Thursday, June 26, 2014

American Heroes Channel steps up production quality and research with "Gunslingers" premiering July 20

A history resource article by  © 2014

A week ago I received an invitation to review a new documentary series, "Gunslingers", that is slated to premiere on the American Heroes Channel (formerly the Military Channel) on July 20, 2014.  The first episode examines the life of the legendary Wyatt Earp.  Castle Pictures, who produced this docudrama series for AHC, recalls the life of each of these larger than life characters from the Old West by having the individual narrate (via a professional actor) the events of his life. AHC assures us that great care has been taken to verify the accuracy of the information presented.

WYATT EARP: World Premiere Sunday, July 20 at 10/9c
A reimagined Wyatt Earp.  Image courtesy of  the
American Heroes Channel.

"Tombstone was one of the Wild West’s most infamous settlements. The town’s powder keg of competing interests explodes, culminating in the legendary gunfight at the O.K. Corral. When the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday confront a group of cowboys demanding they surrender their arms, the cowboys opt to use them instead… and three of them wind up dead. But the gunfight is just the beginning of the story. In its wake, Wyatt’s two beloved brothers are shot down, prompting him and Doc to go on a “ride of revenge.” This is the true story of Wyatt Earp: the town-taming marshal who sacrificed everything to bring his own kind of justice and order to the American West." - American Heroes Channel
Since I've seen the movie "Tombstone", I was pretty familiar with the events portrayed in this first segment. In fact, Kurt Russell, who played Wyatt Earp in the Hollywood film and is apparently an avid admirer of Earp and has studied Earp's life extensively, provides some of the commentary in this episode.

There were two incidents related in the docudrama, however, that I either had forgotten or were not mentioned in the Hollywood film. Doc Holliday, along with the rest of Earp's posse, apparently retreated during a gunfight with a group of cowboys that Earp's posse stumbled across while hunting for Morgan Earp's killers.   This left Earp alone and practically defenseless with his gunbelt around his knees because he had loosened his belt while riding to be more comfortable.  Earp still managed to kill one of the men who was thought to have been involved in Morgan's murder and somehow mystically escaped being wounded in any way. He later spreads his arms to show his bullet riddled coat to the astounded posse and they could hardly believe what they were seeing.

I was also unaware of Earp's apparent friendship with a very young John Wayne.  I know I saw a movie once (Sunset) where Earp in his twilight years (played by James Garner) is serving as a technical consultant in Hollywood for Republic Pictures and becomes a kind of sidekick of Tom Mix (played by Bruce Willis). Apparently Earp really did finish his career in this way.

Although this series covers similar material explored in the 2008 History Channel series "Outlaws and Gunslingers" (except for extensive coverage of John Wesley Hardin and Tom Horn) and omits some of the seedier activities of Wyatt Earp, I found the series a well crafted production and look forward to seeing future episodes examining the lives of Billy The Kid, Jesse James, Wild Bill Hickok, John Wesley Hardin and Tom Horn.

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