In his autobiography, "The Ragman's Son," "Spartacus" star and cinema luminary Kirk Douglas makes much of his longtime friendship with the hulking legendary actor Burt Lancaster. The two first worked together on Lisabeth Scott's 1947 noir classic "I Walk Alone," which sees Lancaster's convict battle his former bootlegging, currently two-timing business partner (Douglas).

Their second big-screen pairing was in "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral," a John Sturges Western chronicling the storied 1881 Tombstone, Arizona shootout. Therein, Douglas would play the ailing gunslinger Doc Holliday to Lancaster's tenacious Wyatt Earp, two tough men whose tense alliance would blossom into diehard loyalty. Though the duo would go on to star in a handful of movies together (among them the 1959 George Bernard Shaw adaptation "The Devil's Disciple," John Frankenheimer's 1964 politi-thriller "Seven Days in May," the prestigious tv action-drama "Victory at Entebbe," and 1986's "Tough Guys") it was on the set of the 1957 American Western where the two actors really hit it off.

"The Ragman's Son" carries the details of production, a shoot largely oscillating between the historically-relevant location of Tucson, Arizona, and Paramount Studio sets back in California. Douglas would get along with his castmates just fine — though occasionally he'd have to give co-star Jo Van Fleet a smack or two, at her request, to energize her before their scenes together. He recalls staying up late after the cameras stopped running, caught in after-work conversations with fellow movie tough-guy Lancaster. "Sometimes it would be one-thirty or two in the morning," Douglas writes, "before we said, 'Hey, we'd better go to bed. We've got to get up and shoot tomorrow.'"

But every so often, the actors' rapport manifested into delays and wasted footage, not due to gunfights, but uncontrollable fits of the giggles.

Laughfest At The O.K. Corral

At the American Academy of Dramatic Arts tribute to Kirk Douglas in April of 1987, Burt Lancaster said, "Kirk would be the first person to tell you he's a very difficult man." After a pause, the chaser: "And I would be the second." Douglas' outspokenness became an extension of his star persona, the leading man who would give a blacklisted writer full-name credit on his production company's historical epic "Spartacus."

In his autobiography, Douglas makes clear that he and Lancaster didn't always agree on every subject during their cherished post-work chats, but they got along so well that sometimes, all it took was a knowing look from one to break the other. When it came time to film a taut scene ahead of the big gunfight in "O.K. Corral," the two couldn't keep it together long enough to get a good take. Douglas recalls:

"There was a very tense dramatic moment in the film: Burt, alone and without a gun, is facing a saloon full of tough cowboys. I come in, pull my gun, snatch a gun from one of the cowboys, toss it to Burt, and the two of us subdue the entire room. We go out on the porch and Burt says to me, 'Thanks, Doc.' I was supposed to say, 'Forget it.' When I came to 'Forget it,' the ridiculousness of the scene — our great bravery, our machismo — made us howl. We did the scene over and over. It just made us laugh harder. Finally, we were laughing so hard, they had to stop shooting for the day and send us home like bad boys."

The scene (a truncated clip is available on YouTube) is a potent pillar of big-screen virility, a microcosm of the Sturges brand of steely-eyed heroism.

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