Tombstone
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John Henry "Doc" Holliday received a Degree of Dental Surgery from the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery (now part of the University of Pennsylvania) in 1872 at the age of 20. Doc Holliday had dental offices in Atlanta, Dallas, and often practiced less formally on the side in his travels, most notably in Dodge City where he began his association with Wyatt Earp.

He stopped practicing dentistry after his tuberculosis and resultant coughing worsened. He found he had a talent for gambling and took that up as his profession.

What is Doc's illness?

Doc Holliday suffered from tuberculosis. He may have contracted it from his mother. Doc is believed to have contracted the illness a decade before succumbing to it. One of the reasons Doc moved west and eventually to Arizona is because of the belief the dry air would ease his symptoms.

Doc is repeatedly referred to as a "lunger" in the film. "Lunger" was a slang term used during the era for someone suffering from tuberculosis, also referred to as consumption.

Wyatt is a faro dealer. Faro is a card game that enjoyed its greatest popularity during the 19th century, particularly in the Old West. It is most similar to the contemporary game of mini-baccarat. Faro had a notorious reputation for cheating among dealers and creating poverty among gamblers. Faro rapidly lost popularity during the first half of the 20th century and today is usually only played by Civil War and Old West re-enactors.

Mattie is addicted to laudanum. Laudanum is an opiate tincture, in other words, opium extracted into alcohol. Laudanum was a common pain reliever and analgesic, widely prescribed for a variety of conditions. Additionally, laudanum, like other opiates, was legal to purchase without prescription in the United States during the 19th century.

Laudanum was often prescribed to patients to induce sleep, which explains why Mattie spends most of her days lying in bed.

Curly Bill visits the local opium den before "shooting the moon," firing his gun into buildings and the air. This episode ended when Fred White attempted to disarm him. Opium dens were common and legal in the United States in the 19th century, stereotypically operated by Asian immigrants.

In the film Wyatt Earp, it appears that Curly Bill was drunk when he deliberately cocked his pistol and maliciously shot Fred White in the chest. After the shooting, Curly Bill seemed noticeably concerned that he had wounded White.

The state-of-the art pistol of the day was a single-action revolver that required the shooter to manually cock the hammer before he can fire the weapon.

As depicted in the film, Wyatt Earp pistol whipped Curly Bill and Curly Bill drunkenly laughed. Earp helped prevent the crowd from lynching Curly Bill by escorting him to Tucson the next day.

Historically, we know that Curly Bill accidentally shot Marshal Fred White (though only 31 at the time, much younger than the man depicted in the film) when White attempted to disarm Curly Bill. White was shot in the groin, not the chest.

Curly Bill allegedly regretted the shooting and was reported to have personally liked Fred White. White lived long enough to tell others that the shooting was accidental and as a result Brocius was acquitted of any wrong-doing. Judge Nuegass wrote that the shooting was "Homicide by Misadventure", or an accident. Wyatt Earp testified on behalf of Curly Bill at his trial, stating that he too believed the shooting was an accident.

Some modern researchers theorize that Curly's pistol had a defective trigger that caused it to fire when half-cocked, and that White himself accidentally discharged the pistol when trying to disarm Brocius. Other researchers dispute this possibility.

Despite his supposed remorse over killing White, Brocious did not take kindly to Wyatt's having pistol-whipped him, and this incident was arguably the first source of conflict between Wyatt Earp and Curly Bill Brocius.

Wyatt Earp is shown with other handguns earlier in the film, but after being sworn in by Virgil, he goes back to his room to change his coat and retrieve a boxed revolver from a dresser drawer. The camera scrolls slowly across the weapon (this attention is not given to other firearms in the movie) and the music sounds triumphantly. There is a custom engraved shield with Wyatt Earp's name on the handle of the firearm.

The boxed handgun is a Colt Revolver-Carbine, popularly known as the "Buntline Special." The weapon was first written about by controversial Earp biographer Stuart N. Lake. He described the revolver as a version of the classic Colt's Single Action Army "Peacemaker" with an extra long barrel. In Lake's book, the pistol sported a 12 inch barrel. However, in Stuart Lake's original interview notes, it is indicated that Wyatt's pistol had a 10 inch barrel. The only witness to describe the gun Wyatt Earp used on the day of the O.K. Corral gunfight was a Tombstone butcher who described Earp's weapon as being "fairly large...14 to 16 inches in length". Since a Colt's .45 with a 10 inch barrel measures out to being exactly 15 inches in length, and since Lake's original notes indicate Wyatt's pistol had a 10 inch barrel, screenwriter Kevin Jarre had Kurt Russell carry that specific sized revolver.

Lake attributed the Buntline Special to popular dime novelist Ned Buntline, and wrote that Buntline presented a Buntline Special to five lawmen: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Bill Tilghman, Charlie Bassett and Neal Brown from Dodge City. Researchers have never found any record of an order received by the Colt company for such a pistol, and no evidence has been found to show that Ned Buntline ever met Wyatt Earp.

In the film, Wyatt does not regularly carry the Buntline Special until the fight at the O.K. Corral, after which he uses the gun for the entirety of the Earp Vendetta Ride. There is no conclusive proof as to the kind of pistol Wyatt carried on a regular basis. As a gambler, Wyatt Earp favored shorter-barreled pistols which were easy to conceal.He rarely fired the weapon but was known to use it to pistol whip an adversary on more than one occasion. One of the primary reasons Earp carried smaller pistols was that like he did not carry his weapon in a holster, but in his coat pocket, like his brother Virgil and Doc Holliday.

While there is no record that Wyatt Earp was actually presented with any firearm by Ned Buntline. The Buntline Special is still widely associated with Wyatt Earp. In the Hugh O'Brian "Wyatt Earp" TV series, O'Brian carried a pistol with a 12 inch barrel. In the film "Gunfight at the O.K. Corral", actor Burt Lancaster is depicted in one scene showing his deputy the Buntline Special with a 12 inch barrel. Revolvers like this with 16-inch barrels were displayed at the 1876 Centennial Exposition and over-long barrels were readily available from Colt at one dollar per inch over 7.5 inches.

19th century Colt Single Action Army revolvers are among the most sought after firearms by collectors and command high prices. The extra long barreled pistols are especially valued because they are so very rare. After the "Wyatt Earp" TV series became popular, various Colt revolvers with long (12" or 16") barrels were referred to as "Colt Buntlines". Colt re-introduced the collector editions of the revolvers after 1956. Several companies continue to manufacture revolvers that they market as a collector's edition of the "Wyatt Earp Revolver". Was Wyatt Earp's fabled long barreled pistol a myth or a reality? No evidence has been found to show that Earp owned a Buntline Special.

It is not explained how the building caught fire. However, the burning building was likely included in the scene to symbolize a number of devastating fires that took place in Tombstone in June 1881 and May 1882. Wooden construction, combined with lack of water, resulted in considerable fire damage, one factor leading to Tombstone's decline to near-ghost town status.

The fire could also be symbolism for the biblical theme of Death coming, and hell following.

Doc leaves Kate in Tombstone to join Wyatt, Turkey Creek Jack Johnson, Texas Jack Vermillion and Sherman McMasters in what history calls the "Earp Vendetta Ride" against the Cowboys. The film gives no explanation as to why Doc abandons his partner in Tombstone. Historically, there is evidence that Kate was being wooed by Johnny Ringo at the time, but this is not suggested in the film.

However, a deleted scene from the film shows an argument between the couple as Doc is preparing to follow the Earp caravan to the train station. Kate is upset that Doc is leaving to join Wyatt and asks what will happen to her without Doc.

Doc responds, Well I guess it means you are without a meal ticket. After a few more words, Doc rides off, leaving an hysterical Kate behind.

Doc may have been planning to leave Kate, who he met while she was working as a prostitute, well before the attack on Virgil and murder of Morgan. Following his doctors appointment, Doc tells Kate that it may be time to redefine the nature of their association. When Kate says, Ive always been a good woman to you, Doc responds 'True, you are a good woman, then again, you may be the Anti-Christ'. This scene suggests Doc had been thinking about leaving Kate even before the showdown at the O.K. Corral.

Some believe he felt he was going to die on this ride with Wyatt, or shortly after, so he thought it better for her to cut ties now.

In a book on Doc Holliday's life written much later by a family member, they state that Kate was with Doc when he died in Colorado, not Wyatt. Wyatt Earp did not actually learn of Holliday's death for several months. Kate wrote a letter that she sent with his belongings to his cousin.

The film shows a rider for the Cowboys dragging McMasters' corpse on a rope, leaving him behind as an incentive for Wyatt to accept Ringo's challenge to a duel. No explanation is given as to how the Cowboys got to McMasters.

However, a deleted scene from the film depicts McMasters riding to a gathering of several Cowboys to respond to a request from Ringo that the two talk. Ringo asks McMasters to rejoin the Cowboys, which McMasters refuses. After refusing, Ike Clanton approaches McMasters, places a shotgun on his cheek and asks how McMasters now intends to get back. At this point, the scene ends, followed immediately by the scene in which McMasters body is being dragged. It remains unclear what the Cowboys did to McMasters before killing him, or how they killed him.

While it is ambiguous in a sense, the fact that McMasters' face is intact when they see the body, this suggests that Ike didn't shoot him with the shotgun. And when asking "How are you gonna get back to them?" with a smile on his face, this suggests that they tied him to the back of the horse and dragged him back to the Hooker ranch. That was what killed him.

According to the book based on the screenplay, they actually tied McMasters up and suspended him over a fire, like a barbeque. If you look at the corpse, you see that parts of his body are blackened which might be due to being dragged, but it also could be burn marks. Also, you see Wyatt's reaction of trying to supress being physically ill, suggesting that McMasters died a particularly gruesome death.

History refers to the Earp posse that seeks revenge against the Cowboys following Morgan's death as the "Earp Vendetta Ride". In the film, 27 cowboys are seen being killed. In reality, 4 cowboy deaths were officially recorded, with the actual number likely being between 8-15 total. Since homicides are not something one regularly boasts to the newspapers about, much of the violence was never noted or seen.

Historically, Johnny Ringo was found dead under a large oak tree with a single gunshot wound to the head, and his revolver having a single fired cartridge in the cylinder. The majority opinion today is Ringo committed suicide (Theory 1).

Circumstantial evidence for this theory exists, in the decline of Tombstone's status as a boom town (and thus the loss of Ringo's livelihood and safe haven), the death, arrest or dispersal of many of his friends (Cowboy or otherwise), and a rejection by Ringo's family members when Ringo attempted to relocate to California. It is known that Ringo was in a melancholy mood, especially after his family's rejection, and had been drinking heavily shortly before his death.

Other than suicide, the second most popular theory (Theory 2) is Wyatt Earp killed Ringo, either in a duel or an ambush. A far less credible theory (Theory 3) that is still popular is Doc Holliday killed Ringo. This theory is seemingly disproved given that Ringo's death is given as July 14, 1882, and according to court documents of Pueblo County, Colorado, Doc and his attorney appeared in court on the 11th, 14th, and 18th of July.

The film makes an interesting play on the death of Johnny Ringo and pays homage to all three theories. The film suggests Wyatt was scheduled to duel Ringo, but Doc arrived and killed him first. Thus, the film portrays Theory 3 as being truth, where as Theory 2 (Wyatt kills Ringo) as being the one that will be popularly believed (Wyatt was the one everyone thought was going to duel Ringo). It should also be noted that Doc never says to Wyatt that he killed Ringo, only saying things like "Poor soul, you were just too high strung." and "The pressure was more than he could bear", which is Doc's way of joking and playing with the idea that Ringo actually committed suicide (Theory 1).

It should also be noted that Ringo does fire one bullet from his revolver while stumbling after being shot in the head by Doc, the film's way of explaining the spent cartridge in Ringo's gun.

After Ringo's death, no mention of him is made the rest of the movie. Considering Ringo died with no witnesses other than Doc, and Wyatt shortly afterwards, it can be inferred the legend of Johnny Ringo's death grew rapidly after being discovered, with no real explanation available.

That is totally a matter of opinion. However if you are interested to which film better suits you; If you want to know a bit more of Wyatt Earp's history, i.e. growing up and before he went to Tombstone, then Wyatt Earp may be more for you. If you are looking for more action while still maintaining great character development and an accurate but more condensed story then Tombstone is for you. Or just watch both films.

However, if you want both then you could watch the first half of Wyatt Earp. To the point where they say they are heading for Tombstone, then pop Tombstone in.

Kevin Costner fans will undoubtedly enjoy Wyatt Earp as he is really the only character developed in any depth. However, Tombstone gives more insight to each character. If Earp is viewed after Tombstone, you may find yourself longing for Val Kilmer's Doc Holiday. Doc Holiday in Wyatt Earp only serves as a reminder of Kilmer's perfected southern drawl and his many unforgettable nuances that steal the scene in Tombstone.

Or watch "My Darling Clementine". Another film about Wyatt Earp.

It depends on who you ask, but historical consensus is that Tombstone's version, which has Billy Clanton and Wyatt Earp firing simultaneously, is the most accurate.

The Earp version is much as depicted in the film: Tombstone City Marshal Virgil Earp, accompanied by his temporary deputies and brothers Wyatt and Morgan, along with Doc Holliday, went to the OK Corral with the intention of disarming and possibly arresting the cowboys for violating the town ordinance against carrying weapons in town. The confrontation came after a long series of disagreements between the two groups and further threats by Ike. Virgil claimed that due to Sheriff Behan's statements that he'd disarmed the gang they were not expecting a fight and were surprised when Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton were visibly armed (and they believed, though it has never been proved, that Tom McLaury was carrying a concealed weapon). Virgil tried to calm the situation down, but Billy went for his gun, initiating the gunfight. Wyatt and Billy fired simultaneously, according to this version; Billy fired at Wyatt and missed, but Wyatt fired at Frank McLaury and hit him in the stomach. After a few seconds, the firing became general.

The Cowboy/Behan version is that the Earps went to the scene spoiling for a fight and with the intention of killing all of the Cowboys. They said Morgan shouted, "You sons of bitches want a fight, well now you've got it!" or words to that effect. According to their version, Holliday started the gun fight by shoting a nickel-plated pistol first, and one of the Earps, probably Morgan, fired shortly thereafter. In their version of events, the Cowboys had their hands raised and Tom and Frank McLaurys and Billy Clanton were murdered by the Earps as they tryied to surrender. When the Earps opened fire, they only returned fire in self-defense.

Ike Clanton (who fled the gunfight) filed murder charges against the Earps afterward. Wyatt and Holliday were jailed during a month-long preliminary hearing during which testimony was heard on the shoot out that day, generally known as the "Spicer Hearing."

Eyewitnesses gave conflicting accounts of exactly how the shooting started, but the weight of evidence is in favor of the Earp version. Both The Epitaph and the The Nugget newspapers initially reported versions of the events that supported the lawmen's statements. Other evidence showed that Holliday was seen carrying a shotgun to the gunfight, so although he was known to pack a nickle-plated pistol, it is extremely difficult to fire both a pistol and a shotgun at the same time. Any claim that he first fired a concealed pistol that began the shootout would have required him to switch weapons and is unlikely.

Ike Clanton survived the shooting unscathed, casting doubt on the Cowboy's version of events, though Ike would claim he physically attempted to prevent Wyatt from shooting. Wyatt Earp said that after shooting started, Ike grabbed Wyatt, exclaiming that he was unarmed. To this protest Wyatt said he responded, "Go to fighting or get away!" Forensic examination of the wound to Billy Clanton's wrist showed that his hand could not have been on his coat lapels as claimed by Cowboy witnesses. Witnesses said "the bullet passed through the arm from "inside to outside," entering the arm close to the base of the thumb, and exiting "on the back of the wrist diagonally" with the latter wound larger.

Conflicting testimony by pro-Cowboy witnesses, especially Ike, during the hearing helped exonerate the Earps. Ultimately it was illegal to carry weapons within the city limits of Tombstone and at least two of the Cowboy were breaking the law, so Town Marshal Virgil Earp and his temporary deputies had a duty to confront and disarm them.

The Earps, though not blameless, were exonerated as having been enforcing the law, which set the stage for future confrontations between the two Earps and the Cowboys.

A Director's Cut of Tombstone was released in 2002 in the course of the "Vista Series". The DC offers some, but few, new scenes which close a rift of plots. The DC doesn't invent the movie again, but it enhances it and runs approx. 6 minutes longer than the well-known Theatrical Version. A detailed comparison between both versions with pictures can be found here.

Incredible as it may seem, much of Tombstone is based on historical fact. The film does take liberties in telling the story, many of which are themselves based on legend. However, the overall structure of the film is a reasonably accurate portrayal of the events in and around Tombstone.

The following is a list of some of the most important historical elements the film depicts. This is not intended to be an all encompassing account of the accuracy of Tombstone, but a collection of facts that are depicted in the film

Wyatt Earp was known for his work as a lawman in Dodge City and other areas when he arrived in Tombstone. He came to Tombstone with the intention of leaving his lawman role behind. He was a Faro dealer and sometimes stagecoach shotgun messenger. He was appointed Pima County Sheriff on July 28, 1880 but served for less than 6 months.

Virgil Earp was hired in Prescott, Arizona as Deputy U.S. Marshal for the region around Tombstone on November 30, 1879, the day before they arrived in Tombstone. Virgil also served in the dual role of Tombstone City Marshal in June 1881 for a period of time.

The Cowboys were a group of rustlers and opportunists operating in the region, though they were much less organized and affiliated than depicted in the film.

Josephine used the surname "Behan" while in Tombstone. Behan had promised to ask Josephine to marry him and she was his mistress until early 1881 when she found Behan in bed with the wife of a friend of theirs and kicked him out. As late as June 1881, Josephine was still signing her name as "Josephine Behan" and Wyatt Earp was still living with his common-law wife Mattie Blaylock.

Behan and Wyatt Earp had offices above the Crystal Palace Saloon, so it's likely that she and Wyatt Earp knew each other. The film dramatizes a rivalry between the two, but it's not known when and how Josephine and Wyatt Earp began their relationship or if Behan was aware of their attraction to one another.

The movie also conflates competition between Mattie and Josephine for Wyatt's affections, but there is no evidence to support this. Josephine Marcus and Wyatt Earp met in Tombstone but there is no record of a public relationship.

Johnny Tyler was hired by a rival gambling operator to cause trouble at the Oriental and drive away customers. Wyatt confronted Tyler and dragged him out of the salon by the ear. Wyatt became part owner of the Oriental saloon after driving out Tyler.

Curly Bill Brocius shot Fred White while intoxicated as Curly Bill was being disarmed by White. Fred White was trying to stop a group of individuals (including Brocious) who were shooting at the moon. Wyatt pistol whipped Brocius and prevented an immediate lynching by angered citizens. Curly Bill was later acquitted of the crime.

As depicted in the film, the tension between the Cowboys (particularly the Clantons and McLaurys) and the Earps gradually escalated through a number of confrontations, which ultimately led up to the shootout at the O.K. Corral.

Tombstone enacted an ordinance forbidding anyone from carrying firearms in town.

Wyatt and Doc were deputized after Virgil requested they back he and Morgan in confronting the McLaurys and Clantons.

Ike Clanton was unarmed during the gunfight at the O.K. Corral and escaped unharmed.

Several Cowboys (including Billy Claibourne and Wes Fuller) were present at the O.K. Corral but fled before or immediately after the shooting started.

Among the lawmen involved in the O.K. Corral shooting, only Virgil had any real experience in combat, and he had far more experience than any of his brothers as a sheriff, constable, and marshal. Virgil served for three years during the Civil War and had also been involved in a police shooting in Prescott, Arizona Territory. Morgan Earp had no known experience with gunfighting prior to this fight, although he frequently hired out as a shotgun messenger. Wyatt Earp had only been involved in only one gunfight prior to the shootout at the O.K. Corral.

Doc Holliday had a nasty reputation which he apparently encouraged, but is known to have killed only three men in his life time.

During the shootout, Virgil was hit in the calf by a bullet, Morgan was struck across both shoulder blades, and Doc was grazed by a bullet. Wyatt was uninjured.

Virgil and Wyatt Earp each buffaloed (pistol whipped) Ike Clanton and Tom McLaury within 24 hours of the gunfight. They were disarming them because they were carrying weapons in violation of the Tombstone city ordinance.

After the gunfight, the Clantons and Cowboys claimed the Earps had shot unarmed men who were attempting to surrender. Many believed their version of events and this negatively affected the Earp's reputation.

After the shootout at the O.K. Corral, Behan got a telegram informing him that warrants for the arrest of five members of the Earp posse had been issued in Tucson. He found the men in the lobby of Tombstone's Cosmopolitan Hotel, heavily armed, getting ready to leave town. He told Wyatt he wanted to see him. Deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt replied "Johnny, if you're not careful you'll see me once too often."

The gunfight did not actually take place at the O.K. Corral. It actually took place in narrow 1520 feet wide lot or alley immediately west of 312 Fremont Street, C.S Fly's Photography Studio and 12-room boarding house, six doors west of the rear entrance to the O.K. Corral on Fremont Street. It started there but spilled out into the street. Billy Claibone ran away before shooting began. Ike Clanton ran in and continued right out the back door. In the movie, Ike runs into the gallery shoots at the Earps out the window.

A drunken Ringo confronted Doc Holiday in the streets of Tombstone shortly after the shootout, allegedly over Ringo's affection for Big Nose Kate. The situation was defused by town marshals, and both men were fined for carrying concealed weapons.

Virgil Earp was ambushed, shot twice with buckshot in the back and arm. The doctor had to remove several inches of bone from his humerus bone. Virgil lost complete use of his arm. Virgil has been quoted as telling his wife, "Allie, don't worry darling, I still got one good arm to hold you with."

John Clum, the Mayor of Tombstone, survived an assassination attempt by the Cowboys, but in a manner different than described in the film.

Morgan Earp was shot in the back through a window while playing pool and died an hour later.

The day after Morgan was assassinated, Deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt, his brother James, Doc Holliday, and a few others who Wyatt deputized took Morgan's body to the railhead in Benson. They put Morgan's body on the train with James, who accompanied it to the family home in Colton, California, where Morgan's parents and wife waited to bury him.

Before leaving Tombstone, Wyatt tried to reconcile with Ike Clanton, who refused.

Ike Clanton and Frank Stillwell followed the Earp party to the train station, where Wyatt Earp killed Stillwell.

Sherman McMasters was a member of the Cowboy affiliation, but was a friend of Doc Holiday's and supported the Earps.

Turkey Creek Jack Johnson and Texas Jack Vermillion were both in Dodge City at the same time as Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday in Dodge City and most likely knew one another prior to Tombstone. The posse also included Wyatt's younger brother Warren, not depicted in the film.

Behan deputized Johnny Ringo and other members of the Cowboys to join his county posse in pursuit of the Earps.

According to a letter written by Will McLaury, brother of the two cowboys killed in the Gunfight, Sherman McMasters was killed by a group of Cowboys after teaming with the Earp party. (Wyatt Earp, however, claimed that McMasters died in the Philippines in 1898 while fighting in the Spanish-American War; McMasters' sister said he died in Colorado in 1892.)

Wyatt Earp unexpectedly came upon several Cowboys including Curly Bill and while shooting at them, his saddle horn was struck by a bullet and Earp received bullet holes in both sides of his long coat and another struck his boot heel.

The Earp federal posse officially is only known to have killed three Cowboys: Florentino "Indian Charlie" Cruz, Curly Bill Brocius, and Johnny Barnes. This is much fewer than the body count in the film. Wyatt Earp later told conflicting stories about killing Johnny Ringo, but his version of events appear to conflict with the facts.

During the Earp Vendetta Ride, the federal posse was pursued by Behan's county posse who had warrants for the Earp's arrest. The two parties never met.

The Earp Vendetta Ride was largely responsible for breaking the Clantons' power and the association of the Cowboys.

After Wyatt left Tombstone and went to Colorado, Mattie traveled with other Earp family members to Colton, California, where Virgil recuperated from his wounds. Wyatt never sent for her and she moved to Pinal, Arizona, where she resumed life as a prostitute, eventually committing suicide by taking an overdose of laudanum.

Wyatt returned west to San Francisco where he joined Josephine. They spent the rest of their lives together in various western boom towns pursuing mining claims until the settled in Los Angeles in about 1906. They spent summers there but the rest of the year pursued a mining claim in Vidal, California.

Wyatt Earp lost what assets he had when he left Tombstone. Deputy U.S. Marshal Wyatt Earp and his posse incurred significant expenses in pursuing those who had ambushed Virgil and assassinated Morgan. They received some contributions from private citizens and supporters. On February 13, 1882, Wyatt mortgaged his home to lawyer James G. Howard for $365.00 (about $8,920 today). He was never able to repay the loan and in 1884 Howard foreclosed on the house.

What follows are just the departures from history and not a reflection of the quality of the movie.

From the beginning, William "Curly Bill" Brocius and Johnny Ringo are shown as the leaders of the cowboys. Actually the cowboys were a loose, fluctuating and unorganized group of outlaws with no dominant leader, but Curly Bill did have followers among his associates.

The cowboys didn't wear red sashes as gang colors. One of the movie's two screenwriters, Kevin Jarre, got this idea from Wild Bill Hickok, who occasionally wore one. Some of the cowboys also wore them in imitation of Hickok, but not of a particular color or design. Jarre got the idea of using the sashes to designate membership in the gang from the way L.A. street gangs use colors.

There was no attack on a Mexican wedding party. The rustlers' cattle-stealing raids into Mexico had already caused a lot of tension between Mexico and the United States. Such an attack would probably have either sparked a war or would have forced the President to send in the Army to get rid of Arizona's outlaws. There was considerable cross-border smuggling, during which outlaw Cowboys stole Mexican cattle and ambushed Mexican vaqueros laden with gold on their way to Tucson to buy supplies. In turn, Mexican soldiers ambushed and shot Old Man Clanton and other cowboys.

Wyatt and Mattie did not arrive in Tucson by train and did not meet Virgil, Morgan and their wives there. Wyatt, Wyatt's wife Mattie, his brother James, James's wife Bessie, James's 16-year-old step-daughter, and Doc traveled by wagon train from Dodge City to Prescott, picking up Big Nose Kate on the way. There they met Virgil and Allie. All of them, except for Doc and Kate, then went on to Tombstone with their wagons. Morgan and his wife, Lou, arrived about a month later and then brother Warren Earp arrived several months after that.

There's no evidence Wyatt's second wife, Mattie, was addicted to laudanum in Tombstone, though she did use it later and in fact died from an overdose of the stuff--possibly a suicide.

After stabbing Ed Bailey, Doc is shown stealing money on his way out the door. There's no evidence Doc ever stole anything. According to Wyatt, after repeatedly catching Bailey cheating at cards, Doc finally pulled in the pot without showing his cards, as he had a right to do. Bailey started to pull his gun and Doc quickly stabbed him. The marshal had Doc under arrest in the front room of the hotel, while Bailey's friends were forming a lynch mob outside. In order to save Doc, "Big Nose Kate" Fisher set a shed on fire and while most of the people were trying to put it out, she walked into the hotel and leveled a gun at the marshal, enabling Doc and her to escape.

Wyatt was not dead set against police work, and while he may have turned down some offers of such, he didn't do so for long. Virgil accepted the job of U.S. Deputy Marshal when they stopped in Tucson on their way to Tombstone in November 1879. Within weeks of his arrival in Tombstone, Wyatt was riding stagecoaches as shotgun messenger for Wells, Fargo & Company. Then in July of 1880, more than a year before the gunfight, Wyatt became deputy sheriff for Tombstone under Pima County Sheriff Shibell.

Behan wasn't sheriff when the Earps arrived in Tombstone. In fact, Behan came to Tombstone after the Earps. When Wyatt resigned as deputy sheriff in November 1880, Behan was appointed as his replacement. Then when Cochise County was created in February 1881, Wyatt intended to compete for the position of sheriff against Behan. Instead, Wyatt made a deal with Behan allowing Behan to become sheriff, but Behan didn't hold up his side of the bargain.

Johnny Tyler was a customer, not a dealer, at the Oriental Saloon when Wyatt threw him out. Because of the Oriental's popularity, the competition hired Tyler and a few others to disrupt business there. According to biographer Stuart Lake, Wyatt did haul Tyler out by his ear while Doc held a gun on Tyler's associates. Also, it was Tom McLaury--not Tyler--that Wyatt later slapped. Wyatt slapped him with his left hand while drawing his pistol with his right, saying, "Jerk your gun and use it." Tom didn't, so Wyatt buffaloed (pistol-whipped) him alongside his head and walked away. Wyatt buffaloing Tom is shown later in the film shortly before the gunfight. A month after Wyatt threw Tyler out by his ear, Tyler was back at the Oriental and involved in a confrontation with Doc.

In the movie, Doc is shown looking down on faro. In reality, Doc dealt faro as well as played it--often around the clock. He apparently even preferred it to poker, as did many gamblers at the time. The odds in faro aren't that bad, which is why it never caught on in Las Vegas--the house's share wasn't large enough.

Josie was never a leading actress, though she did travel briefly with Pauline Markham's entertainment troupe playing a supporting role. It was during this time that the 18-year-old aspiring actress met Johnny Behan. Apparently this was before either of them came to Tombstone. The troupe did perform "H.M.S. Pinafore" in Tombstone during the Earp's first week in town but there's nothing to indicate she met Wyatt during this time. Josie returned to her home in San Francisco and Behan eventually sent a marriage proposal to her and she returned to Tombstone to live with him about nine months after her first visit there and about a year before the gunfight.

It is implied in the film that Deputy Sheriff Billy Breakenridge and Curly Bill were gay. In a letter written by Wells Fargo undercover agent Fred Dodge to Stuart Lake in the 1920s, Fred hinted at that Breakenridge might have been gay, but there's nothing to suggest that Curly Bill was.

Behan is shown as not helping City Marshal Fred White when the trouble arose with Curly Bill supposedly shooting at the moon, but Behan was not deputy sheriff at the time--Wyatt was. Apparently several cowboys did the initial shooting, but Curly Bill probably wasn't one of them. As White approached the scene, the cowboys ran around a building. White chased after them and found Curly Bill. He was shot in the groin--not the chest--when he tried to jerk Curly Bill's gun away from him. Only one bullet was fired from Curly Bill's gun and that was the one that killed White. It appears the shooting was indeed accidental and Wyatt even testified in Curly Bill's favor. White died two days after being shot and reportedly said it wasn't Curly Bill's fault.

To add atmosphere, the movie shows a building on fire in the background as the Earps and Holliday walk down to meet the Clantons and the McLaurys. If a building had been on fire, the Earps and probably Holliday would have dropped everything to help put it out.

Josie is shown in Fly's Photograph Gallery having a semi-nude picture taken as the fight breaks out. The semi-nude photograph often said to be of Josie is not really her. It actually dates from 1914 and was widely distributed by the ABC Novelty Company of Brooklyn, New York. Josie was nowhere near Fly's when the shooting took place, but apparently Big Nose Kate was. A woman who later claimed to be Kate said she and Mrs. Fly were looking out the window of Fly's Lodging House when the fight broke out.

In the shootout itself, the movie shows 51 shots being fired in 128 seconds. (One of Doc's shotgun blasts is shown twice from two different angles making it appear he fires three shots from a double-barrel shotgun.) Actually, just over 30 bullets were fired in about 30 seconds.

The lot where the fight took place was only eighteen feet wide, not about thirty, and there were not that many buildings around. The back of the lot was open, though there might have been a low fence. The end of the fight took place out in Fremont Street.

Doc fired the shotgun later in the fight and he only had one pistol, not two.

Morgan wasn't hit in the front of his right shoulder. The bullet entered the back of his left shoulder near the tip of his shoulder blade, traveled across his back and exited about the same spot on the back of his right shoulder.

Ike didn't take Behan's gun and shoot out of Fly's Lodging House, but it is likely that Billy Allen fired at Wyatt or Morgan from his hiding place on the east side of Fly's Lodging House, between Fly's and the assay office. Apparently Wyatt thought Ike had fired from inside of Fly's and he returned fire, which was probably the only shot deliberately fired at Fly's. In reality, Ike had run straight through Fly's and out the back toward Allen Street.

Frank McLaury was not shot in the forehead. Morgan's bullet actually went through Frank's head entering just below his right ear.

Josie and Wyatt probably became romantically involved several months before the shootout and it's very likely she was a high-class call girl at the time.

When Johnny Ringo tried to pick a fight with Doc, Ringo wasn't held back by cowboys. Neither was there any evidence Ringo was drunk. Instead, both Ringo and Doc were disarmed by the police.

The cowboys didn't shoot at the Earp wives or shoot anyone's wife. In the film, Warren says, "They hit Claude's house too, shot up his wife." The cowboys did try to kill Mayor Clum, but he was in a stagecoach--not at his house. Also, a mysterious figure did show up at Virgil's house, but when James Earp answered the door the person said something about having the wrong house and left. The Earps thought this might have been an assassination attempt and they went to stay at a hotel where they felt safer.

Virgil and Morgan weren't attacked right after the fight. The shootout took place on October 26, 1881. Virgil was ambushed on December 28th and Morgan was killed on March 18th of the following year. Wyatt was with Morgan when he was shot and was almost hit in the head by a second shot.

The doctor didn't need to try removing the bullet from Morgan's back because the bullet passed through Morgan and lodged in George Berry's thigh. Morgan also didn't die on a billiard table. The doctor examined him while he was lying on the floor and then they moved him to a couch. He died about forty minutes after being shot.

Virgil and Wyatt did not accompany Morgan's body back to California--their older brother James did. No one was around when Wyatt and three others shot Frank Stilwell beside the tracks near the Tucson train station some distance in front of the train. Stilwell was not killed as he tried to shoot at Virgil and his wife on the train. He was shot apparently after being questioned by Wyatt and his friends. Ike left the scene earlier without a confrontation with Wyatt, though Wyatt and the others searched for him after they killed Stilwell, but couldn't find him.

The vendetta was not carried out in town or in chases or with hangings. Only four cowboys were known to have been killed, though Wyatt hinted there may have been more. These were Stilwell, Florentino Cruz (who might have been the person called Indian Charley), Curly Bill and possibly Johnny Barnes. Cruz was killed after being interrogated and Barnes and Curly Bill were shot in the same gunfight.

This scene is not in the movie. The shootout with Curly Bill did not take place in and across a river. Wyatt and his party rode toward a spring when the cowboys suddenly jumped up from behind a rise and began firing. Wyatt quickly blasted Curly Bill with his shotgun while Doc and the others retreated for cover. The cowboys ran to a stand of willows and the gunfight continued.

An actor was not killed in a stagecoach robbery and Josie was not on a held-up stage.

Sherm McMasters was not killed during the Vendetta and his body was not dragged at Ringo's order to challenge Wyatt. He made it into Colorado with Wyatt.

Doc and Wyatt were in Colorado when Ringo was killed. Doc didn't die in a sanitarium. He died in a hotel.

Wyatt didn't write a booklet about Doc. Wyatt didn't visit him right before he died and didn't even know of Doc's death until eight years later. Wyatt did write about the gunfight and many other things.

For details, see http://replay.waybackmachine.org/20090627214139/http://www.ferncanyonpress.com/tombston/movie.shtml

(~1:31:38) Doc quotes the final lines from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "Kubla Khan".

He says: "Weave a circle round him thrice, and close your eyes with holy dread, for he on honey-dew hath fed, and drunk the milk of Paradise."

The poem is considered one of Coleridge's greatest works and, since being published in 1816, has been looked at by critics as being one of the greatest examples of Romanticism in English poetry (even having a copy of it on permenant display at the British Museum in London).

Another interesting fact is the subtitle of the poem, "A Vision in a Dream". In the movie's setting, Doc is in his usual 'haze' (as apparent when he passes out right after speaking), and quoting this poem could be looked at as his having a premonition of future events (ie: when he and Ringo have their final face-off, they circle each other; also Doc could be looking at himself as 'unstopable/supernatural' as Coleridge makes Kubla Khan).

With the poem being written by Coleridge while he (admittedly) was on opium, analyzing it's full meaning is even more-so up to the individual than normal with art.

Full poem at: http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=48043&pageno=58 (and next page 59)

Page last updated by murray-92-257388, 1 month ago
Top 5 Contributors: lycanpyre, briangcb, Saiga, kellyleas1-1, gonzo696

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