Hour of the Gun (1967): John Sturges Western, Starring James Garner, Jason Robards, Robert Ryan

John Sturges directed The Hour of the Gun as a sequel to his Gunfight at the O.K. Carroll, a huge box office hit in 1958, starring Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster

Heavy on dialogue, this is more of a psychological character study than an action-oriented Western, though the few shoots out are meaningful and well-staged, as expected of an expert action maestro like Sturges.

Edward Anhalt screenplay, based on Douglas D. Martin’s Tombstone’s Epitaph, traces Wyatt Earp’s (James Garner) moral decline from a lawman with high ideals to a mean-spirited vigilante, filled with bitter hatred and bent on personal revenge.

Ironically, Doc Holliday (Jason Robards), an admitted lawless gambler, reacts to Earp’s vengeful turnabout by becoming the moral force that Earp has rejected.

When Earp’s brothers are killed by goons employed by Ike Clanton (Robert Ryan), Earp becomes obsessed with vengeance and organizes a posse to track down the killers.

The story of Earp has been told several times, and it’s hard to tell why, despite the critical acclaim, this version failed at the box-office. Was the tone too contemplative and melancholic for 1967, when the country was in the midst of the Vietnam War? Was it too conventional in its classic visual strategy?

No matter, over the years, the movie has grown in stature and now has its many loyal followers.

And you can’t fault the ensemble, composed of James Garner, Jason Robards, and Robert Ryan, all iconic actors then at their prime.

Released by United Artists

Release Date: November 1, 1967

Running time: 100 Minutes


I am grateful to Turner Classic Movies (TCM) for showing the Western in its entirety on July 13, 2016.