|Law and Order (1932)
Run time: 1h 15min | Western
Director: Edward L. Cahn
Writers: W.R. Burnett, John Huston, Tom Reed, Richard Schayer
Stars: Walter Huston, Harry Carey, Andy Devine
Frame Johnson, “the man who cleaned up Kansas,” arrives in Tombstone ready to settle down and let someone else keep the peace. But the deliberate lawlessness of the Northrup brothers soon changes his mind and he agrees to wear the marshal’s badge. Walter Huston (in a script adapted by son John from the W.R. Burnett novel Saint Johnson) gives a wonderfully understated performance as Frame in this early telling of Wyatt Earp and the Clanton-McLaury gang. It culminates in a finely-edited gunfight at the O.K. Corral. William K. Everson called this “one of the sound cinema’s best and most overlooked Westerns.”
"Law and Order" is one of the first (if not THE first) screen treatment of the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Curiously enough, although the main characters are clearly based on the Earps and the Clantons, they are called by other names. The "Earps", for example, are called Johnson and the "Clantons", Northrup.
All that aside, "Law and Order" is an excellent action packed western from the early sound era. As such, many of the actors were still learning to act for sound. So you will still see many of the exaggerated facial expressions and gestures that were common in silent films. The gunfight sequence is as good as you will ever see.
Walter Huston plays a Wyatt Earp type character called Frame Johnson who with his brother Luther (Russell Hopton) sidekick Deadwood (Raymond Hatton) and a Doc Holiday type character called Brandt (Harry Carey), ride into the lawless town of Tombstone. There they encounter the ruthless Northrup Brothers (Ralph Ince, Harry Woods, Richard Alexander) culminating in the famous gunfight which takes place, for the most part,in the O.K. barn. Along the way, Huston hangs a dim-witted murderer (a very young and very thin Andy Devine).
Huston plays the lead alternatively between a Gary Cooperish style country bumpkin and the no nonsense law enforcer. Carey as always is excellent as the stove pie hatted gambler Brandt. Woods is his usual sneering villain. Also down the cast list is a young Walter Brennan as a saloon worker and perennial bartender Dewey Robinson as, you guessed it, the bartender.
"Law and Order" is an excellent western of this or any other period. It is a pity that it is not more widely available for viewing.
Even though my Encyclopedia of movie Westerns recommends it(calls it underrated)I was a little surprised by how much I liked it. A well constructed story(by John Huston), well defined roles played by great character actors, some good dialogue(when you could make it out), and surprisingly good photography(specially in the bar scenes). So maybe the sound quality was lacking, but remember this movie’s from 1932, only a couple of years into sound. Nevertheless,there’s a neat little gimmick near the end when the good guys are gathering up all the guns from the townspeople. One of the town ladies goes to curse a blue streak at them and just as she’s getting her words out, a stagecoach drives by, muffling her obscenities. The story unfolds in a very predictable manner, but the camera-work and the acting make almost every minute enjoyable. A surprising number of pan-shots and tracking shots for a film of this era, and the deep focus photography in the saloon shots really leave a lasting impression.
A stark and rugged early talkie western, Law and Order stars Walter Huston and Harry Carey, and is basically a fictionalization of the famous gunfight at the OK Corral. The names are changed to protect the innocent(and the guilty) but this is basically the same story. W.R. Burnett’s novel provided the basis for this film. Young John Huston was one of the screenwriters.
Those who think that all early sound movies are chatty comedies and lugubrious soaps ought to take a look at this one. It’s fast-paced and realistic, and ends in a breathtaking and amazingly well-sustained blaze of violence and gunplay. Director Edward Cahn proved himself a master on this one. He mostly directed B’s and short subjects, and yet on this one occasion showed himself the equal of a Ford or a Hawks.
If you are old enough to remember the "oaters" from television in the ’50s, this is one that you wish you had seen. A thinly vieled "Gunfight at the OK Corral" 25 years before the fact with few words, much action and as the shorts used to say "blazing guns". No gratuitous shootimg here. All the bad guys deserved it.