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JACQUES TOURNEUR DIRECTS THE WYATT EARP FILM 'WICHITA'

Joel McCrea rides smoothly, coolly into WICHITA Year: 1955
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...

Score: ****1/2
That dot nears, and turns out being buffalo hunter Wyatt Earp, played by Joel McCrea, whose acting had improved throughout the years, his lanky build toned and muscular and a once spry face aged into raw experience, mellowing into a John Wayne meets William Holden countenance — perfectly suited for the real life legendary lawman, at first reluctant to become Wichita's Sheriff until the rowdy cowboys ignite drunken gun-blazing pandemonium.

Warner Archives DVD
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...

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...

Walking the bad guy out of the titular township
But what's really needed for the audience flows steadily along with the action...

Including gun-fights and horse-stomping chaos with one great twist involving Peter Graves in this grand little B-Western that provides a subliminal lesson in the art of concise storytelling, sparse dialogue, headstrong performances (also including the genre's regular heavies, Robert Wilke and Jack Elam plus Lloyd Bridges along with THE MAN FROM LARAMIE friendly stout old fella, Wallace Ford), all enveloped by tight and precise direction: You can say that the dark horse CAT PEOPLE and OUT OF THE PAST auteur Jacques Tourneur even sells-out majestically.
Wider view of one of the most coolest wide shots in Westerns
Earp and brothers ride in for the kill... Specifically, Jack Elam...
Joel McCrea Wichita Joel McCrea Wyatt Earp Joel McCrea Wichita Wyatt Earp Joel McCrea
Like the great Man From Laramie, this starts with a cornball song (Tex Ritter), a common genre trait... cool artwork though, huh?
DVD Cover before Warner took over
Future PSYCHO starlet Vera Miles and former FRANKENSTEIN ingenue Mae Clarke in Wichita
Future Western directing legend Sam Peckinpah as a Bank Teller in WICHITA w/ Joel McCrea
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