TOMBSTONE: THE TOWN TOO TOUGH TO DIE (1942) is an entertaining spin on the Wyatt Earp story, with Richard Dix as the legendary lawman.
The film reunited Dix with Kent Taylor, his costar in MEN AGAINST THE SKY (1940), which was reviewed here last week. Taylor plays Doc Holliday, with Rex Bell and Harvey Stephens as Virgil and Morgan Earp. Victor Jory plays villain Ike Clanton.
In this telling Wyatt helps to reform Johnny Duane (Don Castle), a young man who's fallen into league with the Clantons and another outlaw, Curly Bill (Edgar Buchanan). Earp appeals to Johnny's innate decency by placing his trust in him, and he later works to reunite Johnny with Johnny's hometown love, Ruth (Frances Gifford).
I liked Richard Dix in this more than I have in some other films; he unbends a little in this one, playing Wyatt as a genial fellow, confident in himself and in the backing of his brothers and Doc.
The gunfight at the OK Corral is very nicely staged; I loved a shot from down low in the street of the Earps and Doc walking out of the saloon, checking their gun belts as they go. The sound of the men's boots advancing ever closer strikes fear in the heart of the Clanton gang, and the gunfight takes place at point-blank range, which was interesting.
As it happens, the OK Corral fight is simply setting the stage for a much bigger gun battle which closes out the film, shot amidst the rocks of the Alabama Hills.
The movie has a nice sense of style, including some evocative music heard at the theater in Tombstone. One of the quartet members singing "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen" is Thurl Ravenscroft, the voice of Tony the Tiger and a familiar voice at several attractions at Disneyland.
An interesting if sad footnote is that Beryl Wallace, who plays the dance hall singer Queenie, would die, along with Broadway producer Earl Carroll, in a plane crash in 1948.
1948 was also a bad year for Long Beach native Frances Gifford, who was nearly killed in a car accident. She gradually recovered, but her career dwindled to a close within a few years of the crash. Gifford lived until 1994.
Based on a still found online, seen at the right, at least some of Gifford's part in TOMBSTONE ended up on the cutting-room floor.
Gifford had bounced around among several studios, including Paramount (where she was a lovely nurse encountered by Alan Ladd in THE GLASS KEY), Republic (where she starred in the serial JUNGLE GIRL), and RKO (where she played an artist in Disney's THE RELUCTANT DRAGON). After making TOMBSTONE she would soon sign with MGM, where she was a leading lady in films such as OUR VINES HAVE TENDER GRAPES (1945), THE ARNELO AFFAIR (1947), and LUXURY LINER (1948).
The supporting cast of TOMBSTONE includes Chris-Pin Martin, Roy Barcroft, Jimmie Dodd, Donald Curtis, and Charles Halton.
TOMBSTONE: THE TOWN TOO TOUGH TO DIE was directed by William C. McGann and photographed in black and white by Russell Harlan. It runs 79 minutes.
The script by several writers was based on a book by Walter Noble Burns.
Like Dix's THE ROUNDUP (1941), reviewed a couple of weeks ago, TOMBSTONE is is yet another Paramount film owned by Universal. Like so many Paramount films of the era, it's long been held out of circulation. These decades-old films which are part of our American cultural heritage deserve to be available so that new audiences can discover and enjoy them.
Thanks to John Knight for making it possible for me to see this film.
Wyatt Earp movies previously reviewed at Laura's Miscellaneous Musings: FRONTIER MARSHAL (1939), MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946), WINCHESTER '73 (1950), GUN BELT (1953), MASTERSON OF KANSAS (1954), DAWN AT SOCORRO (1954), WICHITA (1955), and BADMAN'S COUNTRY (1958).