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DIRECTOR JACQUES TOURNEUR'S 'WITCHITA' STARRING JOEL MCCREA

Title: WICHITA Year: 1955 Rating: ****

This Jacques Tourneur's Western is as basic and entertaining as they come, centering on what begins as a distant dot viewed by men camped on the plain surrounded by cattle and all on their slow, deliberate pace to that Promised Land of WICHITA harboring many saloons...

That dot nears, and turns out being buffalo hunter Wyatt Earp, played by Joel McCrea, visually perfectly suited (though too old) for the real life legendary lawman, at first reluctant to become Wichita's Sheriff until the rowdy cowboys ignite drunken gun-blazing pandemonium...

From Jacques Tourneur's WICHITA

It's not a perfect Western as the story is concerned, and hardly works as a genuine biopic, but it's a picture that takes many viewings to grow tired of since the formula keeps paying off with each new sequence...

Like what would happen in JAWS exactly twenty-years later... the mayor and a bigwig developer forcing the new Sheriff to ignore a killer shark to keep the paying tourists happily oblivious... as is Wyatt questioned by the very men (including a mayor) who'd initially hired him after a terrific bank robbery turnaround...

John Smith and Peter Graves in WICHITA with Joel McCrea

Then, later, realizing the drunken cowpunchers that Earp imprisoned for goading drunkenness all keep the town in a steady flow of cash. Wielding a firm stance and lone wolf determination, McCrae turns in an apt performance eclipsing what one would expect in a 90-minute mainstream, if sometimes cliché, programmer... 

So it's necessary to throw in the usual faithful sidekick (a young future-famous journalist, Bat Masterson: an uncomplicated Robin to McCrea's beyond-capable Bruce Wayne) and a contrived romance with Vera Miles...

John Smith and Peter Graves in WICHITA

But what's really needed for the audience flows steadily along with the action including gun-fights, horse-stomping chaos and a twist involving Peter Graves and John Smith: Making WICHITA not only solid entertainment, but there's a subliminal lesson in the art of concise storytelling, sparse dialogue, and headstrong performances... 

Also including the other genre heavies Robert Wilke and Jack Elam plus antagonistic Lloyd Bridges along with THE MAN FROM LARAMIE friendly old guy Wallace Ford: all enveloped by tight and precise direction by Jacques Tourneur, one of the most eclectic (and underrated) in cinema history. 

Robert J. Wilke and Walter Sande in WICHITA
The dot on the horizon from WICHITA
Joel McCrea in WICHITA

Joel McCrea in Jacques Tourneur's WICHITA with Keith Larsen as Bat Masterson
Joel McCrea in Jacques Tourneur's WICHITA with fictional love interest Vera Miles
Joel McCrea in Jacques Tourneur's WICHITA with Keith Larsen as Bat Masterson
An intense Peter Graves as Wyatt Earp's brother in Jacques Tourneur's WICHITA
Surly bad guy Loyd Bridges and cattle drive ramrod Robert J. Wilke in WICHITA
Joel McCrea and Earp brothers Peter Graves and future LARAMIE actor John Smith in WICHITA

Future Western directing legend Sam Peckinpah as a Bank Teller in WICHITA w/ Joel McCrea
Foreign cover with the same central artwork of Warner Bros Western WICHITA with Joel McCrea
Joel McCrea rides into WICHITA
Joel McCrea in WICHITA



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