Sunset (1988): A Western Mix Earp

I actually watched this film on television. It obviously made the theatrical rounds quickly and got put on the ‘Saturday Night Movies’ early.

I liked it.

The film had the amazing (to me anyway) partnering of Bruce Willis and James Garner. As I am huge fans of both, it was a winning combination.

Directed by Blake Edwards (pick the Pink Panther film of your choice) Sunset is the tale of two legends, one of celluloid and the other of the wild west. Tom Mix (Willis) is making a silent film version of the Gunfight at the OK Corral. Wyatt Earp(Garner) is hired to be the technical advisor for the film. Mix meets and befriends Wyatt and the two team up together to solve a murder mystery.

Tom Mix, the True King of the Cowboys

In real life, Tom Mix did indeed know Wyatt Earp. Wyatt had settled in Hollywood when he was retired. In fact, Mix was such a good friend that he served as a pall bearer at Earp’s funeral. Tom Mix did try to get Hollywood interested in making a film about Earp’s legendary gunfight, but the project fell through.

0319 - Wyatt Earp born
0319 – Wyatt Earp born (Photo credit: Bradford Timeline)

In Iron Eyes Cody‘s book, My Life as a Hollywood Indian, he talks about Wyatt Earp and says that he, Earp, was only interested in sitting on his front porch and if pressed about his life as a law-man would say he couldn’t remember.

The film was interesting enough with both Garner and Willis turning in good performances. But what made the film special to me is a scene that occurs near the end of the film.

Garner had played Wyatt Earp before in John SturgesHour of the gun. Towards the end of the film, the silent film that Mix is working on has just ‘re-created’ the OK corral shoot-out. Mix asks Wyatt if they got it right. Earp looks off in the distance and remembers the actual shoot-out.

Using cuts from Sturges’ film, we see what really happened as Wyatt relives it in his mind. Wyatt then looks at Mix and says, “Yeah, just like that.”

That scene is cinematic genius. When we  the audience see through Wyatt Earps ‘flashback’ what really happened that infamous day, we see that the silent film comes nowhere near being correct. But what we also see, along with Wyatt, is that the film medium will never be able to capture what really happened. The icing on the metaphorical cake is that we also know that Hollywood has re-created that scene repeatedly.

Cover of "Hour of the Gun"
Cover of Hour of the Gun

And there you have it. For me the biggest reason for liking the film was a scene that took up less than a minute of screen time.

Sunset is a good film, nothing to write home about perhaps, but it is still worth a look. If for no other reason than to see Bruce Willis and James Garner, and maybe just for that tiny scene I just mentioned.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

16 thoughts on “Sunset (1988): A Western Mix Earp”

  1. It’s good to find someone else that appreciates this film. I remain a big James Garner fan, and that scene you point out was just a fantastic homage to the event covered so many times in film. ‘Sunset’ doesn’t get the respect it should, partly because many of Blake Edwards later films were regularly interfered with by the studios. It has a solid cast and is a fun ride.

    Remember that wonderful voiceover, by Robert Mitchum, in the wonderful 1993 film Tombstone? I think of this film when I see it:

    The Red Sash Cowboy Gang was broken forever. Ike Clanton was shot and killed two years later during an attempted robbery. Mattie died of a drug overdose shortly after she left Tombstone. Virgil and Allie Earp moved to California where Virgil, despite the use of only one arm, became a town sheriff. Wyatt and Josephine embarked on a series of adventures. Up or down, thin or flush, in 47 years they never left each other’s side. Wyatt Earp died in Los Angeles in 1929. Among the pallbearers at his funeral, were early western stars William S. Hart and Tom Mix. Tom Mix wept.”

    Well done, Mike.


    1. Thank you very much kind sir! I still love this film. I sat here and read your vo (with Mitchum’s laconic voice in my mind and got goose bumps) You have excellent taste in film!! Thanks again and thanks for the follow


    2. This is one of our favorite films. We own it, but will always watch it when it pops up on cable. Great script, wonderful casting, and just enough truth (give or take a lie or two) to make it plausibly implausible.


    3. S.O.B. made Blake Edwards VERY unpopular in Hollywood. Probably it hit a little too close to home. Another one of our favorites. Holden gives his own eulogy in the movie.


      1. I absolutely love ‘S.O.B’ It’s brilliant, it’s caustic, and a mirror Hollywood didn’t want out there for people to see. I’m sure they hoped it would have died quietly on the vine on its release and been forgotten. It was too good to do so, thankfully. Many of Blake Edwards films remain in distribution Hell. Thank [insert whoever or whatever you like here] that some of these have begun to dribble out in MOD programs. Warner Archive has ‘Victor/Victoria out again (I own the OOP) and ‘The Carey Treatment’, too. ‘V/V’ and ‘S.O.B.’ really should have been out in Blu-ray Disc, and are not.

        Thanks for the comment Teepee12 :-).


      1. If you can, take in the Director’s Cut of the film. Hopefully, they’ll release the DC finally to Blu-ray (only the theatrical cut is available currently in BD). Thanks, Mike.


      2. I like “Tombstone” so much that we keep giving copies to friends as gifts. No, it isn’t an accurate recounting of the story. The real story wouldn’t make good cinema, but this movie has arguably the best performances these particular stars ever gave. When we visited the real Tombstone, it was great because the making of the movie was the biggest thing that ever happened to the town and everyone can tell you what pieces were filmed in which building and all kind of other anecdotes. Like visiting Cong where Ford filmed “The Quiet Man.” Small towns were big films were made never forget the experience.


  2. Hi, Mike! I’m Mr. Marilyn Armstrong aka Garry. Enjoyed the comments you guys shared on one of her blogs today. Long story short: I am a life long movie maven. Westerns are my favorite. The Duke is my all time favorite movie “star” hero. “Sunset’ is on our list of frequently watched films, give or take a lie or two. I’m a retired TV News reporter with close to 50 years of TV and radio saddle dust to my credit. Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to cover many world, national and life changing events. But–but–my absolute favorite interview is Duke Wayne. Supersedes encounters with heads of state, military leaders, political leaders, sports and entertainment legends. The little boy in me forever treasures my time with the Duke. I have lots of “war stories” I’d love to share with you. Marilyn says you are quite the Movie Guy. So, I’d love to hear from you. My email address –
    Hope to hear from you soon!


    1. Gee thanks Gary! I’ve got to admit that I’m a huge Duke Wayne fan. I still think I married my first wife because her mother had met the great man! 😉 I’m looking forward to hearing from you in future. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment on my little ole blog! As they use to say in the Western verse, “Nice to have met you Mr Armstrong.” *said ala Andy Devine*


  3. This is actually one of Garry and my favorites, but we are pretty fond of a bunch of Blake Edwards’ films, especially S.O.B., Victor/Victoria, and Sunset. Yes, Pink Panther(s) too. Garry will write you. He’s a BIG movie buff. Before computers, everyone called Garry for information. He was (is) a living, breathing movie database.


    1. Yep, Blake Edwards was the man when it came to a certain calibre of film. His Pink Panther films were great and I loved all three of the film you mentioned. Thanks for stopping by and sharing again. I can’t wait to here from Garry! 😀


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