Frontier Marshal (1939 film)

Frontier Marshal is a 1939 western film directed by Allan Dwan and starring Randolph Scott as Wyatt Earp. The movie is the second film produced by Sol M. Wurtzel based on Stuart N. Lake's biography of Earp, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal (later found to be largely fictionalized). An earlier version was Wurtzel's Frontier Marshal, filmed in 1934. The film was remade by John Ford in 1946, My Darling Clementine, which included whole scenes reshot from the 1939 film.

Frontier Marshal
Directed byAllan Dwan
Produced bySol M. Wurtzel
Written bySam Hellman
Stuart Anthony
William M. Conselman
Based onWyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal
1931 novel
by Stuart N. Lake
StarringRandolph Scott
Nancy Kelly
Cesar Romero
Binnie Barnes
Music bySamuel Kaylin
Charles Maxwell
David Raksin
Walter Scharf
CinematographyCharles G. Clarke
Edited byFred Allen
20th Century Fox
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • July 28, 1939 (1939-07-28)
Running time
71 min.
CountryUnited States

Frontier Marshal co-stars Nancy Kelly, Cesar Romero as "Doc Halliday" (the name was changed for the film from the original "Holliday" because of fear of a lawsuit from Holliday's family), John Carradine, and Lon Chaney, Jr.. Ward Bond appears as the town marshal; Bond was also in the 1934 version, and later appears as Morgan Earp in Ford's film. Eddie Foy, Jr. plays the large supporting role of his father, entertainer Eddie Foy, in this as well as three other feature films, and looked almost exactly like his famous father.


In Tombstone, Arizona saloonkeeper Ben Carter (John Carradine) owns, the sheriff is unwilling to stop Indian Charlie (Charles Stevens) from shooting up the place, so new arrival Wyatt Earp (Randolph Scott) does. Earp is beaten by some of Carter's hired men for taking the law into his own hands.

Dance hall girl Jerry (Binnie Barnes), is upset with Earp, so when her sweetheart Doc Halliday (Caesar Romero) gets to town, a showdown seems imminent. Earp and Doc instead become friends. Earp takes over as the lawman in town and also tries to convince Doc's former sweetheart Sarah Allen (Nancy Kelly) that their relationship can still work out.

The two men work together after visiting entertainer Eddie Foy (Eddie Foy Jr.) is kidnapped, and also when Jerry joins forces with Carter to plan the robbery of a gold shipment. Doc is forced to perform surgery to save a life, then is shot in the back by Carter. Earp avenges his friend's death and Jerry leaves.



The movie was based on Stuart Lake's book, Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshall, published two years after Earp's death in 1929. Prior to his death, his wife Sadie and he had gone to great lengths to keep her name out of the book, and she threatened litigation to keep it that way.[1]:101

In 1934, she had successfully forced the producers to excise her husband's name from the first movie. In 1939, Josephine Earp sued 20th Century Fox for $50,000 in an attempt to keep them from making the second film titled Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal. With the provision that Wyatt's name be removed from the title, and after receiving a $5,000 settlement,[2] the movie was released as Frontier Marshal.[3]

In Los Angeles, Josephine became friends with many celebrities, including Cecil B. DeMille and Gary Cooper. She received part of the money made by Stuart Lake's book about her husband as well as royalties from the movie.[3]


  1. Rosa, Joseph G. (1979) [1969]. The Gunfighter: Man or Myth? (illustrated, revised ed.). Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 978-0-8061-1561-0. LCCN 68-31378.
  2. Faragher, John Mack (1996). Carnes, Marck C. (ed.). Past Imperfect: History According to the Movies. The Tale of Wyatt Earp: Seven Films". New York: Heny Holt.
  3. Hutton, Paul (Summer 1995). "Showdown at the Hollywood Corral, Wyatt Earp and the Movies". Montana the Magazine of Western History. 45 (3): 2–31.
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