“I’ll tell you a story, a real life story, a tale of the western frontier. The West, it was lawless, but one man was flawless, and his is the story you’ll hear. Wyatt Earp, brave, courageous, and bold. Long live his fame and long live his glory, and long may his story be told.”
The catchy theme to The Life And Legend Of Wyatt Earp was written by Harold Adamson and Harry Warren. It was sung by The Ken Darby Singers. It set you up for the adventure and heroics that were to follow for the next 26 minutes in 1955 for anyone lucky enough to have a television set. The series was one of the first of television’s serial dramas. It used ongoing story arcs and complicated relationships to tell a story that evolved over the six years it was to be on the air. While the series was based on the writings of the real Wyatt Earp, there was nothing biographical about this show. Wyatt did carry his trademark Buntline Special 45’s with an extended barrel, and he was the sheriff of Ellsworth, Kansas. But little else of this tale was true. Even the actual setting changed to the more glamorous Dodge City after a couple of seasons. Of course, television viewers weren’t buying any of that. They knew the real law was Marshall Dillon, and in case they might have forgotten, Gunsmoke was on every week to remind them. By the show’s last season Wyatt had migrated to Tombstone, Arizona and his fateful encounters with the Clantons and a certain corral.
Hugh O’Brian played the famous lawman and future island castaway Denver Pyle played Ben Thompson in the first season. The show ran from 1955 to 1961 and followed the standard western formula. Usually there were some real tough dudes causing trouble, and Earp had to get the drop on ‘em. The series was black and white and looks okay for such an old series. It doesn’t ever match up to the more mainstream shows like Gunsmoke or Rawhide, but it’s a nice nostalgic diversion for a not so steep price.
“This is the beginning of the story of Wyatt Earp, the greatest of the old fighting peace officers, a real western hero”.