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Tombstone: Fact or Fiction

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Tombstone: Fact or Fiction?

Almost two decades ago, a film known as Tombstone was produced, featuring a star-studded cast. This action-packed western portrays the legendary feud between the Earp’s and the Clanton’s. For the most part I believe it to be a respectable movie containing a powerful storyline. This film portrays the life and times of the famous cowboy, Wyatt Earp, focusing on what led to the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Tombstone provides a mixture of both fact and fiction, however I believe this film to be mainly accurate. After seeing this particular film, I have resulted in finding some of the accurate and incorrect scenes and facts. Just to name a couple of the films inaccuracies are the misleading facts about the night Morgan Earp was killed and the life of Johnny Ringo. Some of the films accuracies include the relationship between Wyatt Earp and Josephine Marcus, and how Curly Bill was killed. As a result of the number of accuracies and inaccuracies, this movie would be considered historically accurate.
In the film, Morgan Earp is shown at a pool hall late one night, where he is playing alone. All of a sudden, an unidentified individual from outside shoots him through the window. Wyatt along with along with a few others rushed to see him. They find Morgan lying on top of a pool table as a doctor tried to remove the bullet. However, there are many things wrong with this scene. To start, Morgan was never alone that night. Instead, his brother Wyatt accompanied him. They happened to be playing pool with the owner of the parlor, Bob Hatch, when Morgan was shot (Woog 61). The gunshot was fired through the glass door of the building, shooting Morgan in his right abdomen. The bullet passed through his spine and exited out of his left side. As it left his body, Geo. A.B. Berry was struck by the same bullet, which resulted in an agonizing flesh wound on his thigh. A second gunshot quickly followed, just barely missing the top of Wyatt Earp’s head (Woog 62). Morgan was moved outside of a card room where three doctors examined him. They finally declared that it was a fatal shot. He was put on the lounge inside of the card room where he soon died. Furthermore, Virgil was shown as being shot in the arm earlier that same night. In reality, Virgil was shot several months prior to this incident (Eldridge).
The life of Johnny Ringo has been widely disputed. In the beginning of Tombstone, Ringo is seen shooting a Mexican priest. However, this particular incident never even happened. Ringo happened to be in California when the well-known gunfight at O.K. Corral occurred on October 26, 1881. Almost a year later, Ringo arrived back at Tombstone. He began drinking quite heavily for over a week. Less than two weeks later he was found dead underneath a tree from a gunshot wound to his head. Johnny Ringo’s cause of death is still unknown (“Gunfighter John Ringo Found Dead”). Therefore, this scene in the movie may or may not be accurate. At the time, his death was ruled as a suicide. Conversely, many theories have aroused arguing that Ringo’s death was actually a murder, which was staged to look like a suicide (Gatto). One reason for this belief is because Ringo’s gun that he supposedly shot himself with was verified as being fully loaded (Weiser). Later, Wyatt Earp admitted to allegedly killing Ringo. However, there is no substantial proof to corroborate either of these allegations, therefore it leaves the truth about his death to be unknown (Weiser). Ringo’s body was buried just a few yards away from the tree in which he was found lying under.
The film accurately portrayed the romantic relationship between Wyatt Earp and Josephine Marcus. Josephine was originally in a relationship with John Behan. It is said that Behan proposed, however she declined (Marks 159). Josephine finally left Behan after he became involved in a serious relationship with another woman. Soon thereafter, Josephine and Wyatt quickly began to fall in love with each other. At this time, Wyatt was still married to his second wife, Mattie Blaylock. In the beginning, Mattie was unaware of Wyatt's affair with Josephine. However, before long, she realized that there was something going on between the two. On several occasions the two women got into heated arguments over Wyatt (Boyer 184). After Morgan Earp was murdered, Mattie headed to California with Virgil Earp. She was expecting Wyatt to send for her, however he remained with Josephine and never returned to Mattie (Boyer 233). Josephine and Wyatt eventually married each other and remained together for the rest of their lives. There is little known about the outlaw Curly Bill Brosius, however what we do know is generally portrayed accurately in Tombstone. The actions about the death of City Marshal Fred White were accurately portrayed. On the night of October 28, 1880, a drunk Curly Bill was walking through the town shooting at things. For that reason, White went to disarm him. Curly Bill complied, presenting his gun barrel first. However, when White tried to take the gun, it when off causing him to get shot. As a result, he ended up dying two days later. Wyatt Earp had witnessed the incident. He then went up and hit Curly Bill in the head with his pistol, just as the film portrays. On March 24, 1882, Wyatt Earp was said to have killed Curly Bill during a gunfight, however the claim was very controversial at the time (Johnson). Just as the film depicts, the cowboys caught Wyatt along with the rest of his gang off guard along a creek. Wyatt walked straight through a cloud of Curly Bill's gunfire, where he was left unharmed. He then went right up to Curly Bill and shot him at point blank range. After killing Curly Bill, he then shoots Johnny Barnes in the stomach. Barnes escaped and later died in a farmhouse. However, before dying, he told the story of how Wyatt daringly went right up to Curly Bill in the middle of the gunfight. Wyatt later admitted to killing Curly Bill in the shootout, however some disagree with this theory (Johnson).
I believe Tombstone to be a good movie that includes great characters and a strong storyline. Tombstone is a favorite movie for many people, especially those who are interested in the history of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral. I personally liked what I saw and found it to be fascinating during my viewing of this movie. Though, I was expecting it to be somewhat more historically accurate. I feel that it is good history, even with some of its errors. I would definitely recommend this film to others because even though there are a few errors, it is mostly comprised of accuracies. Therefore, I believe that this film has the capability to teach someone a great deal about the famous historic events that took place in Tombstone, Arizona. This movie taught me countless facts about Wyatt Earp and his days spent as a famous outlaw and Marshal. Though, the main thing that I have learned since my initial viewing of Tombstone, is that you cannot always count on Hollywood to teach you the total truth about American history.

Works Cited

Boyer, Glenn G. I Married Wyatt Earp: The Recollections of Josephine Sarah Marcus Earp.
Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona, 1976. Print.

Eldridge, Shiloh. "Virgil Earp Is My Hero." Virgil Walter Earp. Tombstone Times, Jan. 2003.
Web. 23 Mar. 2011. <http://www.virgil-earp.com/>.

Gatto, Steve. "Did Wyatt Earp Kill Johnny Ringo." Wyatt Earp History Page. Web. 20 Mar.
2011. <http://www.wyattearp.net/ringo.html>.

“Gunfighter John Ringo Found Dead.” The History Channel Website. 2011. Web. 23 Mar. 2011.
<http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/gunfighter-john-ringo-found-dead>.

Johnson, Tina. "Wyatt vs. Curly." Welcome to the Official Home of the Tombstone Vigilantes.
Aug. 2010. Web. 20 Mar. 2011. <http://www.tombstonevigilantes.com/curly.html>.

Marks, Paula Mitchell. And Die in the West: the Story of the O.K. Corral Gunfight. Norman, OK:
University of Oklahoma, 1996. Print.

Weiser, Kathy. "Old West Outlaws." Legends of America. May 2008. Web. 20 Mar. 2011.
<http://www.legendsofamerica.com/we-outlawlist-r.html>.

Woog, Adam. Wyatt Earp. New York: Chelsea House, 2010. Print.…...

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