Thursday, July 16, 2015

How Much Is The Wyatt Earp Story Worth?

July 16, 2015
    Got up this morning and took another pass at the splash page illio (Razz slang for illustration) for our big Wyatt Earp October package.

 Daily Whip Out: "Wyatt Earp In Hollywood: The Untold Story
of How The Legend Was Created." 

   The main elements of the Wyatt Earp story seem self-evident today, but it took a whole bunch of time and tinkering with the plot elements to find the winning formula for the hero of Tombstone and the O.K. Corral fight.

The Gunfight at The O.K. Barn?
   After Wyatt's death in 1929 and the publication of Stuart Lake's book "Frontier Marshal" in 1931, movie makers finally began to nibble at the story (Western movies were in their third decade!) One of the first films to take a crack at the Earp-Tombstone story in the 1930s placed the gunfight at "The O.K. Barn." Apparently, the screenwriter, or a producer, believed a corral wasn't quite dramatic enough, or, worthy of a showdown. There would be other tweaks along the way, but once the formula was honed in on, the floodgates opened and a whole bunch of people got rich on the story of the "flawless" lawman Wyatt Earp. 

   Granted, the dude was not flawless, and, if you have been reading the excerpts from the Flood manuscript here, you know why his middle initials are B.S. (Wyatt Barry Stapp Earp). But, in spite of the ridiculousness of Earp's efforts to tell his story—complete with all the bogus exaggerating (he did not hold off the Johnny Behind The Deuce mob all by himself, in fact, Johnny Behan was a major combatant on Earp's side!), still Wyatt Earp did do some amazing bold and brave things, such as:

• He worked the Kansas cowtowns with nerve and professional bravery. How many billiard halls would you go into, where drunk Texan cowboys were itching for a fight, and take out a miscreant who has been causing trouble—and take him out in front of his friends!—and, if he gave you any lip, hit him over the head to subdue him and arrest him? Earp did this on a regular basis in both Wichita and Dodge City and he was fearless, according to his fellow policeman Bat Masterson.

• The Walk Down: would you walk a block and a half to face off with men who had threatened your life? I, personally would walk a block-and-a-half the other way, to report them to the authorities. No, let me amend that: I would run the block-and-a-half.

  And I could go on, but you get my drift: the man had sand. So,

How About Some Justice for The Man Who Helped Bring Justice to The Sagebrush? 
   Since the early 1930s, the Wyatt Earp story has been told a thousand times in a thousand ways. Hundreds of books have been published, some 35 movies have been made—so far—and there have been several TV series (in addition to "The Life And Legend of Wyatt Earp" there were knock offs, like "Tombstone Territory" which was the Wyatt Earp story in every way except in name, and, of course, Matt Dillon in "Gunsmoke" is obviously based on Wyatt). Then there are the toys, a thousand magazine articles (most of them in True West), and even subdivisions with his name on them, and yet, the real Wyatt Earp never received a dime for any of it. Doesn't really seem right, does it?

 In recent years, the producers of the TV series "Vegas" paid the sheriff, the late Ralph Lamb, a cool $2 million to use his name and likeness in the series. So, by today's standards, here is how the estate of Wyatt Earp should have paid out:

Wyatt Earp—the lion's share—$12.5 million for story rights, 15% per anum residuals on any future films, and toy merchandising to be negotiated.

Sadie Earp—$4 million, co-writing scale $60,000, plus $20k for each rewrite)

John Flood—$750,000, as a ghost writer and for putting up with Sadie.

Daily Whip Out: "Wyatt And Sadie Bicker Over The Modern Evaluation of Their Estate"

   I can't prove Wyatt Earp liked comic strips, but I think I know which strip he and Sadie would be right at home in.

"See you in the Funny Pages."
—Every Smart Ass Who Ever Came Out of Kingman, Arizona

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