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!!”
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.
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.
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.
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!