Wyatt Earp

James Newton Howard

" Before Waterworld there was Wyattworld "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the regular release

Director Lawrence Kasdan has always held a strong relationship with composer James Newton Howard, because Newton Howard has worked on already now 5 films with Kasdan, and Wyatt Earp stands as nr. 2 in that line. For a composer, this is a golden opportunity because you can unleash the forgotten sound of the West on an epic classic. Why Bruce Broughton wasn't hand picked after scoring already Silverado so wonderfully for Kasdan is beyond me, but James surely wasn't a bad pick either. On the contrary, some people favor Silverado, I favor Wyatt Earp. I know, it's a Glorieux thing.

For years I neglected it, because I thought one listen was enough. How wrong was I. Because Wyatt Earp is a bit like Waterworld. Meaning a simply terrific score full of blazing orchestral momentum and strong thematic moments. The simple difference with Waterworld is that it lasts for the entire running length, while Wyatt Earp has its wonderful bliss all in the first part.

It starts with the main theme of the movie, a wonderful noble in effect Western theme for the era. "Main Title", subdued on horns at first but later blasting open with its wonderful heroic ditty is surely a great begin of the score. There's all kinds of similarities here (Treasure Planet, Waterworld and even The Postman). That final score gets a reminder too in "Home from the War" once it grows to an emotional send off. "Going to Town" brings the 2 themes of the film together. First the main theme and then the secondary theme.

There is of course some action to be found in Wyatt Earp. The exciting "The Wagon Chase" delivers us a rousing main theme all the while "O.K. Corrall" dares to paint it dark in the first quarter and more heroic in the second.

Other stunning moments include the wonderful Irish tone in "Railroad", the emotional resonance in "Nicholas Springs Wyatt" (also heard in the 4th track), the beautiful blossoming sound of "The Wedding" and the strong orchestral sound of "Stilwell Makes Bail". Even the exciting build up of "It All Ends Now" is duly noted.

But somehow after that, things don't turn out to be that amazing anymore. The sad strings are for "Urilla Dies" while the secondary theme and nice soft tones are for "Tell me About Missouri", capturing a wonderful solo violin too. "Kill 'em All" dares to paint a frightening picture with the emotional theme of track 7 and the main theme, all the while "Dodge City" is back to Western goodies with jolly good reason. The atonal attacks in "Indian Charlie" and the final main theme in "It Happened that Way" deliver us the final notable moments.

It's sad that Wyatt Earp couldn't continue to show that grandeur of the first 11 tracks, because then the score would have stood alongside Waterworld as ultimate pleaser. Because we have to be honest in saying that there is a significant difference between the first 11 tracks and the other 12. Darkness might be one, seriousness another but at least its overall entertaining once you remind yourself it is again James Newton Howard at his most enjoyable.


1. Main Title (4.40) Excellent track
2. Home from the War (1.58)
3. Going to Town (2.00) Excellent track
4. The Wagon Chase (2.42) Excellent track
5. Mattie Wants Children (1.55)
6. Railroad (1.50) Excellent track
7. Nicholas Springs Wyatt (1.31) Excellent track
8. Is That Your Hat? (2.06)
9. The Wedding (3.16) Excellent track
10. Stilwell Makes Bail (2.37) Excellent track
11. It All Ends Now (1.54)
12. Urilla Dies (4.34)
13. Tell me About Missouri (2.56)
14. The Night Before (3.11)
15. O.K. Corral (7.01)
16. Down by the River (2.57)
17. Kill 'Em All (5.02)
18. Dodge City (1.01)
19. Leaving Dodge (1.23)
20. Indian Charlie (1.33)
21. We Stayed too Long (1.50)
22. Winter to Spring (1.17)
23. It Happened That Way (1.10)

Total Length: 61.19
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 21 votes - average 4.29/5)

Released by

Warner Bros 9 45660-2 (regular release 1994)

Conducted by

Marty Paich

Orchestrations by

James Newton Howard, Brad Dechter & Chris Boardman

Performed by

The Hollywood Recording Musicians Orchestra