Comparison between the Theatrical Version and the Expanded Version that was only released in the USA on VHS and Laserdisc.
The film adaption of the life of Wyatt Earp was at the time a n important project for Kevin Costner. Carrying a script by Dan Gordon, which was designed for a six hours mini series, Costner met with director Lawrence Kasdan with whom he already had worked together on "Silverado". Kasdan agreed under the condition that he was allowed to rewrite the script to make it a three hour movie, using some of Gordons material.
The first version was about three hours and fifty minutes long. Due to it being difficult in the 90ies to find a patient audience for a western - let alone one in which the hero is barely suitable as someone people can sympathize with - Kasdan cut about twenty minutes of unnecessary footage. The outcome was the three and a half hour version that was released on Laserdisc and was Kasdans favorite version of the movie. For the big screen however, Kasdan proceeded to cut several more scenes that he liked but felt that they were not really necessary to be able to follow the story. This version is the widely known Theatrical Version of "Wyatt Earp".
Contrary to "Tombstone", that came out at the same time, or literary pieces like John Fords' "My Darling Clementine" or John Sturges' "Gunfight at the OK Corral" Kasdans film stays close to the facts conveyed by Wyatt Earp himself, published in 1931 by Stuart Lake in the biography "Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshall". For example, the OK Corral shootout was reconstructed almost shot by shot based on these memories. Here the legendary Marshall was not pictured as a true hero but as a somewhat stubborn man who forced his unshakable family and life values onto his whole family and often enforced said values with unnecessary force and violence until he himself wasn't able to tell memories from self-told lies. The influence of the Earp women was mentioned for the first time as well. The American audience as well as the critics gave the movie the cold shoulder, marking the beginning of a hard time for main actor Kevin Costner.
The Expanded Version des Films is not the Director's Cut. Director Kasdan likes to emphasize that he - at least up to the production of this movie - was always able to bring his favorite version of his films to the big screen and although he was glad to be able to release the longer version he was rather satisfied with the theatrical Version as well.
So the Expanded Edition is nothing more than a nice extension with a closer look on some of the events in the movie. Some changeovers are not as sudden as they were in the Theatrical Version, some things make a bit more sense, but all in all the movie sure does work fine without all this. Fans will cherish the extension of a western epic while for the rest of the audience the movie is now simply longer than it was before. Up to this day the Expanded Edition has not been released on DVD.
All time indexes are taken from the Theatrical Version.
All other running time differences originate from the fact that the PAL version of the Theatrical version was used in the creation of this report.
Theatrical Version: 3:02:43 Min. (2:58:40 Min. without ending credits) (PAL)
Expanded Edition: 3:32:01 Min. (3:27:50 Min. without ending credits) (NTSC)
14 Extended scenes in the Special Expanded Edition: 19 Min. 35 Sec. (NTSC)
Young Wyatt & are crossing the nightly desert by wagon. They talk about Wyatts future; while Wyatt does not want to follow his fathers teachings his mother explains to him that his father has merely taught him to follow his own heart. Later the trek enters a sandstorm. Wyatt wanders away from their resting place and looks eagerly westward.
Wyatt & Urilla are chatting in front of their house in Lamar. Urilla talks about her fear for Wyatt wanting to leave Missouri which would result in her being separated from her family. She wants to grow old and raise her children in Missouri. Wyatt agrees.
After the official ceremony the wedding celebration continues: While Morgan & Nicholas Earp spend time with Urilla, Wyatt talks to his brother Virgil about his plans of being a gold digger. later they all stand together and Wyatts' brothers are flirting with the bride.
As Wyatt & the brothers Ed and "Bat" Masterson are drying their bison pelts, some Sioux appear on a nearby hill. The boys are somewhat tensed but after a while the Indians turn around and leave.
The Sheriff explains to Deputy Wyatt his methods of distinguishing good people from criminals and how to handle them. As they come across a man carrying a weapon despite this being prohibited in the whole town, they walk past the man when suddenly the Sheriff strikes the man down with the butt of his gun. Another unarmed man is held at gunpoint by Wyatt. The Sheriff explains to Wyatt that he has to read their rights to a criminal once he has been taken out - which Wyatt does despite the fact that the man is still unconscious. The other man is set free. The Sheriff wants to know whether Wyatt has a problem with the way he is supposed to handle things; Wyatt replies that he would consider it a bigger problem had the man started to use his gun in town.
The scene in which Wyatt & Virgil patrolling starts a bit earlier in the Expanded Edition.
Wyatt lies in bed beside Mettie and thinks about the meeting with Josie.
Change of scenery: Wyatt meets up with Doc Holiday who is a bit under the weather. After a somewhat harsh greeting the both walk a bit until a cowboy on the street calls out Wyatts' name. He tells of Wyatt shooting his Cousin in Dodge City and that he is out for revenge. Doc fails in trying to intervene. Wyatt explains to the man that his cousin had the choice of leaving Dodge City as a free man and that he now has the same chance unless he insists to discredit Wyatt any further in which case this would be the last seconds of his life. Ike Clanton & Frank McLaury are watching the event. The Cowboy thinks for a moment before turning around and riding out of town. Wyatt & Doc Holiday exchange glances with Ike & Frank, then walk off together.
Wyatt enters the Oriental and walks to a table where Doc Holiday, Kate, a man called Homer (Lawrence Kasdan himself) and another man are playing cards. Wyatt & Kate are talking about her having left town to meet with a rich and healthy man but then having wound up with Doc again. Holiday says that he needs her because he has "enjoyed life too much lately".
Homer is convinced that he will win and wants to see but Doc has better cards and wins everything.
Josie leaves Johnny Behan because he never managed to marry her. She packs her things while a carriage is already waiting outside.
Frank McLaury, Billy Clanton & Billy Claiborne are riding into town.
Those who dies in the shootout are displayed in the window of the funeral parlor, along with a sign saying "Murdered in the streets of Tombstone". Change of scenery: Kate treats Doc Holidays bullet wound while he drowns the pain in alcohol.
Wyatt & Doc Holiday are brought to prison.
Change of scenery: Inside their cell Doc says that Wyatt shouldn't take things so serious since this is the first time that he stands on this side of the bars. Wyatt answers that this is not the first time and that he already has been in prison for horse theft once. Doc seems impressed.
Wyatt, Morgan & another man called Bob are walking through the rain towards the Saloon. At the entrance Wyatt asks Morgan whether he hadn't had enough to which he replies that Wyatt is getting old and that he had promised his pal Bob a chance to win his money back. Wyatt walks on while Morgan enters the Saloon. Through a window Wyatt sees a man with a rifle sitting on his bed. Wyatt looks suspicious but then walks on.
For the last time Wyatt and his group are riding out of town and Wyatt looks around - later we see the group riding through the mountains as well.
Change of scenery: Johnny Behan promotes a bunch of men - including Ike Clanton - to Deputies and follows Wyatt & the others into the mountains. Wyatt & Doc Holiday are watching them from a higher point.