Wyatt Earp (Joel McCrea) arrives in the small town of Wichita, which is quickly growing due to the new railroad line. While opening up a bank account, a group of criminals try to rob the bank, but Wyatt Earp stops them. This all happens to go down right in front of some of the most powerful businessman in town and they quickly try to convince Earp to become the Sheriff. Earp refuses saying he has no interest but later when a young boy is killed by accident by a group of drunken rowdy cowboys, Earp willingly decides to take up the duties as the lawman of Wichita. Jacques Tourneur's Wichita tells the story of Wyatt Earp (Joel McCrea) and his efforts to bring law and order to the town of Wichita, Kansas. Its a rather standard story for a western, but Tourneur really uses this story to explore some interesting themes. For starters, the film really is a meditation on the corruption which money can cause. The business men of the town willingly invite a more dangerous clientale to the town for the sake of revenue, which can be brought in by these cowboys and the rambunctious sort. Tourneur does a great job of making sure all the various characters, including the villians, are well defined with real motives and a sense of humanity no matter how mean-spiriited they come. With this attention to character detail, the film ends up feeling incredibly authentic and geniune. The characters are very hospitable to one and other, even when they clearly don't like each other. The saloons and rowdy nature of alcoholism which ran rampant in the west among cowboys is really shown in a realistic gritty light, being not nearly as celebratory as many western films seem to be. The only minor criticism I would have is that the love story does feel a tacked on, and almost completely unnecessary in telling this story. Its not terrible, but rather just cliche compared to everything else in this film. In the End, Wichita is a stunning film in that Tourneur takes a very classic pulp western type story but layers some very interesting commentaries on alcholism, greed, and how they are all intertwined into Law and Order. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that the theme song or whatever you want to call it of the film is fantastic.
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