Tombstone (1993)




Director:  George Pan Cosmatos.

Cast:  Kurt Russell (Wyatt Earp), Val Kilmer (Doc Holliday), Michael Biehn (Johnny Ringo), Powers Boothe (Curly Bill Brocius ), Robert Burke (Frank McLaury), Dana Delany (Josephine Earp), Sam Elliott (Virgil Earp ), Stephen Lang (Ike Clanton), Terry O'Quinn (Mayor Clum), Joanna Pacula (Kate), Bill Paxton (Morgan Earp), Jason Priestley (Deputy Sheriff Billy Breakenridge), Michael Rooker (Sherman McMasters), Jon Tenney (Johnny Behan), Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (Mattie Earp), Billy Zane (Mr. Fabian), Buck Taylor (Turkey Creek Jack Johnson), Harry Carey Jr. (Marshall Fred White), Pedro Armendariz Jr. (The Priest), Frank Stallone (Ed Bailey), Billy Bob Thornton (Johnny Tyler), Charlton Heston (Henry Hooker), Paul Ben-Victor (Florentino), John Philbin (Tom McLaury), Chris Mitchum (Ranch Hand), Robert Mitchum (Narrator), Tomas Arana (Frank Stillwell), Thomas Haden Church (Billy Clanton), John Corbett (Barnes), Cecil Hoffmann (Lucinda Hobbs), Paula Malcolmson (Allie Earp), Lisa Collins (Louisa Earp).

Another good version of the Wyatt Earp story, not quite as good as the one with Kevin Kostner, but still a good, solid movie.


Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

"1879.  The Civil War is over, and the resulting economic explosion spurs the great migration west.  Farmers, ranchers, prospectors, killers and thieves seek their fortunes. Cattle drovers turn cow towns into armed camps with murder rates higher than those of modern-day New York or Los Angeles.  Out of this chaos comes legendary lawman Wyatt Earp, retiring his badge and gun to start a peaceful life with his family.  Earp's friend John 'Doc' Holliday  --  a Southern gentleman turned gunman and gambler  --  also travels west, hoping the dry climate will relieve his tuberculosis.  Silver is discovered in Arizona.  Tombstone becomes queen of the boomtowns, where the latest Paris fashion are sold from the backs of wagons.  Attracted to this atmosphere of greed, over 100 exiled Texas outlaws band together to form the ruthless gang recognized by the red sashes they wear.  They emerge as the earliest example of organized crime in America.  They call themselves 'the Cowboys'". 

Curly Bill Brocius and a gang of outlaws descend on a wedding, saying:  "Y'all killed two cowboys."  They open fire and shoot the entire wedding party down, except for the priest and the bride and groom. They shoot the groom in the knee to get him to kneel.  They take the bride into the church to rape her.  The priest starts to tell the gang off in Spanish, but Johnny Ringo shoots him down. 

Wyatt Earp gets off the train.  He slaps a man hard in the face for abusing a horse.  The two lawmen waiting for his arrival figure that this must be Wyatt.  They go over and introduce themselves.  Crawley Dake, U.S. Marshal for this territory, starts to offer Earp employment as a lawman, but Wyatt tells him he is not interested in the job.  He's heading to Tombstone (in today's Arizona) to strike it rich.  He walks away from the lawmen.

Wyatt's two brothers, Virgil and Morgan Earp, are also there to greet Wyatt.  Virgil introduces his wife Allie to Wyatt and Morgan introduces his wife Lou.  Earp introduces them to Mattie.  Mattie wants to get her hand on some laudanum quickly.  Lou happens to have some laudanum on her and she gives it to Mattie. 

Doc Holliday and his woman Big Nose Kate are in the saloon.  Holliday is winning at cards and an argument develops with a man named Ed Bailey.  Words are exchanged between the two men and Holliday puts his two pistols on the table.  Ed Bailey now comes after Holliday, but what he didn't think about is that Holliday also carries a knife.  Doc shoves the knife into Ed.  Then Ed and Kate take not only Holliday's winnings, but other money belonging to the saloon.  They both get on horses and ride out. 

The Earps come into Tombstone.  They pass Boot Hill cemetery and go onto the main street of town, Allen Street.  The town is very active with people coming and going.  They go over to the Grand Hotel.  Cochise County Sheriff John Behan comes over to shake Wyatt's hand and welcome him and his family to Tombstone.  Behan says he can rent them three cottages and he will throw in a free cleaning of the cottages.  Wyatt is interested.

Morgan introduces Wyatt to the town Marshall Fred White.  Fred tells the Earps that Behan is no real sheriff and it's the Cowboys who control the town.  They are easily identified by the red sashes they wear.  Fred says the big money to be made is in the saloons.  They all do great business except for the Oriental, which is a regular slaughterhouse and the high rollers won't go near it.  Wyatt just starts heading over to the Oriental to see what's up.  Inside, the owner Milt tells him that the guy playing cards over at the table came in one day and starting slapping customers around.  He chased out all the high-class customers and now only the dregs come in here.  Wyatt asks him why doesn't he just throw the bum out?  Milt says that's easy for Wyatt to say.  Wyatt walks over to the man and starts riling him.  The fellow is armed, Wyatt is not.  The bad guy stands up to intimidate Wyatt, but Wyatt just starts slapping him in the face over and over again.  The man becomes very scared and Wyatt throws him out of the saloon, telling the fellow not to ever come back.  Wyatt now says to Milt he will take 25% of the house take on the faro game. 

He goes over to his brothers and tells them they are already in business because he just acquired a quarter interest in the gambling at the Oriental.  The man who was thrown out of the Oriental by Wyatt now approaches the Earps with a shotgun in his hands.  All of a sudden, Doc Holliday calls out to this Johnny Tyler asking him what's he going to do with that shotgun?  Johnny knows Doc and he stops.  Holliday goes over to his old friends the Earps to say hello.  He shakes the hands of the Earps while Tyler just stands in the street with his shotgun.  Johnny soon finds out that the man he has a beef with is none other than Wyatt Earp.  That takes the wind out of his sails.  Doc apologizes to Johnny for ignoring him, but he says he forgot he was there.  He tells Johnny he can go now, but Wyatt tells him to leave the shotgun behind.  Johnny complies. 

Wyatt calls over to Sheriff Behan and introduces him to Doc Holliday.  Behan offers his hand but Doc just asks Behan to pardon him if he doesn't shake hands.  All of a sudden there is a dispute in one of the saloons and a man is thrown out.  He is followed out onto the street by two friends who were pushed out of the saloon as the first guy was being rushed out the door.  One of two friends warns the now standing man, who has a gun in his hand, not to raise his arm.  The guy raises his arm and is shot down.  The two friends look around and see Wyatt.  They come over to the Earps and Holliday.  Holliday introduces Behan to the two fellow "sophisticates":  Turkey Creek Jack Johnson and Texas Jack Vermillion.   

The stage coach comes into town.  A thespian group gets off the coach: Mr. Fabian and Miss Josie.  The lawmen all seem to like the looks of Miss Josie.  Josie tells Fabian that she wants one of those lawmen.  Fabian tells her:  "Happy Hunting." 

The Earps and Doc Holliday and Kate attend the theater presentation.  A juggler tries to perform on stage, but a Cowboy shoots one of his three pins out of his hand.  The juggler runs off stage.  Fabian comes next and starts a soliloquy from Shakespeare's Henry V.   The Cowboys shoot at the column near Fabian, but at least he is able to do his soliloquy.  A dance from Faust is presented.  Josie plays the part of the devil.  When it is finished she takes off her mask revealing herself and the Cowboys go crazy for her.

Mattie wants Wyatt to come home with her, but Wyatt says he has to work.  Mattie goes home by herself.  At the faro table, a man bets the deeds to his mines in the area.  So the Earps become mine owners.  Wyatt, Morgan and Doc Holliday are in the saloon and here comes Josie to a lot of applause.  She looks at Wyatt and wants a dance, but Wyatt looks away.  Holliday is amazed he didn't succumb to her charms.  Fabian comes in and he gets a big applause also. 

Curly Bill and Johnny Ringo come over with another of the Cowboys and harass Wyatt awhile.  What they don't know is that underneath the faro table, a shotgun is fixed to the table pointing at the customers standing on the other side of the table from Wyatt.  Ringo pulls his gun out and points it at Doc.  Then he does a lot of fancy gun twirling.  Doc makes fun of him by doing some fancy twirling of his little cup.  This brings out a lot of laughing from the crowd.  Josie asks Johnny Behan who is the dealer at the faro table.  It's none other than Wyatt Earp, the famous Kansas law man.   

Wyatt is out riding his horse and he runs into Josie Marcus.  The two race their horses together.  They take a break and talk about what they want from life.  Wyatt says she's different from the other women.  She loves adventure and fun. 

Wyatt checks on Mattie.  He asks her how is she and she just laughs.  (She just finished with some laudanum.)  Wyatt can't stop thinking about Josie. 

A high Curly Bill comes out of the opium den.  He starts randomly shooting at people and places.  Sheriff White goes out to take his weapons from him.  Curly Bill just laughs and hands over his two pistols the pistol butts pointing to the sheriff.  Curly Bill hands over the gun in his left hand but fires the gun in his right hand killing the sheriff.  Curly Bill acts as if it was an accident.  Wyatt knocks Curly Bill out with a pistol.  Ike Clanton comes over and tells Wyatt he can't stop them from taking Curly Bill from him.  Wyatt puts his gun right up to Ike's forehead and tells him he goes first.  Ike backs down, as Wyatt gets help from Doc, Virgil and Morgan. 

The mayor comes to to speak with Wyatt.  When Wyatt shows no interest, the mayor turns to Virgil.  Virgil isn't interested either. 

Nevertheless, Virgil does become the new sheriff.  Wyatt comes over and is very mad.  He tells Virgil that they said they weren't getting involved with law enforcement anymore.  He asks for help from Morgan to talk some sense into their brother, but Morgan shows Wyatt his deputy sheriff badge. Wyatt is disgusted.  He tells his brothers they're making a big mistake. 

Holliday plays cards with Ike Clanton and others.  Ike accuses Holliday of cheating and wants to start a fight with Doc.  Virgil intervenes and there's a verbal fight between Ike and the lawman.  Doc collapses from going too long with no sleep and Wyatt and Morgan take him out accompanied by Virgil.  Alone Ike now starts talking big about doing something bad to the Earps and Holliday.  As he talks on and on, Virgil stands right behind him  When Ike turns around and starts threatening Virgil directly, Virgil knocks him on the head and then puts him in a jail cell.

Friends of Ike Clanton come and get him out of jail.  Wyatt bumps into one of Ike's friends who tells Wyatt to watch where he's going.  Wyatt says sorry kid, but the fellow says he's not a kid and he could kill Wyatt right now if he wanted to.  He shows his pistol tucked into his Cowboy red belt.  Wyatt grabs the gun and knocks the fellow out with it.  Ike and the others put the outlaw back on his horse and Ike says that the Earps got a fight coming tomorrow.  Billy Clanton, Ike's brother, calls the Earps bastards as he rides away with the others. 

The Cowboys come into Tombstone.  Six of them ride down the street in front of the Earps.  Wyatt tells Virgil to swear him in as deputy marshal.  The mayor tells the Earps that the Clantons are down by the O.K. Corral shooting off their mouths talking of cleaning the Earps out of Tombstone.  Virgil, Morgan and Doc want to go down and confront the Clantons.  Wyatt tells them what if they get into a shooting match and someone or ones get killed?  Being killed for a misdemeanor does not look good.  Johnny Behan rushes over to the four men walking down the street telling the guys that he already disarmed the Clantons.  The Earps don't believe him and keep on walking. 

The Earps and Holliday reach the lot by the O.K. Corral and they face six men.  Virgil tells them:  "We're here to disarm you.  Throw up your hands."  The Cowboys put their hands on their weapons, but Virgil shouts:  "Hold!  That's not what I want.."  The two men in the back, one of them Billy Claiborne and the other unknown, exit out of the lot leaving four men behind:  Ike Clanton, Billy Clanton, Frank McLaury and Tom McLaury.   Ike Clanton is not armed and stands to one side.  Billy Clanton goes for his weapon and the Earps draw their weapons.  Frank McLaury draws his weapon, while his brother Tom holds his hands out to either side to indicate he has no weapon.  Wyatt shoots Frank McLaury in the right side of his body and he goes down; Virgil shoots Billy Clanton and he goes down;  Tom McLaury hides behind a horse;  now he has a pistol in his hand and fires it over the back of the horse;  Doc Holliday shoots one barrel of his shot gun in the air to move the horse away from Tom;  this exposes Tom and Holliday hits him in the right side of his body with the other barrel of the shotgun;  Holliday throws the shotgun to the side and pulls out his revolver;  Ike tries to stop the Earps and Holliday from firing anymore bullets;  Ike rushes over to Wyatt saying he is not armed;  Wyatt tells him to get off the lot and Ike runs for Fly's Photography Shop; Frank gets hit some more, but gets a shot off that hits Virgil in the leg and he goes down;  Billy Clanton gets up and wounds Morgan on the right side of his body and he goes down;  Wyatt fires and hits Billy;  Holliday fires and hits Billy several times and Billy now goes down again; on his way down, Wyatt shoots Billy again;  Frank McLaury is up again and Holliday shoots him and then Morgan shoots Frank in the forehead killing him.

Now Behan tells the Earps and Holliday that they are to be arrested, but Wyatt just tells him he is not going to let Behan arrest them.  Those who died were the McLaury brothers ,Frank and Tom, and Billy Clanton.  Wyatt and Holliday walk away not wounded. 

The Earps walk down the street and are accosted by Johnny Ringo who wants to draw on Wyatt.  Wyatt says he's not going to fight Ringo and starts walking away.  But now Doc Holliday stands up from the chair he was resting in and says he is willing to fight Ringo.  Behind his back he has a pistol in his hand.  Curly Bill and some of the other Cowboys see this and grab Ringo so he doesn't fight Holliday. 

When the firefight was over Josie rushed out of Fly's to make sure Wyatt is okay.   Johnny Behan noticed her concern.  He later comes to her mentioning her obvious feelings for Wyatt, but says that after the dust all clears he will be the one in charge of Tombstone. During the night Josie comes to the Earp women and tells them that something bad is going to happen.  Just then someone comes in and fires one barrel and then the other barrel toward the women and then runs out.  No one is hurt. 

Virgil comes in and collapses.  The doctor comes and says that Virgil is going to lose his right arm.

Morgan is playing pool when he is hit from behind in the back from someone outside shooting through the window.  He goes down.  They put Morgan on the pool table.  The doctor says the bullet is in too deep.  He can't get it out.  Morgan tells Wyatt:  "They got me good.  Don't let them get you brother."  Morgan dies.  Wyatt cries and looks at all the blood on his hands from his brother Morgan.  Wyatt stands in the middle of the street with the rain pouring down on him asking why Morgan?  Josie tries to help him, but he tells her to get away from him.  He says can't Josie see his brother's blood all over him?  He starts to walk in the direction of Mattie, but she turns around and leaves.

The Earps plan to transport Morgan's body to California.  Curly Bill tells Ike Clanton to take Frank Stillwell and finish off the Earps.  Most of the Earps now go to California to be with the parents of the Earp brothers and to bury Morgan Earp.  Wyatt and Doc stay behind. Also staying with Wyatt are Turkey Creek Jack Johnson, Texas Jack Vermillion and a man named Sherm McMasters.

Frank Stillwell and Ike Clanton try to kill the Earps at a train station, but Wyatt comes up from behind Stillwell and kills him with his shotgun.  Ike now grovels before Wyatt and begs for his life once again.  Wyatt puts his boot near Ike's neck, pushes down on him and tells him:  "The Cowboys are finished.  You understand me?  I see a red sash, I kill the man wearin' it.  So run, you cur.  Run!  Tell all the other curs the law is comin'!  You tell 'em I'm comin'!  And hell's comin' with me, you hear?"

Wyatt and the guys start tracking down the Cowboys and killing them mercilessly.  One Cowboy is in an opium abuser and mistakes Wyatt's long gun barrel for a pipe to smoke.  He latches onto the barrel with his mouth and Wyatt fires his weapon.  They hang two Cowboys.  Tracking Curly Bill the Cowboys catch Wyatt and his crew by surprise.  Curly Bill tells Wyatt that they got him caught in a crossfire.  Wyatt gets angry, loads his shotgun, stands up and goes to kill Curly Bill.  Curly Bill tells his men to stop firing because he wants to be the one to kill Wyatt Earp.  But Earp hits the outlaw twice with his shotgun and Curly Bill is no more.   Now Wyatt takes out his revolver and shoots three more of the Cowboys.  The rest of Wyatt's crew now charge the Cowboys, who are forced to run for their lives. 

Johnny Behan has a big posse out after Wyatt and his men.  With him are a lot of Cowboys, including Johnny Ringo.  They stop the stage coach carrying Josie away.  Behan opens the stage coach door to find Fabian dead with his head on Josie's lap.  She says he was killed by two of Behan's crew.

Wyatt sees the posse coming toward them far off on the horizon. Holliday is very ill and he almost falls off his horse.  Wyatt takes him to Mr. Hooker's place which is one of the stage coach stations.  The stage coach stops and Wyatt sees Josie.  He goes over to her, but can't really express his feelings toward her.  She leaves with the stage coach.  A little later a Cowboy rides up not too far away from the stage coach station and drops off the body of McMasters.  The Cowboy shouts to Wyatt that  Johnny Ringo wanted to get his attention.  He wants a straight-up fight just between him and Wyatt.  They are to meet at Oak grove at the mouth of Silver Springs canyon, 7:00!  Wyatt says that he will be there. 

The next morning Wyatt sets off for the Oak grove. 

Ringo sees Wyatt coming up to him and says he didn't think Wyatt had the courage to face him.  Then, all of a sudden, he realizes he is facing Doc Holliday, not Wyatt.  Now Ringo is scared and doesn't want to fight, but Doc wants to fight Ringo.  They are a few feet from each other and circle each other.  Ringo starts to pull his weapon and Doc shoots him in the forehead.  Wyatt shows up and is shocked to see a live Doc Holliday and a dead Johnny Ringo.  Wyatt now says:  "All right.  Let's finish it!"

Off they go killing Cowboy after Cowboy after Cowboy.  They are now chasing Ike Clanton, but they don't kill him. 

Glenwood Sanatorium, Colorado.   Wyatt comes to visit Doc Holliday.  He plays cards with Doc.  Holliday advises Wyatt to go get Josie and marry her and don't look back.  Then, with a tear running down his face, he asks Wyatt to leave him now, please.  Wyatt says:  "Thanks for always being there, Doc."  The famous lawman leaves. 

Josie is performing in Denver, Colorado.  One evening in walks Wyatt Earp.  He tells Josie that he is broke and doesn't know what he is going to do to make a living.  Josie tells him:  "Don't worry, Wyatt.  My family's rich."  They leave the theater and dance in the falling snow. 

"The power of the Cowboy Gang was broken forever.  Ike Clanton was shot and killed two years later during an attempted robbery.  Mattie died of a drug overdose shortly after she left Tombstone.  Virgil and Allie Earp moved to California, where Virgil, despite the use of only one arm, became a town sheriff.  Wyatt and Josephine embarked on a series of adventures.  Up or down, thin or flush, in 47 years they never left each other's side.  Wyatt Earp died in Los Angeles in 1929.   Among the pallbearers at his funeral were early Western movie stars William S. Hart and Tom Mix.  Tom Mix wept."


Good movie, but the Wyatt Earp (1994) film is much superior.  This version of Wyatt Earp only covers his days in Tombstone, Arizona, while the other covers Wyatt's entire life.  The dialogue in the 1994 film is much superior to the dialogue in Tombstone.  The portrayal of Wyatt as good and bad in the other film is much richer also.  In Tombstone the love relationship between Wyatt and Josie is not really shown to develop into a sure thing until the end of the film, so the love story part is pretty much a dud.  One good thing about Tombstone is that it gives a better idea of how powerful the Cowboy Gang was in Tombstone.  It was a bit irritating that the Earps and Holliday were better looking in Tombstone compared to Wyatt Earp.  They were a bit too pretty rather than rugged looking.  The character Billy Clanton was also not rugged enough.  The music in Wyatt Earp is much superior and inspiring compared to the music in Tombstone.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background: 

See Wyatt Earp (1994)


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