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.