You can still watch a gunfight unfold in Dodge City, Kansas. These days, however, the duel would merely be a reenactment of the fights that characterized the storied city of the Old West.
The city in southwest Kansas provides the perfect setting for Western adventures. More so for “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp,” as the legendary 1800s figure actually lived and worked there for a time.
The classic TV show ran from 1955-1961 and, because of its setting, shared plenty of overlap with another favorite Western, “Gunsmoke.” From 1956-1959, “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp” followed the sharpshooting lawman’s exploits in and around Dodge City. “Gunsmoke” also hit screens in 1955, and though its stories were more fictionalized, it too centered around the famed Old Western town.
The coolest part? Well, according to IMDb, both shows made reference to very real landmarks that existed in late 19th century Dodge City. Some of them are still standing today. For example, the Long Branch Saloon, which served as a hotspot for plenty of action on “Gunsmoke,” was also featured in “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.” And though it’s part of a museum in today’s day and age, it’s still there.
In fact, Marshal Matt Dillon, the man charged with keeping Dodge City under control in “Gunsmoke,” was inspired by Wyatt Earp himself. In reality, Earp served as assistant marshal for the town, on and off from 1876-1879.
The Subject of ‘The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp’ Lived Up to the Hype
We know that much of the Wild West’s history was often sensationalized. The media needed to sell newspapers, after all. But that isn’t to say the history is complete fiction. By all accounts, Wyatt Earp was legitimate, and many of his exploits really took place.
According to the Ford County Globe, “Wyatt Earp [was] one of the most efficient officers Dodge ever had. . .”
And his reputation spoke for itself. It’s no wonder that these classic TV Westerns chose him and Dodge City as their subjects. Interestingly, “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp,” as the title suggests, loosely followed Earp’s life story in chronological order. It was a unique format for shows like this at the time.
While the show wasn’t entirely biographical, it actually tried to follow his real timeline. In contrast, shows like “Gunsmoke” focused more on an entirely new story or challenge from week to week.