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FRONTIER MARSHAL(director: Allan Dwan; screenwriters: from the novel “Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal” by Stuart N. Lake/Sam Hellman; cinematographer: Charles G. Clarke; editors: Fred Allen/Robert Bischoff; music: Samuel Kaylin/Charles Maxwell/David Raksin/Walter Scharf; cast: Randolph Scott (Wyatt Earp), Cesar Romero (John ‘Doc’ Halliday), Nancy Kelly (Sarah Allen), Binnie Barnes (Jerry), John Carradine (Ben Carter), Eddie Foy Jr. (Eddie Foy), Ward Bond (Town Marshal), Curley Bill (Joe Sawyer), Harry Hayden (Mayor John Henderson), Lon Chaney Jr. (Pringle), Ventura Ybarra (Pablo), Charles Stevens (Indian Charlie); Runtime: 71; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sol M. Wurtzel; Twentieth Century-Fox; 1939)
“The first sound film helmed by Allan Dwan.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The first sound film helmed by Allan Dwan (“Suez”/Robin Hood”/”The Iron Mask”) is a sturdy remake of Lew Seiler’s Frontier Marshal (1934). It was followed by John Ford’s superior and more ambitious My Darling Clementine (1946). They were all based on the novel “Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal” by Stuart N. Lake. This more romanticized programmer version of the Earp legacy, is written by Sam Hellman.

In the late 19th century, Wyatt Earp (Randolph Scott) brings law and order to unruly Tombstone, a newly created mining town in the Arizona Territory, as he’s sworn in as marshal by the stagecoach owner and mayor (Harry Hayden) when he’s the only one in town with the guts to confront Indian Charlie (Charles Stevens) and arrest him after he shot a cowboy in the Palace saloon. With the help of the consumptive card shark and gunslinger John ‘Doc’ Halliday (Cesar Romero), Earp gets the bad guy treacherous owner of the Palace, Ben Carter (John Carradine), to toe the line. When Doc’s nice high-class nurse girlfriend from back East, Sarah Allen (Nancy Kelly), arrives unexpectedly in Tombstone, Doc sends her away because he doesn’t want her saddled with a dying sick man. But Earp talks her into staying, and tells her low-class saloon gal Jerry (Binnie Barnes), Doc’s companion, doesn’t mean anything to him.

When Jerry, who hates Earp, overhears the stagecoach owner ask Earp to ride shotgun on the stage to Bisbee because of a big money shipment, she tips off Carter and the only payment she wants is if Carter’s boy Curley Bill (Joe Sawyer) kills Earp. Also riding the stage is Doc, wanting to flee from his two women. Together Doc and Earp foil the robbery attempt by Curley Bill and his gang, but Doc gets winged in the arm. He’s patched up in town by Sarah, but is soon called to perform a critical operation on Pablo, the saloon worker’s son who was shot when walking in the street as Curley Bill started firing at the marshal. After using a razor blade to save the boy’s life because there was no scalpel available, Doc is killed by Curley Bill when he steps out of the saloon after the operation. Then Curley Bill and his gang challenge Earp to a gun duel at the O.K. Corral. It results in Earp taking care of the gang by himself with a little unexpected help from Jerry. After the dust clears, Earp winds up with Doc’s Sarah and the rest is history (or, shall we say fictionalized history).

Charles Stevens plays the same part of the drunken Indian in both this film and My Darling Clementine. Eddie Foy Jr. has a good comic relief role playing his famous comedian father.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”