You Know My Name tells the story of the final days of Bill Tilghman, a real-life lawman who rode with Wyatt Earp and later became a director of silent films. Sam Elliott is a veteran actor who has appeared in just about every genre imaginable. He was in action movies like Road House, Oscar-winning drama A Star Is Born and comic book adventure Hulk.
One of his most popular roles is The Stranger from The Big Lebowski, who narrates the movie and breaks the fourth wall to speak to the audience. It's a small but memorable part which draws on Elliott's partial typecasting as a cowboy. His deep voice and world-weary persona has made him perfect for the genre, and his filmography is littered with made for TV Westerns like Shadow Riders with Tom Selleck, The Desperate Trail, and Conagher, among many others.
Another major Western role came with 1993's Tombstone where he starred alongside Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer. Elliott played Virgil Earp, the older brother of the legendary Wyatt. Elliott would return to the genre once again in 1999 with TV movie You Know My Name, playing real-life lawman Bill Tilghman. The real Tilghman lived an incredible life, capturing outlaws like Bill Doolin as a U.S Marshal, he became an Oklahoma state senator and later an actor and director, helming the silent movie The Passing Of The Oklahoma Outlaws in 1915.
Bill Tilghman was also well known for his integrity and despite being a skilled gunfighter, he would only use violence as a last resort. You Know My Name tells of his final days, where he retires to the town of Cromwell. Sadly for him, some townspeople coax him out of retirement to clean up Cromwell as a city marshal. The film shows him up against corrupt businesses and murderers, and his actions draw the wrath of Wiley Lynn (Arliss Howard, Full Metal Jacket).
Lynn was a drug-addicted federal agent behind much of the corruption in Cromwell. While most Westerns build to the heroic final shootout, You Know My Name pulls few punches when it comes to Bill Tilghman's real death, where he attempted to arrest Lynn in 1924, who shot him in the stomach with a hidden weapon. Tilghman died shortly after, but amazingly, Lynn was acquitted of the murder after pleading self-defense. Cromwell itself was later burned to the ground by unknown perpetrators, but friends of Tilghman were suspected of the act; Lynn himself was later killed during a shootout in 1932.
You Know My Name is a great Western, with Sam Elliott giving another captivating performance and solid direction from John Kent Harrison (The Courageous Heart Of Irena Sendler). It helps that it stays true to Bill Tilghman's story, which was already an incredible tale, even with its tragic ending.