PRINTING THE LEGENDS: WYATT & THE DUKE BY PATRICK CIRILLO
Patrick Cirillo opens his debut, Wyatt & The Duke, with a seventy-nine year old Wyatt Earp telling the story of O.K. Corral Gunfight in a 1927 speakeasy. The focus is not so much on the the story as how Wyatt chooses to tell it so he can get the patrons to buy him a few drinks. It sets up the main theme as we follow an aging legend cross paths with a young man who will become one, carrying on the ideals and character of the wild west mythos.
Wyatt and his wife Sadie find themselves scraping by in L.A. after making and blowing fortunes since the Tombstone days. The only thing they have left to mine is the Earp legend which is fading. They hit pay dirt when hot director Billy Desmond wants to make a picture based on his life. The one hurdle is that Desmond has picked a gangly unknown prop boy and stuntman who can't even hold a gun right for the lead, Marion Morrison, who goes by Duke.
Wyatt will have to teach Duke to be a western hero. The two don't hit it off immediately. Duke proves to be a brash kid and Wyatt shows little patience. However both realize this is there big shot and stick with it. Duke gets taken in by the parties and fast Hollywood life. He becomes involved with with a famed actress and friend of Billy's, Mabel Norris. Unfortunately, her jealous ex is Jack Solomon of the Solomon Brothers Gang, who control most of the town's narcotics trade. Things escalate to murder and the young actor must apply what he learned and the old lawman must face one last showdown.
Cirillo, a veteran screenwriter and producer, paints an impressionistic look at Hollywood in transition through the characters and their haunts. It's street level Babylon where even the name actors and directors are employees. All our players take advantage of it being town of reinvention that puts more value on myth than truth. Disruption happens when reality occurs.
Wyatt may be prone to this the most as a man with more past than future. He is willing to to sell his history, knowing he isn't the hero he was or maybe even was thought as. With Duke, we get the likable, earnest young man with the work ethic that has been documented in many accounts. Cirillo takes license with some facts to tell is story, but this is about mythology, not history. The story becomes a relationship about a legendary western figure who influences someone who will become a legendary actor who will affect how we view that figure's times.
Wyatt & The Duke is a fast tight tale that moves towards it' conclusion of Tommy Guns versus Winchesters on a movie replica Tombstone. All of the characters get their share of the spotlight and the action and motivations are clear. Some producer should snap it up. Kurt Russell is in his seventies.