Saturday, April 27, 2013

WICHITA (1955)

Buffalo hunter Wyatt Earp (McCrea) has a run-in with some cowboys movin' a herd not too far outside of the lawless town of Wichita.  Earp moves on into Wichita and within just a few hours he stops a bank robbery.  The mayor hits him up to be the sheriff, but he's not interested.  He just wants to open up a business and live a quite life.  Things change though when those same cowboys ride into town, get properly boozed up and start shooting at anything and everything...including a 5 year old boy standing at his window.  Earp takes the job.

Some people might complain (and rightfully so) that 50 year-old McCrea was too old to play the role of a young 27 year-old Earp, especially since his love interest is the strikingly beautiful 26 year-old Vera Miles, but when it's all said and done...I really enjoyed McCrea's performance.  He's always been one of my favorite actors and he does another excellent job here.  In fact everybody does an excellent job, the only weak link in the entire film was that goofy song sang over the opening and closing credits.  It was painful, but still really funny.  Sorry Tex Ritter fans.

Fast pace, impressive supporting cast full of familiar faces (including Lloyd Bridges, Wallace Ford, Peter Graves, Jack Elam, Edgar Buchanan, Walter Coy, Walter Sande and others including a brief on-screen appearance by a young Sam Peckinpah), nice photography, solid direction by Jacques Tourneur.  All said and done WICHITA is a nice little western.  Recommended.

One interesting thing I found out after watching the film was in 1959 there was a spin-off WICHITA TV show called "Wichita Town" that featured not only McCrea, but his real-life son Jody McCrea.  It aired on NBC and the network was so confident in it's success they didn't even have a pilot episode, they just aired it!  Unfortunately it had a bad time slot and there was already a glut of westerns on the air so it was cancelled after only 24 episodes.  I'd be interested in seeing an episode.