Wyatt Earp

WESTERN BAD ASS VIOLENCE FIX – TOMBSTONE, 1993

TOMBSTONE POSTER

The first movie I remember seeing with my mom was Gunfight at OK Corral. It was a busy day at the Utopia on Union Turnpike in Queens. Not a big theater, especially back when movie theaters were palatial.

There were hardly any seats left when we got there, having walked 2.5 miles from home. I had a non-driving mom who was a subscriber to healthy outdoor exercise. We did a lot of walking — she with enthusiasm and I because I had no choice.

We found a seat in the second row, from which vantage point Burt and Kirk had heads 20 feet high. It left an indelible mark on my mind. I became an O.K. Corral aficionado, catching each new version of the story as it was cranked out of Hollywood.

When movies became available on video, I caught up with all the earlier versions, too.

I stayed with “Gunfight” as my favorite for a long time. Maybe I’m just fond of Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. Garry generally favored “My Darling Clementine” but he is a John Ford fan. We have our preferences and they aren’t logical.

In 1993, along came “Tombstone.” One viewing and it was my favorite version of the gunfight story. A few more viewings and it morphed into our mutual favorite version of the OK corral and one of our top 5 westerns of all time.

I don’t love it for its historical accuracy. As do all the Wyatt Earp – Doc Holliday movies, it omits more than it includes. The Earps were wild and crazy guys, a lot wilder and crazier than even the wildest, craziest portrayal Hollywood has yet put on the screen. Add Doc Holliday — who was a real nutter, a charming, psychopathic killer — and you have a seriously lethal bunch of guys.

There were quite a few other Earp brothers who are always left out of the story, maybe because they didn’t go into the peacekeeping business. Daddy Earp was a real piece of work and deserves a movie of his own. Although I tend to be persnicketty about historical details, I’m not when I watch westerns. No percentage in it. They are all wildly inaccurate.

Tombstone has a perfect balance of classic western ingredients. Justice, revenge, violence, horses, great lines, wit, drama, humor, excellent cinematography and enough mythology to make me go “Yeah!!”

TombstoneOKCorral

Quotes of the Day:

Curly Bill: [takes a bill with Wyatt’s signature from a customer and throws it on the faro table]

Wyatt Earp: Curly Bill, huh? I heard of you.

C. S. Fly cabinet card portrait of Josephine S...

Josephine Sarah Marcus. She was for a time Sheriff Johnny Behan’s girlfriend but left him for Wyatt Earp. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Ike Clanton: Listen, Mr. Kansas Law Dog. Law don’t go around here. Savvy?

Wyatt Earp: I’m retired.

Curly Bill: Good. That’s real good.

Ike Clanton: Yeah, that’s good, Mr. Law Dog, ’cause law don’t go around here.

Wyatt Earp: I heard you the first time. [flips a card]

Wyatt Earp: Winner to the King, five hundred dollars.

Curly Bill: Shut up, Ike.

Johnny Ringo: [Ringo steps up to Doc] And you must be Doc Holliday.

Doc Holliday: That’s the rumor.

Johnny Ringo: You retired too?

Doc Holliday: Not me. I’m in my prime.

Johnny Ringo: Yeah, you look it.

Doc Holliday: And you must be Ringo. Look, darling, Johnny Ringo. The deadliest pistoleer since Wild Bill, they say. What do you think, darling? Should I hate him?

Kate: You don’t even know him.

English: Wyatt Earp at about age 25 at about t...

Wyatt Earp, about age 25 in Dodge City, Kansas. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Doc Holliday: Yes, but there’s just something about him. Something around the eyes, I don’t know, reminds me of… me. No. I’m sure of it, I hate him.

Wyatt Earp: [to Ringo] He’s drunk.

Doc Holliday: In vino veritas. [“In wine is truth” meaning: “When I’m drinking, I speak my mind”]

Johnny Ringo: Age quod agis. [“Do what you do” meaning: “Do what you do best”]

Doc Holliday: Credat Judaeus apella, non ego. [“The Jew Apella may believe it, not I” meaning: “I don’t believe drinking is what I do best.”]

Johnny Ringo: [pats his gun] Eventus stultorum magister. [“Events are the teachers of fools” meaning: “Fools have to learn by experience”]

Doc Holliday: [gives a Cheshire cat smile] In pace requiescat. [“Rest in peace” meaning: “It’s your funeral!”]

Tombstone Marshal Fred White: Come on boys. We don’t want any trouble in here. Not in any language.

Doc Holliday: Evidently Mr. Ringo’s an educated man. Now I really hate him.

Tombstone is deliciously violent. The gunfight at O.K. corral is merely the beginning. There’s a deeply satisfying amount of killing to follow. I revel in it. When Kurt Russell declares that he’s coming for them and Hell will follow … I am there. Yes, kill the bad guys.

It’s so cathartic! The only piece of armament I’ve ever owned is my Daisy Red Ryder BB gun and a 22 caliber target rifle, but I can pretend. And I’m a dead shot with the rifle and have slaughtered paper plates and other inanimate targets from New York to northern Maine.

I have a rich and rewarding fantasy life.

Thank you Tombstone!

LOVING THE WESTERNS

Western movies. You love them or hate them. Hardly anyone is neutral. I’ve always loved them, since I was a little girl, pretending to be a cross between The Lone Ranger and Jesse James. But why? What is it about westerns that makes them so appealing to those of us that love them? Let’s work […]

Sunset – Blake Edwards, 1988

File:Sunsetsmall.JPGSunset is a movie that grows on you, or at least it has grown on us. We’ve always liked it. Now, many watchings later, we like it even more. With Blake Edwards directing and starring James Garner, Bruce Willis, Malcolm McDowell and a score by Henry Mancini, you’ve got to figure this is going to be good entertainment. And you would be right.

The story starts with Wyatt Earp (James Garner) arriving in Hollywood to consult on a new film about the gunfight at OK Corral. Wyatt and Tom Mix (Bruce Willis) strike up a friendship, then team up to solve a real life crime committed by evil movie mogul Alfie Alperin (Malcolm McDowell). There are great lines in this movie, but the best is the wonderful refrain line, “Give or take a lie or two.”

The movie makes no pretence at historical accuracy. This is fun and fantasy, historical fiction mixed liberally with guns, early Hollywood mythology and at least one classic gunfight. It’s “once upon a time” style clearly announces that this is not a movie to be taken seriously. The characters are loosely — very loosely — based on real characters but the events portrayed never happened … give or take a lie or two.

So yesterday, while we were watching another favorite Blake Edwards film, S.O.B., we got to discussing which of the characters was Blake Edwards daughter Jennifer (it turned out to be Lila, one of the young hitchhikers). Garry pointed out that she had played Victoria Alperin in Sunset and while I was looking all this up, I wandered over to Wikipedia and started reading various bits of stuff about Sunset.

What to my wondering eyes should appear but a section titled “Historical errors.” Huh? I was intrigued, being as the film never claimed to be historical, accurate or otherwise.

They actually used to have a section in Wikipedia pointing out the historical inaccuracies in the movie:

Historical Errors

The action takes place in the year 1929, the year of the first Academy Awards presentation. It depicts Wyatt Earp arriving (and later leaving) Los Angeles by train; in fact, Earp had been living in the Los Angeles area since about 1910. It depicts Earp as single, in reasonably athletic condition, and carrying on a brief romance with young Cheryl (Mariel Hemingway); in fact, Earp, who was born in 1848, had long been married to Josephine Marcus. It similarly depicts Tom Mix as single and carrying on a prolonged and uninhibited romance with his assistant, Nancy; in fact, Mix was then, and for years afterward, married to his third wife. In the course of the film, Earp says that Calamity Jane’s real name was Mary Jane Cannary; her first name was Martha, not Mary. It depicts Earp as technical advisor to a Tom Mix film of the gunfight at the OK Corral in which Mix portrays Earp; Mix made no such film and never portrayed Earp, who served as an unpaid advisor, years earlier, on some silent movies. The film depicts Earp attending the first Academy Awards presentation at a late evening dinner; in fact, the awards were presented at a brunch on May 16, 1929—four months after Earp had died at the age of 80.

Final title cards of the credits:

Title Card: …and that’s the way it really happened.

Title Card: Give or take a lie or two.

It’s at moments like this I wonder if the people who write this stuff watched the movie. This is not a documentary. It isn’t even historical fiction. It’s a comedy, set in Hollywood circa 1929. The villain is completely fictitious. Whatever relationship existed between Wyatt Earp and Tom Mix is anybody’s guess. The only fact is that Tom Mix was a pall bearer at Wyatt Earp’s funeral.

Including this section at all indicates that whoever wrote it never watched the movie or missed not merely “the point,” but everything. For the first time in my life, I actually put a note into Wikipedia:

The movie is pure fiction and the refrain line, “Give or take a lie or two,” more or less sums up the “historical” accuracy. It does not claim to be historically accurate and in fact, makes a point — frequently repeated — that this is a Hollywood fairy tale that begins with “once upon a time,” or words to that effect. Critiquing the historical accuracy of a piece of comedic fiction is absurd. The following information may be correct, but it’s entirely irrelevant to the movie. —

Since I added my note, they changed the section to indicate that the movie is not supposed to be historical. Nonetheless, they continue to correct the history except they retitled the section Historical Context. So it’s slightly less stupid now. Glad my futile gesture was not entirely futile. What is the point in correcting historical errors — or providing historical context — for a movie that makes no claim of being historically accurate?

Who writes this stuff? You have to wonder. Or at the very least, I have to wonder.

Anyway, if you’ve never seen Sunset, the chemistry between Garner and Willis is great, the dialogue is witty, the movie is both funny and occasionally even suspenseful. Willis is at his charming best, as is Garner and together, under Edwards’ adept direction, they make magic.

Give or take a lie or two.

I'm part of Post A Day 2013

Stagecoach in Tombstone

The dust rose from the desiccated, dusty road that is Main Street in Tombstone. The horses looked hot and tired. They had every right to be. It was godawful hot. In the sun, more than 125 degrees and I don’t care, dry or not, that’s like sitting in an oven. Add basting and soon, you could […]

The Dusty Streets of Tombstone

A modern photograph with a hint of the old west. The wheels of the stage leave tracks in the dusty main street of Tombstone, Arizona. The ghosts of the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday linger nearby, watching. Related articles Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (shoaibgarana.wordpress.com) #247- My Darling Clementine: Critics Top 250 Challenge (peepingben.wordpress.com) Tombstone […]

Violence and Slaughter in the Old West: Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday In Tombstone

The first movie I remember seeing with my mom was “Gunfight at OK Corral.” It was a busy day at the Utopia on Union Turnpike in Queens. It wasn’t a big theater, especially not in the days when movie theaters were palaces. There were hardly any seats left by the time we got there, having walked the mile and some from home. I had a non-driving mom who was also a subscriber to healthy outdoor exercise. We did a lot of walking, she with enthusiasm and verve and I because I didn’t have a choice.

Wyatt Earp at about age 33.

Wyatt Earp at 33. (Photo: Wikipedia)

We found a seat in the second row, from which vantage point Burt and Kirk had heads 20 feet high. It left an indelible mark on my mind. I became an O.K. Corral aficionado, catching each new version of the story as it was cranked out of Hollywood. When video taped movies became available, I caught up with all earlier versions, too.

I stayed with “Gunfight” as my favorite for a long time. Maybe I’m just fond of Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. Garry generally favored “My Darling Clementine” but he is a John Ford fan, so it figures. We have our preferences and they aren’t based on logic.

In 1993, along came “Tombstone.” One viewing and it was my favorite version of the gunfight story. A few more viewings and it morphed into my favorite western, though there are a goodly number of contenders for second place.

I don’t love it for its historical accuracy, though It is nominally more accurate than any other extant version of the story. As do all the Wyatt Earp – Doc Holliday stories, it omits as much, maybe more, than it includes. The Earps were wild and crazy guys.

English: John Henry "Doc" Holliday, ...

John Henry “Doc” Holliday (Photo: Wikipedia)

Doc Holliday was an even wilder, crazier guy. They were all lethal as Hell and no more honest then they needed to be … or less.

There were other Earp brothers who are consistently left out of the story, maybe because they didn’t go into the peacekeeping business. Dad, on the other hand, was a real piece of work and deserves a movie of his own. Although I tend to be prickly about historical details, even I do not watch westerns for historical accuracy.

First, I watch them because … I’m embarrassed to admit it … I love horses. I will watch anything with or about horses. You could probably just put on films of horses running around a field and I’d watch that too.

Next, I love westerns because they make it easy to distinguish good from bad. When I was growing up seeing Johnny Mack Brown B movies on old channel 13 in New York, I always knew the guys in black hats were villains and the ones in white hats were heroes. It appealed to my 8-year old need for moral simplicity. Many people never move beyond that … a discussion for a different day.

Most of all, westerns present my fantasies in Technicolor and surround sound. In the western movie world, revenge and righteous violence are terrific. Not merely acceptable, but desirable. In the Old West, when you find a bad guy, get out the six-shooter, shotgun, or both and mow’em down. Justice is meted out quickly and permanently with no guilt attached. You can be a wimp preaching peace and love in real life, but sit down in front of another viewing of “Tombstone,” watch Kurt, Val and the rest of the gang cut a swathe of blood and death across the southwest while you cheer them on.

“Tombstone” is deliciously violent. The gunfight at O.K. corral is merely the beginning. There’s a deeply satisfying amount of killing to follow. I revel in it. When Kurt Russell declares that he’s coming for them and Hell will follow … I am there. Yes, kill the bastards. It’s so cathartic! The only piece of armament I’ve ever owned is my Daisy Red Ryder BB gun and a 22 caliber target rifle, but I can pretend. And I’m a dead shot with the rifle and have slaughtered paper plates and other inanimate targets from New York to northern Maine. I have a rich and rewarding fantasy life.

Garry and I made a personal pilgrimage to Tombstone.

Sign on a door in Tombstone, AZ

I have argued with people who keep saying the movie was filmed on a sound stage. Unless the entire town of Tombstone was victim of a mass hallucination  — mass hallucinations are not nearly as common in real life as in Hollywood — and merely thought a movie company came, rebuilt the town to look like historical Tombstone, then filmed a movie … unless you subscribe to this fairly bizarre theory, “Tombstone” was filmed in Tombstone.

I have pictures of Tombstone. We bought tee shirts. It was the best part or at least, our favorite part, of a one long summer’s sojourn through Arizona. So, although there may have been some re-shooting on a set, the bulk of the film was shot in Tombstone. It was and remains the only thing of note to happen there in the past 100 years. Everyone talks about it. It was a big deal.

August was not the best time to visit, but our host still works a real job and it’s hard to find a good time to visit when he isn’t working. Regardless, the mercury climbed to 128 Fahrenheit and never dropped below 120 while the sun shined. Which, that time of year, it does relentlessly. I think that’s why they invented awnings over the wooden sidewalks.

It was painfully hot. Maybe that’s what the fighting was about. Who wouldn’t want to shoot people living in that heat with no air conditioning? It makes one very cranky. I’ll bet the heat got to them, so they tried to kill each other.  It makes almost as much sense as any other explanation.

We don’t watch movies for a dose of reality, or at least I don’t. I have plenty of reality. More than enough. I go to escape, to move from a reality I don’t care for to another world I like better. Westerns let me immerse myself in raw emotions that are unacceptable otherwise.

I love Tombstone.

My Darling Clementine (1946) … Masterpiece

Marilyn Armstrong:

One of Garry’s favorites. Not exactly accurate, but beautiful.

Originally posted on My Favorite Westerns:

In my study of Journalism, Graphic Design and Fine Arts, I learned a simple lesson: “Keep your mouth shut and let the pictures do the talking.”

These ‘stills’ from My Darling Clementine speak loudly. My Darling Clementineprobably contains more ‘Iconic Images’ than any other Western ever made. These are just a few:

My Darling Clementine / Fonda

My Darling Clementine / Opening Vista

My Darling Clementine / Henry Fonda

My Darling Clementine / Walter Brennan

My Darling Clementine / Victor Mature and Henry Fonda

My Darling Clementine / Victor Mature

My Darling Clementine / Henry Fonda

My Darling Clementine / Henry Fonda

My Darling Clementine / Henry Fonda

My Darling Clementine / Walter Brennan

My Darling Clementine / Walter Brennan

My Darling Clementine / Vista

My Darling Clementine / Adios

My Darling Clementine / Farewell

My Darling Clementine

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