Geer as Earp


I've seen quite a few threads on here complaining about Will Geer as Wyatt Earp. I, too, initially thought it was a mistake. Earp is supposed to be some cold-blooded, bad ass killer. Geer played him as a congenial, nice guy. It just didn't seem to fit the legend.

Then I remembered that Earp was the product of a legend of his own making. The movie was made 21 years after his death. His legend would have been on the wan in Hollywood, so they didn't have the reverence for him that we have today. He was the last survivor of the characters we know from the Tombstone years. He related his story to several journalists and his story was written about back East. However, the majority of his legend came from his own mouth. Its quite possible he exaggerated his role in things or just plain made stuff up. Sure, he probably was a stone cold killer, but the movie takes place sometime during 1876. Tombstone and the OK Corral were still 5 years off (1881). Is it possible his reputation as a steely-eyed guy was really an exaggeration of his laid back, down-home style.

Just saying. History is written by the winners. Maybe the Cowboys or others might have a different view of Earp. Either way, I think the character itself was misplaced in this movie. The sheriff didn't have to be Earp as he was not essential to the plot. I'd be curious to know what the director's and Geer's thought process was on this.

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I too initially thought that the portrayal of Wyatt Earp was... unusual, but as someone pointed out in another thread, Wyatt was portrayed as something of a surrogate father figure early in the story, and having thought it over, the portrayal works well enough within the context of the story.

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The main issue I saw was Earp was 28 in 1876 and Geer 48 in 1950. Just like in High Noon (1952) the actor was too old to play the character properly. At least he had a mustache. 

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