I actually watched this film on television. It obviously made the theatrical rounds quickly and got put on the ‘Saturday Night Movies’ early.
I liked it.
Directed by Blake Edwards (pick the Pink Panther film of your choice) Sunset is the tale of two legends, one of celluloid and the other of the wild west. Tom Mix (Willis) is making a silent film version of the Gunfight at the OK Corral. Wyatt Earp(Garner) is hired to be the technical advisor for the film. Mix meets and befriends Wyatt and the two team up together to solve a murder mystery.
In real life, Tom Mix did indeed know Wyatt Earp. Wyatt had settled in Hollywood when he was retired. In fact, Mix was such a good friend that he served as a pall bearer at Earp’s funeral. Tom Mix did try to get Hollywood interested in making a film about Earp’s legendary gunfight, but the project fell through.
In Iron Eyes Cody‘s book, My Life as a Hollywood Indian, he talks about Wyatt Earp and says that he, Earp, was only interested in sitting on his front porch and if pressed about his life as a law-man would say he couldn’t remember.
The film was interesting enough with both Garner and Willis turning in good performances. But what made the film special to me is a scene that occurs near the end of the film.
Garner had played Wyatt Earp before in John Sturges‘ Hour of the gun. Towards the end of the film, the silent film that Mix is working on has just ‘re-created’ the OK corral shoot-out. Mix asks Wyatt if they got it right. Earp looks off in the distance and remembers the actual shoot-out.
Using cuts from Sturges’ film, we see what really happened as Wyatt relives it in his mind. Wyatt then looks at Mix and says, “Yeah, just like that.”
That scene is cinematic genius. When we the audience see through Wyatt Earps ‘flashback’ what really happened that infamous day, we see that the silent film comes nowhere near being correct. But what we also see, along with Wyatt, is that the film medium will never be able to capture what really happened. The icing on the metaphorical cake is that we also know that Hollywood has re-created that scene repeatedly.
And there you have it. For me the biggest reason for liking the film was a scene that took up less than a minute of screen time.
Sunset is a good film, nothing to write home about perhaps, but it is still worth a look. If for no other reason than to see Bruce Willis and James Garner, and maybe just for that tiny scene I just mentioned.
- Marshal Wyatt Earp (gamespot.com)
- Sam Raimi saddles up for Wyatt Earp sci-fi film (guardian.co.uk)
- Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (1957) (timneath.wordpress.com)
- Giddyup! Sam Raimi to take on the legend of Wyatt Earp. (popwatch.ew.com)
- This town ain’t big enough for the government and its people (gunnyg.wordpress.com)
- Tuesday Trivia: January 13, 2009 (nebraskapress.typepad.com)