Casting Burt Lancaster Was A Requirement To Get Kirk Douglas For Gunfight At The O.K. Corral

Kirk Dogulas goes on to clarify that while he and Burt Lancaster had worked together on “I Walk Alone” a decade prior, it was on the Paramount Ranch sets of “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” that they grew closer as friends:

“After the day’s shooting in Tucson, and dinner at the hotel, we would just sit around and talk for hours. Almost every night, we talked for hours. Sometimes it would be one-thirty or two in the morning before we said, ‘Hey, we’d better go to bed. We’ve got to get up and shoot tomorrow.'”

It all felt a bit cliquish to Hal Wallis, who Douglas remembers as “a rather taciturn, lonely fellow” who would ask what their evening chats were all about. The question confused Douglas, who saw endless conversation as a byproduct of a solid friendship rather than some great mystery. For Douglas, the camaraderie with his co-star correlates with the element that drew him to the story in the first place. “The success of ‘Gunfight at the O.K. Corral,'” he observes, “really depended on the love between the two men, which has been the most important theme in many movies –- starring Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Robert Redford and Paul Newman.”

For these two men, each with their own knowing star persona, their uncomplicated offscreen rapport married easily to Lancaster’s towering older-sibling charisma and Douglas’ stiff-jawed stoicism brought to their respective roles. The resulting alliance seen in John Sturges’ feature stands in contrast to one of Wyatt Earp’s maxims, uttered to a baby-faced gunslinger (played by a baby-faced Dennis Hopper), that “all gunfighters are lonely.” By the time of his death in 2020, Douglas had 40 years and seven films’ worth of friendship with Lancaster.

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