Join us as we Live Tweet a double feature of Wild West dramas this weekend.
We’re heading back to Turner Classic Movies on Saturday, January 5, for another session of Live Tweeting a classic western. The big difference this time is, we’ll offer running commentary on a double feature: The Shooting (1967), maverick filmmaker Monte Hellman’s idiosyncratic cult favorite about former bounty hunters accompanying a mysterious woman on a trek through an unforgiving desert; and Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957), director John Sturges’ rigorously well-crafted western about the legendary showdown between the Clanton gang and the team led by Wyatt Earp.
We invite you to join us Saturday on Twitter — where we’ll be sporting the hashtag #ciShootout — at 6:30 pm ET/5:30 pm CT for The Shooting and 8 pm ET/7 pm CT for Gunfight at the O.K. Corral on TCM.
One of two small-budget westerns (the other being Ride in the Whirlwind) that Hellman filmed back-to-back during a six-week period in and around Kanab, Utah, The Shooting is an ambiguous, pared-to-essentials drama starring Warren Oates as Willett Gashade, a bounty hunter turned prospector; Will Hutchins (star of the 1957-61 TV western Sugarfoot) as Coley Boyard, his excitable partner; and Millie Perkins as the woman who hires the two men to escort her during a desert journey — but refuses to tell them her name or the final destination.
Along the way, these travelers are joined by Billy Spear, a hired gun who doesn’t aim to please, played with unsettling intensity by an incredibly young Jack Nicolson. (Screenwriter Carole Eastman, who scripted The Shooting under the pseudonym Adrien Joyce, would later reteam with Nicholson on 1970’s Five Easy Pieces.) A fifth character eventually figures into the mix — and triggers the ambiguous climax — but to say any more than that would spoil a major surprise.
Easily the very best of the many movies that paired Kirk Douglas with close friend and frequent collaborator Burt Lancaster, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (pictured above) is neither as sentimentally mythic as My Darling Clementine (1946) or as guns-a’blazin’ exciting as Tombstone (1993). Rather, the movie — which was scripted by novelist Leon Uris — is a dramatically tense and psychologically intense western, very typical of ’50s cinema, with a surprising amount of screen time devoted to the sadomasochistic relationship between a brazenly suicidal Doc Holliday (Douglas) and Kate Fisher (Jo Van Fleet), his slatternly sometime lover.
There are Howard Hawks-style gestures of male bonding on display as director Sturges charts the relationship between Lancaster’s stern but fair Wyatt Earp and Douglas’ cynical yet loyal anti-hero. (Note how, at one point, Doc pours himself a drink, but Wyatt claims it; a few scenes later, Doc gulps down the whiskey Earp poured for himself.) And there’s something quite affecting about Douglas’ fatalistic tone as Holliday explains why he’s placing his bet on Earp: “If I’m gonna die, at least let me die with the only friend I’ve ever had.”