is a detective hired by the railroad to track down the Reno brothers (Forrest Tucker, J. Carrol Naish, Myron Healey and Denver Pyle). It’s a solid mid-50s Randolph Scott picture, which means it’s plenty good indeed.

Thanks to Shay for bringing this to my attention.

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On this day in 1892, the notorious Dalton gang took its last ride, with an unsuccessful attempt to rob two banks in Coffeyville, Kansas.

You can read about it here, courtesy of True West Magazine. Of course, Sam Katzman and William Castle’s Jesse James Vs. The Daltons (1954) has nothing to do with history, but this lobby card lets me feature James H. Griffith again (to the right of the wanted poster).

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On this day in 1881, Pat Garrett shot and killed William H. Bonney (born William Henry McCarty, Jr.), known as “Billy The Kid,” in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

Of course, the way this actually happened isn’t known, and it’s been portrayed plenty of different ways in Westerns over the years, from King Vidor’s Billy The Kid (1930) to Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett And Billy The Kid (1973, below).

Some even theorize that it’s not Billy reposing in the Fort Sumner dirt.

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Today in 1860, the first Pony Express mail made its way from relay to relay. Buffalo Bill Cody became a Pony Express rider at 15.

By the way, Pony Express (1953) starring Charlton Heston as Cody (and Forrest Tucker as Wild Bill Hickock) will be making its way to DVD later this month.

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