UNM Historian Paul Hutton to Appear on PBS' American Experience 'Wyatt Earp'

Historians in the News

Distinguished Professor of History Paul Hutton will appear on the PBS program American Experience “Wyatt Earp,” on Monday, Jan. 25 from 9-10 p.m. on PBS. “Wyatt Earp” features interviews with Hutton and other biographers and historians of the American West to present a fresh take on an old legend.

Hutton, who is teaching an upper division course on the Western Hero, has written extensively about Earp, especially about his portrayal in movies. His article, “Showdown at the Hollywood Corral,” garnered the Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy Museum. Hutton’s expertise on Earp was also featured on Investigating History on the History Channel.

“American Experience is the gold standard of historical documentary. Rob Rapley, who wrote, directed and produced the film, is great to work with. It is always a thrill to be on that series,” Hutton said, indicating that American Experience did a good job on an episode on Kit Carson.

Hutton said that PBS is coming on strong now on programs featuring Western American history at the same time that the History Channel is moving a different direction. “My interest is in how Hollywood has shaped our western past. I’ve been interested in Earp since I was a child seeing him portrayed on television. And it’s most interesting how little was known about him as a western character until Hollywood started making movies,” Hutton said.

The book “Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshal” by Stuart Lake came out same year that Earp died. "The book was made into four movies, the best being 'My Darling Clementine.' That converted him into the quintessential western lawman," Hutton said.

Program Brief...
"Wyatt Earp," the latest in the stable of critically acclaimed Wild West biographies by American Experience. Previous entries include Annie Oakley, Jesse James, Buffalo Bill and Kit Carson.

"A lot of people feel strongly that Wyatt Earp was either hero or villain. The real story is a lot more interesting than that," Rapley said.

Wyatt Earp has been portrayed in countless movies and television shows by some of Hollywood’s greatest actors, including Henry Fonda, Jimmy Stewart and, more recently, Kevin Costner, but these popular fictions often belie the complexities and flaws of a man whose life is a lens on politics, justice and economic opportunity on the American frontier....

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