Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Allen Barra on Kevin Jarre's Tombstone

April 27, 2011
My good friend Allen Barra weighs in on Kevin Jarre's version of Tombstone. He starts off by reacting to a string of posts on my original blog of Jarre's passing, where Unforgiven implies that perhaps the version of the movie "Tombstone" we ended up with, is better than Kevin's version, since we all love the movie:

I can’t entirely agree with Unforgiv’s post. The fact is that we loved and still love Tombstone not because of its limitations but IN SPITE of them. As I wrote in my book, Inventing Wyatt Earp, Jarre’s script (a copy of which he sent me shortly after the debacle of his firing when I interviewed him for the Los Angeles Times) is “the great unread Wyatt Earp novel.”

Who would not have wanted to see Robert Mitchum (whose voice survives over the opening and closing credits) as Old Man Clanton? Who wouldn’t have wanted to see the precise, more accurate version of the Vendetta Ride instead of the bloodbath that George Cosmatos imposed on the film?

More to the point, who wouldn’t have wanted to see some of the scenes that we’ve seen restored to the film? In the so-called “director’s cut,” Val Kilmer’s Doc leaves Kate (Joanna Pacula) to join Wyatt and asks her rhetorically, “Well, dahlin, have you no kind words as I ride away?” echoing the lyric from Frankie Lane’s rendition of Gunfight at the OK Corral.

I have seen rushes from Tombstone before Jarre was fired, and there’s one terrific sequence that definitely should be inserted. When Kurt Russell’s Wyatt finds out his horse has been stolen as a prank by Thomas Haden Church’s Billy Clanton, he rides out to retrieve the animal and finds himself unarmed and surrounded by Cowboys. Russell says something like “There’s no harm, kid. I even got mixed up in this kind of thing when I was your age,” thus adding a bit of Wyatt’s own personal history.

When the Cowboys surround Wyatt, Powers Boothe’s Curly Bill says, “C’mon, boys, let’s show his some hospitality. His brother’s the marshal. maybe we can all live and let live” – a line that should have reverberated when, later in the existing film, Bill Paxton’s Morgan says, “Let and let live, huh Wyatt?” It’s the only time in the movie we actually see the Cowboys do what they did: cattle rustling.

It’s important for yet another reason: Wyatt meets Sherm McMasters (Michael Rooker) and asks him why he’s involved with such a mob of cattle thieves. It’s Wyatt’s first and only scene with McMasters before Morgan and Virgil are shot. Rooker’s McMasters replies, “You’ve got your brothers, but these men are my brothers to the bone,” The line sets up Wyatt’s “Brothers to the bone, eh McMasters?” But since their first meeting was cut, we don’t know what it refers to.

With luck, some day in the future Jarre’s original script as he wrote it will finally be filmed in the way it should have been intended by Jarre all along: as a mini-series.

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