Tombstone, Wyatt Earp, Oh my…

The other night, overloaded on holiday Christmas specials, my husband, Mark, and I went on a channel surfing expedition to see what else we could find to watch. With the remote control in Mark’s possession, we came across one of our favorite movies, TOMBSTONE, or as my husband likes to call it: That Kurt Russell movie you like so much, Renee. Although we own the DVD, there’s nothing better than watching this particular movie on television. I don’t know why this is true, fodder for another blog, I suppose.


My husband isn’t much of a movie watcher. He prefers sports. But there’s something about this particular movie that always captures his attention. The other night was no exception. Because he was already half-bored with the television he had his computer on his lap. Next thing I know he’s surfing the Internet, looking for information about Wyatt Earp and the rest of the boys in the film. As most of you probably already know, the movie TOMBSTONE took a lot of creative license.
For fun, I’ve decided to point out a few things the writers got right and several they got wrong or left out or simply ignored.

Let’s start with Wyatt. The casting, in my opinion, is spot-on. Here’s a picture of Mr. Earp in real life (on the left) and Kurt Russell in the role of Mr. Earp (on the right).

The movie also got the following right. Wyatt was a lawman in Dodge City (a city policeman, actually). He was enamored with the opportunity of boomtowns, hence moved to Tombstone to better his lot in life. His older brother Virgil went to Tombstone as well, as did his little brother Morgan. Doc Holliday joined them there. The outlaw gang known as the Cowboys was a real and present danger throughout the southwest territories. There was a gunfight in the OK Corral between The Earp brothers and several of the Cowboys, including Ike and Billy Clanton. Three of the Cowboys were killed in this shootout and thus began an ongoing feud between the Earps, Holliday and the Cowboys. Within five months of the gunfight, Virgil was, indeed, ambushed and maimed, while Morgan was assassinated while playing billiards. Wyatt then pursued a vendetta ride where he chased down the Cowboys he thought responsible. Doc Holliday had tuberculosis and died in a sanatorium in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Wyatt and Sheriff Johnny Behan shared a mutual interest in Josephine Sarah Marcus, who first visited Tombstone as part of a theater troupe.

The movie failed on the following (just to name a few). There was no mention of the other Earp brother in Tombstone, James. Nor did the movie include yet another brother, Warren, who it is believed joined Wyatt in the vendetta ride against the Cowboys. The Earp brothers bought rights in a mine while in Tombstone, as well as secured some water rights. The prostitute Celia Anne “Mattie” Blaylock was Wyatt’s common law wife, they weren’t actually married. Josephine was actually Sheriff Behan’s common law wife, not just his girlfriend. She left Behan when she caught him with another woman, not because she fell in love with Wyatt. Wyatt and Josie (Sadie as he called her) were together for the last forty-six years of his life in a common law marriage. There is no proof of Doc Holliday’s tale about falling in love with his first cousin, also no mention that he was a dentist by trade.

And…I could go on, but I think you get the idea. The movie Tombstone definitely romanticized the story of Wyatt Earp and I, for one, am just fine with this. Even with the inaccuracies, it’s a great movie. Kurt Russell will forever be Wyatt Earp in my mind.

Since this is the start of a new year, leave a comment and I’ll put you in a drawing to win one of my historical western romances.

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29 thoughts on “Tombstone, Wyatt Earp, Oh my…”

  1. I don’t mind it either when a movie is romanticized and isn’t completely accurate. As long as it stays believable.
    I haven’t seen Tombstone yet, but I think I’ll have to add it to my list of movies I want to see. I love a movie about historical figures. And thanks to you I’ll know which parts of the movie are true and which are not.

  2. Much as I love Christmas specials I’ve had enough of them now. I’ve watched so many Christmas movies in the hope it’d make it feel more like Christmas but failed miserably! We’ve all been too ill to bother.
    There’s things I like about Tombstone & also Kevin Costners Wyatt Earp, so a mix of the two would be perfect! ;0)
    I think creative licence is fine & if people care enough about the subject then they’ll research it themselves. A lot of the time the legends make for better watching than reality.
    I watched Calamity Jane with my kids last week & even though most of it is total fiction I love it! Bad example I know!
    A better example is Young Guns. Emilio Estevez plays a brilliant Billy but the film doesnt show what a psychotic little killer he was just the romanticised folk hero he’s become. But creative licence is fine with me as it’s one of my favourite more modern westerns.
    Sorry to have rambled on. The most intelligent conversation I’ve had recently was with my 7 yr old about what tribe of Indians I thought his sylvanian animals were as they’d just scalped the confederate & Yankee cavalry figures!

  3. I have yet to see this movie Tombstone. However, I am amazed at Kurt Russell’s uncanny resemblance to Wyatt Earp. I do like Keanu Reeves and Sam Elliott too. I do like romance in movies and your background info will be helpful when I view this film.

    Happy 2013!

  4. Love the entire movie, but especially the friendship between Wyatt and Doc Holliday. You know the scene where Doc drags himself out of bed to take on Johnny Ringo? It says so much about his friendship with Wyatt. Doc also has some truly fabulous lines. “I’ll be your huckleberry” always cracks me up.

    Thanks for the fun post, Renee! We have the DVD, but like you said, it’s more fun watching it unexpectedly. Happy New Year!

  5. I love watching the movie Tombstone and also have the DVD. I think Kurt Russell does an excellent job playing Wyatt Earp.

  6. I love this movie.
    I’m a big Kurt Russell fan.
    I think he’s the most versatile actor alive.
    Sure a lot of actors are famous for how talented their are, and very honored and awarded but honestly, most of them just play a slight variation on the same character over and over. Al Pacino, Jack Nicholas.
    People used to mock John Wayne for playing the same sort of role, but can you picture Robert DeNiro as anything but an edgy, cranky city man? Can you picture Al Pacino as a quiet Amish boy coming of age? Is Jack Nicholas ever anything but a mouthy, quirky eccentric?

    But Kurt Russell vanishes into the role of Wyatt Earp, and he made such a great, bum in Captain Ron and he was a slick, wealthy unwilling action star in Executive Decision, fighting bad guys on an airplane. Plus he was that poor man with all those rowdy sons tricking amnesia-stricken Goldie Hawn into thinking she was his wife in Overboard and the super macho wildman in Escape from New York. And the frantic husband searching for his missing wife in Breakdown.
    Other examples just keep popping into my head but these characters are rich/poor, macho/helpless, city/country, funny/dramatic. I think he’s the best.
    Love this post about Wyatt, too. Thanks, Renee
    And HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!

  7. Stephanie, I highly recommend the movie. To me, it’s pure Hollywood fun!

    Lisa, excellent point about merging the two movies Tombstone and Wyatt Earp for a more authentic feel. I agree, Young Guns was a good movie and definitely romanticized Billy the Kid. Here’s praying you’re feeling better. That flu/cold/coughing thingy got me, too!!!

  8. Happy 2013 Laurie. And, yes, I thought all of the casting in Tombstone was fabulous.

    Hi Vicki! I agree about the friendship between Wyatt and Doc. Truthfully, I think Val Kilmer stole the movie. Ever since we watched the movie my husband has been winking at me and saying, “I’m your Huckleberry.” Too funny!

    Hi Katie! Happy New Year to you!!!

  9. Mary, what an excellent point about Kurt Russell. I’ve always been a fan, and now that you’ve pointed out how awesome he is…I’m more so. I’ve seen every one of those movies you mentioned and you’re right. He took on every role and sank into the character. Fabulous!

    Happy, happy New Year!!!

  10. I’m a sucker for all of these western movies. I know some stray far from the truth but they are entertaining. I loved “3:10 to Yuma” with Russell Crowe. And John Wayne and Sam Elliott made some outstanding westerns that I love to watch over and over again. I guess I’m just a lost cause.

    Wishing you much success in 2013, Filly sister!

  11. I liked the movie,but didnt know it left out so much,,which is sad,if you are going to make a historial movie,at least be correct

  12. I love Tombstone. I think Kurt Russell does a great job portraying Wyatt Earp and that Val Kilmer was great as Doc Holliday.

  13. I love history, but I don’t feel that books and movies have to be totally accurate when it comes to the facts. As long as it is a believable and entertaining story, I can ignore historical inconsistencies. For me, the romance is the MAIN story. 🙂

  14. Howdy, I love this movie, Renee. And Sam Elliott rocks. Tombstone seems to be on often on some cable channel or other, and hubby and I will just take in a few minutes of it. And who doesn’t want to be Val Kilmer’s huckle berry LOL. Happy new year to all.

  15. I,too love all of the western movies but have not seen this one. Will have to watch for it to air. Thanks for sharing.

  16. My husband an I love this movie too! I got for him this Christmas. I think my favorite is Val Kilmer’s. It so great and even when he is at his worst he is at his best! Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Totally agree!

  17. Enjoyed reading the information. I have visited Tombstone many times and have seen the OK corral. Very interesting.
    I liked this movie a lot. Good actoes in it and the acting was believable.

  18. I love the movie too…Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday are my favorites….I hate it when Morgan gets killed..Breaks my heart…


  19. I enjoyed the movie but I always like to read the book first if at all possible. There are very few movies that live up to the details in the book but every once in a while they get pretty darn close lol.

  20. I watch Tombstone as often as it is on. My daughter has seen it so many times that she knows all the dialogue. She can quote it before it comes on the screen.
    My husband was the same way with The Outlaw Josie Wales.
    Myself, just love watching them in their dusters, walking abreast down the street. Rifles at the end of the arm, out of site, just looking terriffic, and so cool.
    And then there is Sam Elliott’s voice. I can find him in a crowd, just from his voice. And the Ram truck commercials.

  21. It has been quite sometime since I last watched that movie… I tend to read more during my free time instead of TV & Movies. 🙂

  22. Tombstone was a great movie. My husband is not much of a movie watcher when I around watching TV. He always has the TV on the history channel or scifi. I love watching movies if I have the time. Love the western hallmark movies and watch those when he isn’t home. While he is watching the history channel I read with ear plugs in my ears.

  23. Renee, my husband sounds just like yours–he is a sports fanatic, and not much on movies, at all, but THIS is one he always watches if he’s “flipping through” and comes across it. He has some of the lines memorized! I love this movie as well, but for whatever reason, it really is one he likes A LOT–and that’s saying something for him. Interesting post about the differences. I know Hollywood always romanticizes history, but like you, I’m okay with it in this movie.

  24. I have not seen this movie in its entirety. I have seen a few bits and pieces on TV, but not enough to count. There has been much written about the events in Tombstone and not all of them agree.
    I consider most movies entertainment only. A few present events with an eye towards accuracy, but for most a good story is what they are interested in. No problem with that, as long as viewers remember they aren’t watching a documentary.
    Glad your husband has movies he enjoys and doesn’t mind watching over and over. I have gotten so I watch the Christmas specials every few years. Without little ones around, many of them just aren’t the same. One thing we can count on, some of the good movies will be back on at some time every year or so.

    Thanks for an interesting post.

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