The Reel Walk Downs

The walk that never ends



The walk down to the lot behind the O.K. Corral has become a ritual in Tombstone productions—re-created, imitated and parodied in perhaps two dozen movies and TV shows, the first step of which, like the crossing of the Rubicon, changes history and becomes mythology.  Here are a few of those movies...


Movie Seven

In the frontier town of Tombstone, Arizona, the charismatic Wyatt Earp (Randolph Scott) is a pistol-toting sheriff who earns the respect of almost everyone he encounters. John “Doc” Holliday (Cesar Romero), however, poses an unusual challenge to the lawman when he flouts local rules with his illegal business ventures
















 Frontier Marshal (1939)


Movie Six


Burt Lancaster’s Wyatt and John Hudson’s Deputy Virgil — carry two shotguns, but then, they’re headed for a bunch of Cochise County Cowboys (including John Ireland’s Johnny Ringo) that is practically platoon strength. 












 Gunfight at the

O.K. Corral (1957)


Movie Five


John Sturges directed this darker, more accurate version than his previous Earp film, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Jason Robards is old enough to be Doc’s father, but he wields a mean shotgun as the deadly dentist. James Garner, this film’s Wyatt, also played an older and considerably lighter Wyatt








 Hour of the Gun (1967)



Movie Four


They aren’t headed toward the O.K. Corral; they’re headed for a shoot-out a lot bigger and uglier, but Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, William Holden and Ernest Borgnine were clearly set up in Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch to look like the Earp brothers and John Henry “Doc” Holliday on their walk down.









 The Wild Bunch (1969)



Movie Three


Harris Yulin as Wyatt (far left) and Stacy Keach (left) as Doc carry double-barreled shotguns in preparation for mowing down the Clantons and McLaurys in this Vietnam-era parable of the Earps-Cowboy war.









 “Doc” (1971)


Movie Two


For sheer grimness, this walk to the O.K. Corral in Wyatt Earp is unsurpassed. To look at those faces, you’d think these guys were climbing Mount Everest instead of walking a block-and-a-half to that open lot next to C.S. Fly’s photography studio.









 Wyatt Earp (1994)





And the winner is:


Movie Numero Uno!!


For historical accuracy and authenticity in clothes [and utterly hot men), this shot from Tombstone is spot-on. The building on fire behind them makes the boys look like they just walked out of hell—and hell’s comin’ with them. Kurt Russell has a long-barreled Colt in his right pocket. Curiously, he’s the only Wyatt Earp in movies ever to have carried one to the gunfight, even though testimony at the coroner’s inquest indicated that Wyatt did indeed carry a 10 inch gun.












What Really Happened ?


“Three Men Hurled into Eternity in the Duration of a Moment”

October 26, 1881


The Earp brothers and John Henry “Doc” Holliday confront the Cowboys in the vacant lot between C.S. Fly’s Boarding House and the house of former Mayor William Harwood, west of the rear entrance of the O.K. Corral, in Tombstone, Arizona Territory. It is a narrow, 18-foot space, which is somewhat ironic considering Ike Clanton’s earlier boast: “All I want is four feet of ground.”


“Boys, throw up your hands,” Marshal Virgil Earp demands. “I want your guns.”


Nervous about the confrontation and sensing the bristling attitude of Morgan Earp and Holliday, Frank McLaury says, “We will,” and makes a motion to pull out his revolver. Holliday makes a sudden move toward Tom McLaury, thrusting the shotgun at him in a threatening manner. Wyatt Earp jerks his pistol from his coat pocket, and Billy Clanton pulls his revolver at the same time.


“Hold on, I don’t want this!” says Virgil, realizing the situation is slipping from his control.


Two shots ring out, almost as one, followed by a long pause. Frank McLaury clutches his stomach and staggers, as the firing becomes general (Ike Clanton flees once the shooting starts).


Some 30 shots are fired in less than 30 seconds. The most famous and over-analyzed fight in the West is over. The repercussions are only beginning.


Aftermath: Odds & Ends

Some believed Frank McLaury did all the damage. His shots hit Morgan Earp across the shoulders, Virgil Earp in the right calf, John Henry “Doc” Holliday on the hip and punctured Wyatt Earp’s coat, missing him by an inch. Had Frank not been gut shot in the first exchange, he might have killed them all.


Camillus S. Fly ran out from his boarding house and took the pistol from Billy Clanton’s hand. As he gasped for air, the dying Clanton gamely asked for more cartridges.


The Vizina Mine whistle blew, signaling the Vigilance Committee to assemble for an emergency. Within minutes, they were mobilized by twos on Fremont Street. As 70 armed men converged on the scene, the Earps and Holliday anxiously realized they were out of bullets and wondered if the approaching throng was friend or foe.

Cochise County Sheriff John Behan stepped out from hiding and tried to arrest Wyatt, who replied, “I won’t be arrested now. You threw us, Johnny.”

The wounded Earps were taken to a “drugstore” uptown where their wounds were treated. Virgil and Morgan were loaded in a hack and pulled by hand to their homes at First and Fremont Streets. The lifeless bodies of Billy Clanton and Tom and Frank McLaury were taken to the Dexter Corral and placed in a back room to await the undertaker.

Billy Clanton lingered for half an hour, thrashing around and yelling. “They have murdered me!” he screamed.

Ike Clanton filed murder charges against the Earps and Holliday with Justice Wells Spicer


                                                                     © Michelle Young 2012