Monday, March 23, 2015

"The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral" as Reinvented by Hollywood

Hollywood turned 30 seconds into 30 minutes in some cases all over Tombstone.

The date was Wednesday, October 26, 1881 in Tombstone, Arizona. When at 3 PM local time eight men met in what became the most famous gunfight of the old West.

"The Gunfight at the OK Corral" was the result of an ongoing feud between two factions. On one side of the feud were members of "The Cowboys of Cochise County". The group representing that faction consisted of Billy Claiborne, Brothers Ike and Billy Clanton and Brothers Frank and Tom McLaury. The other side of the feud consisted of Town Marshall Virgil Earp and two of his four Brothers appointed as Deputies Morgan and Wyatt. Along with Dentist turned Gambler and Gunfighter Doctor John H Holliday.

The famous gunfight actually lasted ONLY 30 SECONDS.

Doc Holiday had been given a short double barreled shot gun by Virgil Earp and Virgil carried Doc's cane in trade. While everyone else involved on both sides had different types of revolvers. Two Winchester 73's were still in the scabbards and never used by members of the Cowboys. According to witnesses two shots were initially heard and then both sides went into a frenzied fire fight. The question as to the source of those first two shots is still debated today. As the survivors at the hearing claimed they, or anyone associated with themselves did not fire those first two shots. However, the gunfight could only be deadly as the two group of opponents were standing approximately 8 to 10 feet from each other also according to witness testimony.

For those of my readers unfamiliar with the actual event. "The Gunfight at the OK Corral" did not take place in the famous corral, but in a very narrow lot next to "Fly's Photography Gallery" SIX DOORS WEST of the rear entrance to that infamous site.

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Fly's today as an historical site!               

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Obviously a 30 Second Gunfight does not make for good motion picture action. This article is not about how Hollywood portrayed the people involved, or about the events that lead up to, or followed the gunfight. It is a look at how Hollywood "RE-IMAGINED" and "EXPANDED" those 30 seconds for the motion picture audience. Likewise the movie and television companies added, or subtracted participants and I will discuss them when they apply to the version I am writing about.

The first motion picture to tell the events based upon"The Gunfight at the OK Corral" did not use the actual names as its source was a novel entitled "Saint Johnson". It was written by novelist and screenwriter W.R. Burnett. The Great Depression Era motion picture had the appropriate title of  "Law and Order" and was released on February 28, 1932 by Universal Pictures. The film starred Walter Huston as Marshal Frame "Saint" Johnson. The nickname "Saint" comes from his strong "Law and Order" stance. The screenplay was written by Walter's son John Huston which makes it interesting to film historians on another level. The movie also featured Harry Carey, Sr., Andy Devine and without screen credit Walter Brennan in his 10th movie appearance.

TCM describes the film's plot:
Traveling west, former peace officer Frame Johnson and his three friends arrive in Tombstone, a lawless town controlled by the three Northrup brothers. Preceded by his reputation, the town Council tries to get him to take the job of Marshal. He says he will not wear a badge again but seeing the ruthless Northrup murders he accepts. After a killing on both sides, although outnumbered, Johnson and his two remaining friends head to the OK Corral for a shoot out with the two remaining Northrups and their men.

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Here is a link to the full length film  "Law and Order".

The "Legend" of the events at the "OK Corral" and of "Wyatt Earp" himself were created in 1931 by author Stuart Lake two years after Wyatt had died. Unlike W.R. Burnett's "Saint Johnson" which was presented as a work of fiction. Stuart Lake claimed his book "Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshall" was a biography of the famed lawman and the complete truth. Lake further stated he had used both research and interviews with Earp's. His claims were truthful to a point as Stuart Lake added his own flourishes to the story. It should be understood that during the Depression years publishers did not have the staff, or time to verify everything submitted to them. Lake's work would spawn three motion pictures, a 1950's television show and create events that became accepted as fact. "Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal" is still the most popular biography (?) of Earp ever written.

Original cover art for "Wyatt Earp Frontier Marshal".jpg

Just a few short days prior to Wyatt Earp's death at the age of 80 on January 13, 1929. Both Wyatt and his "wife" Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp signed a contract with Stuart Lake to write this biography. Part of the contract would give Josephine and Wyatt's heirs residual income from the book sales forever. That contract would be voided by the courts in 1945 the year following Josephine Earp's death on December 19, 1944.

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Everything should have gone smoothly on the biography, but apparently Josephine wanted the work to be a white washed version of  Wyatt's and her own past lives.  Josephine started making demands on Stuart Lake including eliminating any mention of the Prostitute Cella Ann "Mattie" Blaylock Wyatt's previous common law wife from approximately either 1871 or 1873 until 1882.
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Josephine Earp was herself actually a common law wife of Wyatt's and researchers now further believe was also a prostitute like Baylock. In fact Josephine was doing everything possible to conceal her own history and certain details of her "marriage" to Wyatt from Stuart Lake and other researchers.

In 1973 the second most popular book on Wyatt Earp was published. The popularity came from its title "I Married Wyatt Earp: The Recollections of Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp". The book was alleged to be a combination of actual written material by Josephine edited together to form a complete narrative. An narrative that not only changed her martial relationship with Wyatt, but stated she was an opera singer when she first met him. The book was found to be a fraud and a hoax by it's editor Glenn G. Boyer in 1994. The photo below was on the cover of the book and Boyer claimed it was a semi-nude photograph of Josephine Earp. However, he could never prove it and picture is considered to be just another part of his hoax.

This is not to say that Stuart Lake was telling the true story either as I mentioned.

In his book Lake would invent stories about gunfights Wyatt Earp was in were he was never touched by a single bullet. Some of these thrilling gunfights took place when it was documented Wyatt was in another city, or even State at the time.

Another fabrication created by Stuart Lake appears to be the famous "Buntline Special". Lake wrote that one of those revolvers was given to Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and some other famous lawmen by Ned Buntline and the image of Earp with the weapon has remained.

All of these revolves in the above photograph are :Colt Buntline's", but it is always the 12 inch barrel version at the bottom that is associated in the movies and television with Wyatt Earp.

The problem here is that Ned Buntline was actually dime novelist Edward Zane Carroll Judson, Sr. Judson only wrote four stories about the American West and all of them were about "Buffalo Bill" Cody and not one of them even mention Wyatt Earp, or Bat Masterson. Also according to Wyatt's family and historians Wyatt never owned such a weapon. They have stated he did own a "Colt Peacemaker" though. Obvious Stuart Lake mixed up the two weapons and part of the "Legend of Wyatt Earp" was permanently created and became associated for ever with the OK Corral shoot out.

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The first motion picture studio to use Stuart Lake's book was 20th Century Fox who would use it a total of three times. They acquired the rights and began pre-production on a film starring actor George O'Brien in the part. However, Josephine Earp took the studio to court charging their's was an "unauthorized portrayal" of her husband. Even though she was collecting residuals on the sale of Lake's book.

Josephine sued for $50,000 and was awarded $5,000 and the studio was instructed to remove Wyatt's Earp name from the film. So instead of Wyatt Earp we have "Michael Wyatt", instead of Doc Holiday we have "Doc Warren". Then as the girl in love with Wyatt actress Irene Bentley played Mary Reid while playing the Dance Hall Singer Queenie LaVerne was Ruth Gillette.

As to the plot for this first Hollywood version of the Stuart Lake's work. It is apparent that Josephine Earp's lawsuit worked a little to well as the following actual review by Mordaunt Hall in the New York Times for January 31, 1934 would indicate there was no resemblance left to it:

They are a hard-riding, quick-shooting lot in "Frontier Marshal," the present incumbent of the Mayfair screen. This offering owes its story to a novel by Stuart N. Lake and as it comes to the screen it is as ingenuous as though it had been made many years ago. It has, however, the modern advantage of dialogue, which gives the producers a chance to slip in occasional lines of up-to-date vernacular with the parlance of the good old days of the West—in this case, Tombstone, Ariz. It will be rather interesting to hear what Tombstone thinks of this film, for even though the murders and shootings may be overlooked, there will assuredly be some citizen of that sun-scorched spot who will object to the silk hat worn by the Mayor and the gray topper adopted by the hero, who, in spite of his attire, proves he is a bit of a sleuth and a crackerjack marshal.
Berton Churchill appears as Mayor Hiram Melton and George O'Brien portrays the stalwart Michael Wyatt, the Mayor's nemesis. Melton makes quite a good income in one way or another, especially by engineering stage-coach hold-ups and also from his gambling den and dance hall. His banking partner, Oscar Reid, exasperates him, so the Mayor takes a pot shot at him from a window and Reid is killed. Everything goes well then until Wyatt enters the town. Queenie LaVerne, the Mayor's attractive golden-haired singer, who walks, talks, dresses and does her hair very much like Mae West, dubs Wyatt "Good-looking," and she has the audacity to use some of Mae West's lines from "She Done Him Wrong."
It may interest Arizona, if not New York, to know that Queenie, who is acted by Ruth Gillette, in these stage-coach days goes around in an attractive little vehicle attached to two spirited horses and driven by a coachman in an immaculate uniform. In the end this dizzy, undulating blonde emulates Cigarette of Ouida's "Under Two Flags" by springing in front of Wyatt just as Mayor Melton pulls the trigger of his revolver.
"Frontier Marshal," being a frank melodrama, does not bother about plausibility, and one gathers that it was produced with the adapter and the director having their tongues in their cheeks. There is the bad man who gets up a thirst by killing a couple of men. Wyatt might have been one of his victims, but the author decided to have the desperado look upon him as a harmless tenderfoot, a dude in fact. Mary Reid, daughter of the murdered banker, is the bright-eyed brunette in whom Wyatt becomes romantically interested. George E. Stone plays a Jewish store owner and Alan Edwards interprets the rĂ´le of a Western Robin Hood, who, while he delights in robbing and doing a periodical murder, is keen for fair play at one point of the proceedings. Russell Simpson handles the part of a Tombstone newspaper editor who loves the sound of his own voice while reading his own articles.

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The same story of the lawsuit by Josephine Earp reappears in articles about the 1939 movie version of Stuart Lake's book also by 20th Century Fox, but it is obvious that it was the 1934 motion picture it applied too only. In 1939 the new screenplay leaves the names of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday's intact. This then is also the first actual Hollywood version of "The Gunfight of the OK Corral" and it goes to a more heroic Wyatt Earp than actual events as Lake painted him.

Playing Wyatt Earp was Randolph Scott, playing Doc Halliday, not Holliday was Cesar Romero. The film retains the idea of the two women in the script with slight changes. Sarah Allen played by Nancy Kelly falls for Wyatt and Jerry played by Binnie Barns is in love with Doc Holliday. In any case Nancy Kelly character is in no way a prostitute or common law wife as was Josephine and Mattie, but within the Hayes Office guidelines you would not say the same about Jerry. Of course you can't have the heroic Wyatt Earp mixed up with a lady of Jerry's profession.

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At the film's climax Doc is killed outside of the Saloon by "Curly Bill" and his Gang. Curly than tells Wyatt to meet him at the OK Corral. Wyatt goes inside the saloon, checks his revolver for cartridges, borrowers another and a shot gun. Then leaving the saloon he walks in the dark past the fronts of a couple of stores and at the end of the walkway is the OK Corral> Whose entrance is even with the wooden sidewalk Wyatt is on. He turns into it and by himself fights and kills the entire Gang.

I would point out that the character of "Jerry" was meant to be Mary Katherine Horoney Cummings aka: Big Nose Kate, aka: Kate Elder and the prostitute  girlfriend of Doc Holliday. At the time of her relationship with Holliday her last name was just Horney, or spelled Harony, Haroney, and Horoney.
After the death of Doc Holliday in 1887 she married a blacksmith named George Cummings in Aspen, Colorado on March 2, 1890. She would die at the age of 89 on November 2, 1940.

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Also it should be noted that William Brocius aka: "Curly Bill" Brocius aka possibly as: William "Curly Bill" Bresnaham was killed on March 24, 1882 at Iron Springs, Arizona territory by Wyatt Earp for being involved in the assassination of his brother Morgan. Contrary to the movie "Curly Bill" was not at the OK Corral.

 William "Curly Bill" Brocius

The following link is to the entire 1939 feature film "Frontier Marshal"  for your enjoyment.


Moving ahead to October, 16, 1946, the day I was born,  20th Century Fox premiered its third version of Stuart Lake's book as "My Darling Clementine" . The screenplay was co-authored by Sam Hellerman who had written the 1939 "Frontier Marshall" script. He made one critical error placing the story in 1882 one year after the gunfight took place.

The motion picture was directed by John Ford and starred Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp.This was the first movie to bring in Wyatt's brothers Tim Holt as Virgil, Don Garner as James and Ward Bond as Morgan. Bond actually appeared in the other two versions of Lake's book. In 1934 he played a character named Ben Murchinson and in 1939 he was the Town Marshall.

Playing Clementine Carter who eventually falls for Wyatt was Cathy Downs and Linda Darnell played the Saloon girl Chihuahua. A character similar in some respects to the one of "Jerry" in the 1939 movie, but more obviously a prostitute who is having a relationship with Doc Holliday played by Victor Mature. In the plot Clementine Carter comes to Tombstone from the East having search across the county for "THE" Doctor John Henry Holliday she was to marry before he became a gunfighter with tuberculosis. Clementine is definitely the image Josephine Earp wanted people to think of her as, but with the added twist of first having been in love with Doc Holliday.

"My Darling Clementine" is the first film to introduce three of the real life opponents of the Earp's. Walter Brennan plays Old Man Clanton. Grant Withers is Ike Clanton, and John Ireland plays Billy Clanton.

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This is a link to AMC's Filmsite Movie Review edited by Tim Dirks about this film:

AMC's review of "My Darling Clementine" includes this excellent description of the climatic gunfight from  the film as staged and designed by John Ford. As with the previous films the gunfight is in the OK Corral which is a lot larger than it was.  Although this is the first filmed version not to have the Gunfight at night, but during the day as it really took place. 

The climax of the film is a version of the shootout at the O.K. Corral against the Clantons. The confrontation pits the efficient and calculated Earps (representing civilization) against the ragged Clantons (representing primitive natures). The five men leave the office and slowly start marching down the main street of town (in a long-shot) toward the O.K. Corral. - Wyatt, Morgan, Doc, the Mayor, and the Deacon. As they approach closer, the Mayor and Deacon fall back, Doc and Morg circle to the side through a back alley and behind fences, and Wyatt is left alone in the street. Then he too circles to the other side in a semi-military maneuver. [The O.K. Corral gunfight is not fought as a face-to-face confrontation in the middle of the main street.]
Before any shooting commences, Earp explains how he has warrants charging Old Man Clanton and his sons for the murder of James and Virgil Earp - including a charge of cattle rustling:

Wyatt: I'm givin' you a chance to submit to proper authorities.
Old Man Clanton: Well, you come on right in here Marshal and serve your warrant.
Wyatt: Which one of ya killed James?
Old Man Clanton: I did, and the other one too.
Ike: I'm gonna kill ya.
The town stagecoach riding between Earp and Ike billows up clouds of dust as the oldest Clanton son kicks open the corral gate and walks toward Earp. Using the dust as camouflage, Earp moves closer and fires a shot at Ike, killing him. Morgan kills a second Clanton. Next to him, Doc suffers a coughing fit and is shot by one of the Clantons. [Doc's physical infirmity causes him to become vulnerable during the gunfire - his disease tragically afflicts him.] Using horses in the corral as cover, Earp gets closer and kills another Clanton in front of a horse trough. Just before he collapses, Doc kills the fourth Clanton son. Old Man Clanton surrenders to Earp and is banished from town:
Old Man Clanton: My boys, Ike, Sam, Phin. Billy.
Wyatt: They're dead. I ain't gonna kill you. I hope you live a hundred years, feel just a little what my Pa's gonna feel. Now get out of town. Start wanderin'.
Old Man Clanton is allowed to ride out of the O.K. Corral - his punishment is to live and feel what Earp's father will soon feel. Suicidally avenging the deaths of his sons, he turns with gun in hand to shoot Wyatt. To defend his brother, Morgan (from the hip) shoots Clanton from his saddle. Morgan informs Wyatt that Doc has been killed in the gun battle.
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This is a link to the original trailer for the motion picture for what is still considered the "Classic version of the Gunfight" even with all its inaccuracies of the story. Owed more to it being directed by John Ford and starring Henry Fonda.

On June 13, 1942 Paramount Pictures first filmed version was "Tombstone the Town Too Tough to Die". Richard Dix was Wyatt, Kent Taylor was Doc Holliday, Edgar Buchanan was "Curly Bill" Brocious and Victor Jory played Ike Clanton.

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Once more I turn to an actual movie review for the Richard Dix movie. I would point out that as the leader of the gang is again Edgar Buchanan as "Curly Bill". Once more the historical accuracy of the piece is lost. Along with the description of what was another lone man gun battle.

From the New York Time July 27, 1942:
On the basis of the amount of ammunition expended and the footage devoted to posses swinging full tilt across the sagebrush—the most accurate criteria by which a rootin'-tootin' film can be judged — "Tombstone, the Town Too Tough to Die," now at the Rialto, stacks up as a tidy little Western. That it is supposed to be based upon the life of Wyatt Earp, famous frontier marshal, doesn't matter greatly. What does matter is that Harry Sherman, who specializes in outdoor dramas of strong silent men, has produced another lickety-split yarn of frontier laws vs. the bad hombres, and that the bad hombres die like dogs in the last reel. Mr. Sherman has a strong sense of justice and he likes it to happen fast.
Being an old hand at Westerns, Mr. Sherman hasn't varied the usual formula a bit; anything else would be artistic treason. Richard Dix, as the man who's out to collect the taxes and clean up the town, faces—and even turns his back upon—the most snake-eyed villains with all the sweet and humble assurance of a man who definitely has the angels on his side. The rustlers and thieves, craven souls, just cringe for the most part, but they do pull themselves together long enough for at least a couple of brisk six-gun battles, preferably in the local saloon or on a boulder-strewn hillside. Edgar Buchanan, being the ruffian leader, naturally is the last to die—an act which he performs with considerable flair. Don Castle, as the kid with a conscience, looks easy on a horse and Mr. Dix—he doesn't turn a hair. After all these years it would take more than a silver bullet to do him in. But as an epidemic of lead-poisoning "Tombstone" takes a heavy toll among the rest of the cast.
Premiering on television on September 6, 1955 and running for 229 episodes through June 27, 1961 was one of my favorite shows starring Hugh O'Brien "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp".

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Note that the shows title include the word "Legend" as once more Stuart Lake's book was one of the main sources. The series started out in Dodge City, Kansas and eventually moved to Tombstone, Arizona over its six seasons. The program always included a shorten version of this Wyatt Earp theme song which also was influenced by Lake's book:

I'll tell you a story a real true life story 
A tale of the Western frontier. 
The West, it was lawless, 
but one man was flawless 
and his is the story you'll hear. 

Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, 
Brave courageous and bold. 
Long live his fame and long life his glory 
and long may his story be told. 

Well he cleaned up the country 
The old wild west country 
He made law and order prevail. 
And none can deny it 
The legend of Wyatt 
Forever will live on the trail. 

Wyatt Earp, Wyatt Earp, 
Brave courageous and bold. 
Long live his fame and long life his glory 
and long may his story be told

One of the episodes has Wyatt being presented with his "Buntline Special" revolver and it becomes a trademark piece of his costume throughout the rest of the series. As I have already written both researchers and Wyatt's relatives stated he never had such a weapon and it was one of Stuart Lake's fictions that has become fact.

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I am concerned on;y with the last five episodes of Season Six. Within the framework of these programs the story of the Gunfight at the OK Corral is told and its aftermath.

Old Man Clanton is coming to the end of his outlaw reign as he battles with Mexicans over stolen cattle. Wyatt Earp is worried about who will succeed him.

After the death of Old Man Clanton, Doc Holliday travels to Prescott and enlists the aid of Virgil and Morgan Earp. Holliday concocts a scheme to kidnap Sheriff Behan in order to pit one group of oulaws against the other.

Wyatt Earp makes one last attempt to turn the various factions of the Clanton Gang against one another. If he fails, it means a showdown between the lawmen of Tombstone and the outlaws.

The oulaws' anger at Wyatt Earp comes to a boil. Marshal Earp turns down the offer of help from the town's vigilantes and decides that it will be just him, his two brothers, and Doc Holliday who will face down Ike Clanton and the other outlaws at the O.K. Corral.

In the aftermath of the bloody fight at the O.K. Corral, Sheriff Behan and the corrupt editor of the local newspaper hatch a plan to charge Wyatt Earp with murder.

The following link takes my reader to the complete Part Four. As Wyatt at an inquest tells the story of the "Gunfight at the OK Corral". There is a mention of about 20 seconds by Wyatt, but  the gunfight is in slow motion so one cannot determine its actual length. Also the setting appears in a confined area, but still appears to be in the OK Corral and not six doors from its rear entrance. However, this is the first attempt at accuracy.

I basically am showing these comic book covers and a trading card about the resolver from my youth to illustrate how important to the TV program Stuart Lake's creation of the "Buntline Special" was to identifying Wyatt Earp.

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On May 30, 1957 along with John Ford's "My Darling Clementine" Paramount Pictures released its second Wyatt Earp film. It has remained one of the most popular versions of "The Gunfight at the OK Corral" and was applicably entitled "The Gunfight at the OK Corral" to be sure audiences knew where this Western was going. The film was directed by John Sturges and starred Burt Lancaster as Wyatt and Kirk Douglas as Doc. Of interest is that Sturges' cast Lancaster as Doc and Douglas as Earp, but the two actors asked to reverse their parts. Playing the gambler lady in Wyatt's life was Rhonda Fleming and Jo Van Fleet played Kate Fisher the obvious prostitute in love with Holliday. The cast was interesting with Lyle Bettger as Ike Clanton, Dennis Hopper as Billy Clanton, DeForest Kelley as Morgan Earp, Martin Milner as James Earp, Jack Elam as Tom  McClury, Lee Van Cleef as Ed Bailey and John Ireland as Johnny Ringo instead of his earlier Billy Clanton. The movie also as had TV series brought in Bat Masterson played by Kenneth Tobey.

This version of the Earp Saga was also based upon fiction adopted by novelist Leon Uris (Exodus) from a story "The KIller's" by George Scullin. As was popular since the film "High Noon". A theme song was written and sung by Frankie Laine as means to set up Wyatt;s heroic character over the opening credits to the motion picture.

OK Corral OK Corral
There the outlaw band make their final stand
OK Corral
Oh my dearest one must die
Lay down my gun or take the chance of losing you forever
Duty calls
My backs against the wall
Have you no kind word to say
Before I ride away
Your love your love
I need
Your love
Keep the flame let it burn
Until I return
From the gunfight at ok corral
If the lord is my friend
We'll meet at the end
Of the Gunfight at OK Corral
Gunfight at OK Corral
Boot hill Boot hill
So cold so still
There they lay side by side
The killers that died
In the gunfight at OK Corral
OK Corral
Gunfight at OK Corral

Should you be interested here is a link to the opening credits to the movie as Frankie Laine sings the title song:

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The gunfight staged by director John Sturges is very exciting and took four days to film and runs six minutes in length, or only five minutes and thirty seconds longer than the real one.  In fact the death of Billy Clanton comes after he has run away and is in the town saloon. Additionally in the Gunfight in Sturges' film is Johnny Ringo who of course was never there, but the film  shows Ringo as Doc Holliday's rival for Kate Fisher. So there is a motive for him being at the Gunfight.. In reality Doc and Ringo did trade treats on January 17, 1882 and it appeared they were headed for a gunfight that never happened.

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The real John Peters Ringo aka: John B, Ringgold came to Tombstone after his arrest in the Texas Mason County Wars. Ringo became a member of the "Cowboys of Cochise Country" and associated with Ike Clanton and "Curly Bill" Brocious. Johnny Ringo was found dead in Wild Turkey Creek Canyon on July 11, 1882 in a tree with a bullet hole in his right temple that had exited from the back of his head. Who killed him is unknown although the movie "Tombstone" has Doc Holliday kill him at the site. The problem with that actual claim and the use of it in the movie "Tombstone" was that Doc Holliday was at a Court House in Colorado on the day in question.  Josephine Earp's "I Married Wyatt Earp" edited by Glenn Boyer claimed that Wyatt and Doc returned to Tombstone for the purpose of killing Ringo. Wyatt was also elsewhere on the day in question. No one really knows who killed Johnny Ringo and the idea of suicide over the OK Corral events and his life in general has also been mentioned.

As with the fictionalized  "The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp". October 1, 1959 saw an early Arron Spelling program starring Don Durant as "Johnny Ringo". His outlaw past is forgotten and Ringo is the Sheriff of the fictitious town of Valverdi, Arizona with deputies and a girl friend. As with the television programs about Wyatt and Bat Masterson  this program also had a Dell Comic Book series and a record for sale. How the 1950's changed history for young viewers is another subject altogether.

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John Ireland at left as Ringo                                                    

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Don Durant on the TV Show

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Returning to the events of the Gunfight was director John Sturges ten years after his first film in "Hour of the Gun". His new motion picture was about the events following the "Gunfight at the OK Corral", but starts with a re-enactment of that fight. It is interesting that Sturges shoots a completely different version of the event for this movie than he used in the Lancaster and Douglas film. Both of course are not accurate, but make great Hollywood.

Playing Wyatt Earp this time was James Garner and Jason Robards had the role of  Doc Holliday. Robert Ryan was cast as Ike Clanton. While Sam Melville was Wyatt's brother Morgan and Frank Converse brother Virgil Earp. Playing "Curly Bill" Brocious was a young Jon Voight.

In Sturgis' 1957 film Ike Clanton was killed in the Gunfight at the end. Therefore you can not consider this motion picture as a direct sequel to his earlier motion picture. Actually this time Sturges had it correct as Ike was not killed, but ran from the events of October 26, 1881.


This movie as many others shows Ike being killed by Wyatt Earp after the Gunfight. Ike was actually tracked down by Jonas V. Brighton on June 1, 1887, This is the reported story of Ike Clanton's actual death by Brighton as told by a reporter:
The next morning, while they were at breakfast, Ike Clanton came riding up to the front door. Mr. Brighton got up from the table, walked to the door, and was familiarly saluted by him. Just at this time, Mr. Miller stepped to the door, to be ready to render any assistance needed, and when Ike saw him he wheeled his horse and attempted to get under cover of the thick cover which grows close to Wilson's home, at the same time pulling his Winchester from its scabbard. Both Brighton and Miller ordered him to halt but instead of doing so, when about twenty yards distant where the trail took a turn to the left, he threw his rifle over his left arm attempting to fire; at this instance Detective Brighton fired, the ball entering under the left arm and passing directly through the heart and out under the right arm. Ike reeled in his saddle and fell on the right side of his horse, his rifle falling on the left.
Before the fall, Brighton fired a second shot which passed through the cantle of the saddle and grazed Ike's right leg. When Brighton and Miller walked up to where Ike lay they found he was dead. Mr. Wilson, at whose ranch the shooting occurred, notified the nearest neighbors and four men came over and identified the deceased and assisted in giving him as decent a burial as circumstances would admit

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The poster's tag line reads:
That was the "revisionist" theme of the picture, but I am not interested in that. The film opens with the famous gunfight and the add campaign went with the idea that most movies ended there, but this one was starting there.

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 Image result for images of the movie hour of the gun
As the above three pictures indicate the area of the gunfight wasn't right as the area was certainly not a "narrow lot". Although the second picture shows part of a "Photo Gallery". I need not go any further for this article, but "Hour of the Gun" is a very good film and if any of my readers are interested here is a link to the motion picture. The movie is based upon the book "Tombstone Epitaph" by Douglas D. Martin which is basically a history of the town taken from the pages of that newspaper.

Prior to the release of "Hour of the Gun" there was another television version of the famous gunfight, but not made in the United States but in the United Kingdom. The characterization of  Ike Clanton was clearly based upon the earlier motion picture  "Gunfight at the OK Corral" .The four part program ran on the BBC under the title of  "The Gunfighters" from April 30, 1966 to May 21,1966.  For my fellow "Whovians" out there this was the seventh adventure from  the third season of the First "Dr. Who" played by William Hartnell.  History with a Sci-Fi twist and a gunfight at the OK Corral filmed like no other.

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Image result for images from the dr who show the gunfightersImage result for images from the dr who show the gunfighters

The "Doctor" and his Two Companions Steven Taylor dressed like silent film Cowboy Tom Mix and Dodo Chaplet arrive in Tombstone, Arizona in the TARDIS. There they meet Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Warren Earp (the youngest of the four brothers), Virgil Earp, Ike Clanton, Johnny Ringo, Phineas Clanton (Ike's brother never really shown in the films), Pa Clanton and Kate.

In this story "Dr. Who" attempts to defuse the situation between the two camps, but fails and this leads to the famous gunfight. After it is over the Doctor and his Companions leave in the TARDIS.

What I find interesting when watching the episode is that Johnny Ringo has a strong Scottish accent which doesn't fit as seeing that he was born in Greens Fork, Indiana. There's no question Billy Clanton is from the U.K. also.Although he was born in Hamilton County, Texas.

I have attached two links about the program. The first is from "The TARDIS Data Core" and is a complete look  at all four episodes of "The Gunfighters" and is very interesting. The second link is to the fourth episode with the Gunfight at the OK Corral.

Winning the 1971 "Western Writers of America Spur Award" for Best Movie Script was Peter Hamill for the motion picture "Doc". Playing Doc Holliday was Stacey Keach, Wyatt was played by Harris Yulin and Faye Dunaway was Kate Elder. We finally got one of her "aka's" right in a movie. Although Faye Dunaway seemed a hell of a lot prettier than the real "Big Nose Kate". However, the motion picture also calls her Kate Fisher which was the name of the character in "The Gunfight at the OK Corral", but never used by the real women.

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Image result for images from the 1971 movie docImage result for images of stacy keach in doc

The film produced and directed by Frank Perry was a strong revisionist treatment of the "Gunfight at the OK Corral" and the place in history of those involved. When the gunfight occurs it is during a fiesta for the entire town which Josephine Earp is the only person to claim was going on that day in Tombstone. The Earp's and Doc all have shot guns against the "Cowboys of Cochise's" revolvers. In fact one of the "Cowboys" screams out that "they all have shot guns". Shot guns against revolvers always wins and Perry uses his revision of the weaponry in the political aspect he brings up during the investigation of the gunfight. Once again Ike Clanton is killed at the OK Corral.

Here's a link to the full movie of "Doc".

In 1981 a made for television movie concerning the events leading up to and after the gunfight was made. However, it remained on the shelf as they say for two years and it wasn't until 1983 that it was shown. At the time it was thought to be based upon a true biography, but as it was "I Married Wyatt Earp" by Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp". The source material would be proven a hoax eleven years later in 1994. Which should not take away from the movie.

The motion picture itself is very interesting for several reasons. One of course is that Josephine claimed to be an opera singer and not a prostitute. Another that she claimed to have married legally Wyatt Earp and was never his common law wife. It was the casting of the two leads that add;s to the film's interest. Playing Wyatt was Bruce Boxleitner while  playing Josephine was Marie Osmond adding to the idea of her being really a nice innocent girl. The film is also noted as being the last appearance of actor Ross Martin.

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The gunfight in this picture is very close to the actual event. We have a narrow street before the OK Corral's entrance and the Cowboys and the Earp's with Doc Holliday are almost on top of each other when the shoot out begins. At this point in the history of motion picture re-enactments this overlooked movie is the best.

The only real problem is the action we have never seen before, or heard about except in the book. Josephine enters a building to get a better view and finds two of the Cowboy Gang at a window prepared to shoot the Earp's and Holliday in the back. She takes a rife and cocks it to attract the two men's attention and has them drop their guns and get out. As for the gunfight none of the participants, or history knew about her participation.

That being said the movie recreates some very effective shoot outs and the events surrounding the assassination of Morgan Earp near its end is worth a look. So here is a link to the film.

Now what if anything is the merit in "I Married Wyatt Earp: The Musical" is I have no idea, but here is a link about this all women show. What is interesting is this musical came out in 2004 and is based UPON THE BOOK BY GLENN BOYER. Thereby, acknowledging that Josephine Earp never wrote it. From the publicity picture on the website those behind the production have accepted that semi-nude photo I mentioned above as actually be Josephine Earp.

Released six months apart are the last two movies to date made about Wyatt Earp and the famous gunfight. Unlike any other of the previous motion pictures with the exception of  "I Married Wyatt Earp". Both of these films claimed to be the true story. When speaking of Johnny Ringo earlier in this article I mentioned the motion picture "Tombstone" which is one of these last two films. It contains a  film treatment that perpetuates the story that Doc Holliday killed Ringo. However. to be  the "True story" the movie viewer and my readers must accept that version of Johnny Ringo's death as fact. For this reason I am going into more detail on the screenplays of both films. as each was plagued with problems that also effected the gunfight this article concerns itself with.

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"Tombstone" was released the day before Christmas on December 24, 1993  by Walt Disney's Buena Vista Productions who was one of the major backers of the production.

Playing Wyatt was Kurt Russeli, Val Kilmer was Doc Holliday, Sam Elliot played Virgil Earp, Bill Paxton was Morgan Earp, Powers Boothe was "Curly Bill" Brocious and Michael Biehn played Johnny Ringo. Portraying the Clanton's were Stephen Lang as Ike and Thomas Hayden Church as Billy. The McLaury's were played by John Philpin as Tom and Robert John Burke as Frank.

A side note about casting. The role of Doc Holliday was supposed to go to actor William Dafoe, but Walt Disney Studios stated they would pull their backing and refuse to distribute the film if he was cast in the part. They objected to the actor, because he played Jesus in the controversial film "The Last Temptation of Christ" in 1988. So the part was offered to Val Kilmer.

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"Tombstone" was the first motion picture to have all three historical women in it. Dana Delany plays Josephine Marcus, Dana Wheeler-Nicholson plays Mattie Blaylock and as "Big Nose Kate" Joanna Pacula was cast. However, it is the portrayal of the gunfight this article is about. Note the picture of Kurt Russell below holding the "Buntline Special" again keeping Stuart Lake's creation alive and well and used in the OK Corral sequence.

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Image result for images of the film tombstoneImage result for images of the film tombstone

When the gunfight is over Ike Clanton has run away and his brother Billy is dead. Along with both McLaury brothers. While Virgil and Morgan Earp are both wounded. As for the set used in that sequence. I will quote Stephen Holden of the New York Times from his review on the day the motion picture opened there. Holden stated the movie was a:
capacious western with many modern touches, the Arizona boom town and site of the legendary O.K. Corral has a seedy, vaudevillian grandeur that makes it a direct forerunner of Las Vegas.
Pertaining to the gunfight sequence the website noted a major continuity error:
During the fight at the O.K Corral Doc empties one of his guns into the man with the blue shirt on, then the man starts shooting through the window and Wyatt shouts "Doc, behind us." Doc Holiday immediately empties both his guns into the building without time to reload one.
Of course there could have been a twin brother in the film with the same outfit on. I am not attempting to jest over the error, but it goes directly to good editing when you are claiming to be giving an accurate and truthful portrait of an historical event. There were other mistakes note also.

One of the problems mentioned over and over with the entire film was its length. According to Val Kilmer almost every character had a subplot and story that apparently was filmed which affected the time constants on the film. Critics and those attempting to edit the film said all of these individual character stories by screen writer Kevin Jarre got in the way of the narrative.Which may also have contributed to the error in the gunfight with the man in the blue shirt.  Kurt Russell had stated the final script was approximately 30 pages too long and he even assisted in editing down some of his own scenes.Again a situation that may have contributed to the error in the OK Corral sequence. It is also on record that over 100 members of either the cast and crew actually quit the production for one reason, or another."Tombstone" was a troubled film.

For those unaware Kevin Costner was suppose to play Wyatt Earp in the motion picture, but he disagreed with writer Kevin Jarre over the focus his screenplay. Costner is on record as stating the film should focus upon Wyatt Earp rather than diluting the focus with so many characters with their own individual subplots. He left the production and was replaced by Kurt Russell and as Russell's and Val Kilmer's comments were to show. Kevin Costner was correct from the start and smartly stepped away from that motion picture. One has to wonder what the film would have been like had Costner played Wyatt Earp and Dafoe Doc Holliday?

However, Kevin Costner's "Wyatt Earp" released six months after "Tombstone" was the less successful of the two films. A factor may have been the closeness to the other's release. Although it is documented that an actual factor was the screenplay by Lawrence Kason the director and Dan Gordon.

"Wyatt Earp" made only $25 million dollars on a $63 million dollar budget. While "Tombstone" made $56 million dollars on a $25 million dollar budget. It should also be noted with all the trouble "Tombstone" experienced as a result of Jarre's screenplay. Kason's vision of the Earp Saga  was nominated for five "Razzie Awards" which included "Worst Picture", Worst Director and "Worse Screen Couple". The film won for "Worst Remake, or Sequel" not a good honor compared to "Tombstone" and Kevin Costner received the "Razzie" for "Worst Actor".

Besides Kevin Costner the other main parts had Dennis Quaid as Doc Holliday, David Andrews as James Earp, Linden Ashby as Morgan, Michael Madsen as Virgil Earp and Jim Caviezel as Warren Earp. Jeff Farhey was Ike Clanton,Gabriel Folse played Billy Clanton, Rex Linn was Frank McLaury and Adam Baldwin played his brother Tom. Lou Smith was "Curly Bill" Brocious and the main women I've mentioned above were: Joanna Going as Josie Marcus, Isabella Rossellini as Big Nose Kate and Mare Winningham portrayed Mattie Blaylock.

Here we have the gunfight in the daylight with the participants standing about eight to ten feet apart in what is obviously not the OK Corral as in so many other films. However, this is were the gunfight takes place and is not actually in the narrow lot. The length of this Hollywood shoot out I timed at 42 seconds from the first shot to the last. Pretty close when you really didn't know what the physical actions of each person really was. There was no mysterious two shots that started the gunfight in the film though.

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Here is a link to the gunfight sequence in the movie "Wyatt Earp".

I mentioned the problem with these two films script lengths and I started out the article by mentioning the actual :Gunfight at the OK Corral" was suppose to have taken only 30 seconds. The film "Wyatt Earp" came very close to that mark with the correct people being killed. However, I also said how hard it is to make an action picture based upon 30 seconds. The running time for "Wyatt Earp" is stated as being 191 minutes which meant the filmmakers had to fill in Three hours and ten and a half minutes over the real shoot out. "Tombstone" ran Two hours and 10 minutes in the General release version, or Two hours and nine and a half minutes longer than the actual gunfight. No wonder Hollywood felt it had to embellish and reinvent the look of the famous "Gunfight at the OK Corral". Along with changing the events.

To be honest I'm old fashion and although I know its not history, but Hollywood. I still prefer John Ford's "My Darling Clementine" and John Sturge's "The Gunfight at the OK Corral" and the reason is both are pure Hollywood Entertainment and aim at everything, but the truth.

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