By Valerie Milano
Beverly Hills, CA (The Hollywood Times) 7/23/14 – “There’s a very thin line between a good man and a bad man, and to catch a bad man, it takes a good man who is a bad man.” Bob Boze Bell
The American Heroes Network (AHC) premiered it’s Gunslingers series on Sunday Night. If you ever needed an example of the chaos an “open carry” society can generate, you need look no further than Tombstone Arizona and the saga of Wyatt Earp and his heroic effort to bring justice and the rule of law to the lawless Arizona territories.
Earp’s legend will always be attached to the famous “Shootout at The O.K. Corral”. However AHC does a commendable job of dredging up the deep background stories that culminated in the greatest gunfight in Old West history. Guest commentators and experts such as Kurt Russell help bring the story to life.
Dodgy mustaches notwithstanding, The docu-drama on Earp adheres to our best available history of the event and the cast of characters involved. Wyatt Earp may well have been first comic book superhero. Incredibly, he never suffered a gunshot wound in spite of the fact he had a contract on his head and those around him were falling like horseflies. The loose network of cattle rustlers in the territory had a cowboy mafia network set up and had a blantant disregard for any law that affected their profits.
I don’t know if it was the producer’s intent to present such an allegory-rich prequel to our nation’s current state of affairs as regards guns, corruption, a broken judicial system, and the power of gossip and rumour. (the Old West’s version of mass media).
The Earps rode into Tombstone from the East to find their fortune. However, the brothers all became upright lawmen in a town that existed only because of silver mining and a shadow economy that revolved around drinking, gambling and prostitution. The scruffy, smelly, alpha male cowboys that frequented town needed to be put under control; that was Earp’s job. America’s “gang” problem started here.
Spoiler Alert…….Wyatt’s younger brother gets assassinated and the killers get sprung free by the Judge. Wyatt goes vigilante and goes about killing in cold blood those who murdered his brother. Hence the legend. Earp lived long and well. he became a film consultant late in life and befriended a young 17 year old actor hanging out in the cafeteria; one John Wayne. The Duke later admitted to constructing his screen persona on Earp’s model.
Wyatt Earp is a folk hero ripe for rediscovery. He dots the same landscape as icons Will Rodgers and Mark Twain. They all complete each other.
The Hollywoodtimes.net and other publications had the opportunity to speak with actor Walt Willey who does a one man show about Wild Bill Hickok and the legend of the Wild West. Also present was Wild West historian Bob Boze Bell and executive producer Chris Cassel.
Chris Cassel spoke about how and where the dramatic reinactments were done, CHRISTOPHER CASSEL: “We use several studios, and actually real there was actually one place, it was the Living History Museum, featured real structures from the time period. They were all in the Santa Fe area, New Mexico. The primary set actually was one that was just vacated literally the previous day by Seth MacFarlane’s team from “A Million Ways to Die in the West.”
Christopher Cassel talked about the challenges of the transcending the limitations of docu-drama format. CHRISTOPHER CASSEL: “I think it starts with the casting. You know, your actors are going to make or break your scenes. We also had a fantastic cinematographer, who is an Oscar nominated cinematographer, who I’ve worked with for a long time. We’ve sort of honed the craft of elevating these reenactments into something more, and that’s really been our focus, and we had fantastic locations. So we really had kind of a wealth of riches from which to create the scenes.”
Bob Boze Bell spoke to the mystique and the iconography of the wild west heros and villians, BOB BOZE BELL: “There’s a very thin line between a good man and a bad man, and to catch a bad man, it takes a good man who is a bad man. It’s a very nebulous that’s why these characters endure, is because they’re on that line. They’re on that thin razor edge between good and bad. And what do you do if you’re in an environment where the law is evil and the law is wrong? And so then you it really gets confusing, and that’s why these guys stand head and shoulders and we still celebrate them today.”
Walt Willey talked about Wyatt Earps image at the time, WALT WILLEY: …it would shift back and forth. The Earps were not immediately heroes because of the O.K. Corral. In fact, they were considered murderers for some time. It’s kind of PR, I guess, even in those days, because those two lines are very, very close.”