Hour of the Gun is a 1967 Western film depicting Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday during their 1881 battles against Ike Clanton and his brothers in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and the gunfight's aftermath in and around Tombstone, Arizona, starring James Garner as Earp, Jason Robards as Holliday, and Robert Ryan as Clanton. The movie was directed by John Sturges.
The picture is based on the non-fiction book Tombstone's Epitaph by Douglas D. Martin, with a screenplay by Edward Anhalt. This film attempts more historical accuracy than most motion picture accounts of the events, in that Ike Clanton is shown, correctly, to have survived the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, whereas previous films had him killed at the gunfight. The movie goes on to explore what happened after the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral; Sturges had also directed a film called Gunfight at the O.K. Corral a decade earlier starring Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas.
Outnumbered but determined, Wyatt Earp (James Garner), his brothers Virgil (Frank Converse) and Morgan (Sam Melville) and ally Doc Holliday (Jason Robards) confront and clearly get the best of the Ike Clanton gang in a violent shootout at the O.K. Corral in the Arizona town of Tombstone.
Ike (Robert Ryan), a rustler, conspires to have the Earps charged with murder and tried in a court of law. When they are cleared, Virgil runs for Tombstone City Sheriff, but is ambushed and maimed by some of Clanton's hired guns. Morgan elects to take the job in his brother's place, but, unlike his brother, he is killed.
Doc Holliday, a gambler who has been on the wrong side of the law himself more than once, is terminally ill with tuberculosis and is admitted into a Colorado sanitarium. Earp intends to clear out of Tombstone with what's left of his family and move to California, but changes his mind upon being appointed a federal marshal for the territory.
Guns blazing, Earp and his posse ruthlessly hunt and kill various members of Clanton's gang. He rides to Mexico for a final showdown with Ike, shooting him dead. He makes one last trip to Holliday's death bed to say goodbye to his unlikely friend, then hangs up his badge and guns for good.
The movie can be seen as a sequel of sorts to John Sturges's fictionalized film from ten years earlier, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which had featured Burt Lancaster as Earp and Kirk Douglas as Holliday. However, it cannot be considered a direct sequel as Ike Clanton is killed at the end of the earlier film (during the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral itself). In Hour of the Gun, Clanton not only survives the gunfight, but is a major antagonist thereafter. Where Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is more about the main gun battle, this film begins with the gunfight and moves forward from there. Because Hal B. Wallis had scripted everything in the earlier Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Sturges was disappointed with that film. Hour of the Gun is more of a psychological "melancholy character study".
James Garner also played the lead as Wyatt Earp in a different movie filmed more than two decades later, Blake Edwards's Sunset (1988), a comedy thriller based on the 1920s period during which Earp was a technical adviser for silent films. Bruce Willis, in his second theatrical film, portrays Tom Mix. The film's music is composed by Jerry Goldsmith.
Hour of the Gun was filmed in the state of Durango, Mexico; at Estudios Churubusco Azteca (studio) in Mexico City, México D.F., Mexico; San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico; and in Torreón, Coahuíla, Mexico.
Bruce Elder, at Allmovie, calls Garner's portrayal of Earp as "taciturn, emotionally repressed, deeply troubled and torn", but criticizes Edward Anhalt's script as being too strict to historical facts and confining the actors, especially Garner. Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times, says: "Garner turns in one of his best performances."
Hour of the Gun was released to DVD by MGM Home Video May 17, 2005.