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317: Tombstone with Tom Clavin

Did Hollywood get it right? Join us as we delve into the iconic Western film Tombstone with a special guest: the author of the book Tombstone, New York Times bestselling author Tom Clavin! We’ll separate myth from reality, analyzing the portrayal of Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, the infamous Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and the taming of a wild frontier town.

Historical Accuracy: B+

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Note: This transcript is automatically generated. There will be mistakes, so please don’t use them for quotes. It is provided for reference use to find things better in the audio.

Dan LeFebvre  03:13

Even though no one expects movies to be entirely accurate some movies do better than others. So let’s start today by getting a sense of how well today’s movie did with history. If you were to give tombstone and overall letter grade for its historical accuracy, what would it get?


Tom Clavin  03:30

I would give it a B plus B plus approaching an A minus it’s really borderline it does a good job there are some liberties taken but when you consider some of the previous treatments of the whole Gunfight at the OK Corral story and how far off the the mark they are. Tombstone does does a very good job of trying to stick to the facts. Yeah,


Dan LeFebvre  03:57

that’s a lot better than I was expecting a lot of movies are. Don’t even really try.


Tom Clavin  04:01

Well, you look at something like My Darling Clementine, so many people refer to that as like the classic movie about the gunfight at the OK Corral. And objectively it’s a really good WestEd John Ford Henry find his wider. Walter Brennan is the head of the clan gang. It’s a really good movie. But it’s it’s sort of stitched together a lot of embellishments and outright falsehoods. I think if I remember correctly, a victim which the very stocky and robust victim mature, plain dark holiday. He says he hears like he’d ever been sick a day in his life. One of the earth brothers dies before the gunfight at the OK Corral. So you know there’s been that’s an example of the kind of liberties that were taken. So a tombstone came along. I have to credit that was really trying. And Maurice the I think it’s Kevin Jr. was the screenwriter. His script really did try to make the effort to distinct stick. And I think what he found, which is not a revelation to most people, and certainly he’s And a big part of my career is that you can find that the historical accuracy can be as interesting if not more so than what they made up.


Dan LeFebvre  05:08

As they say truth is stranger than fiction sometimes. Just word relating to the speaking of Tombstone at the beginning of that movie were introduced to Wyatt Earp along with his brothers Virgil and Morgan. And we see the three brothers arriving in Tucson, Arizona first, along with their three wives, Ali, Louisa and Maddie. And we see the six traveling on to the Boomtown that movie is named after Tombstone is how it’s referred to them. The movie also points out that while herb is already a legendary lawman, he’s retiring his badge start a peaceful life with his family. This is how the movie sets it up in the beginning. And you mentioned that holiday their friend doc holidays there too, because he’s hoping the dry climate will relieve his tuberculosis. Do you think the movie did a good job? Given an introduction to this story, before the main characters even got to Tombstone? I


Tom Clavin  06:02

think they did a good job of setting up the story rather efficiently. And and showing that the you know, right off the bat, you show that these not just lone cowboys and retired ex law men roaming the reigns, they have committed relationships. I mean, Virgil, especially was with his wife, Ali. They might have been the only ones of the bunch that were actually married. You know, the, it was pretty common in those days that common law marriage was pretty much accepted. If you stayed together long enough, you call yourself Mrs. ERP, you know, Mrs. Jones, whatever. So I think they set it up pretty effectively and efficiently. And and you mentioned in your question about why it might or being presented as legendary lawmen, you know, it really was tombstone and then the earth revenge ride or, you know, retaliation ride has got to get different names. That put him more into the legend book. I mean, me to be accurate from from coming from Dodge City, White had a reputation a good one for his tenure in Dodge City, but he wasn’t even a marshal there. He was a deputy Marshal and and he was he was we worked under the marshal in Dodge City. So he was not by any means a legendary character. When he got to Tombstone, it was tombstone really, that made him go to that legendary status.


Dan LeFebvre  07:29

Okay, okay. Yeah. Because when he arrives there in the movie, I don’t remember who it is. But somebody’s at the local law there is already asking him to be like, hey, come join us. It just seems like he’s already this legend that his reputation precedes him was the impression I got.


Tom Clavin  07:44

Yeah, and that’s pretty common when they presented wide open the movies that, you know, sometimes there’s even one of the earlier movie that he’s portrayed by Randolph Scott. When he gets to Dodge City, he’s already a legend. You know, he just had a couple of small time jobs before that. But that makes sense dramatically. You know, why? Why should you spend another hour and a half of this guy if he’s not visa cut rather than significant character.


Dan LeFebvre  08:09

That’s the origin story that they always have in movies. Something else that we see in the movie that it sets up here is the bad guys in the movie, they call themselves the Cowboys. And the movie sets it up that they’re made up of over 100 exiled, Texas outlaws who banded together to be as the movie puts at the org, the earliest example of organized crime in America, and they’re led by curly Bill brochures that’s the leader, and they all wear wear red sashes. I thought this was very convenient for the movie to do this and made it very easy to spot the bad guys in the movie. What was the movie set up of the Cowboys accurate?


Tom Clavin  08:43

It was pretty accurate because what was going on is that you know, cowboys in. In the 1860s 1870s, even to the 20s were really a derogatory name. Or at least they were they was, you know, they was the first time you see cowboys use often it was hyphenated cow hyphen, boy. And basically, it was somebody who herded cows, which is not the most well respected occupation at the time. So cowboys were also those who tended to not adhere to the letter of the law. They weren’t all criminals by any means a lot of go hardworking, honest, but you know, they, they came into town with their paychecks and they spent in our one women at song, shooting, shooting things up, they were good sometimes making a real difficult time especially those cow towns in the 1870s like Dodge City and Abilene and some of the others that the the weather the end of the trail when they came up from Texas. So there was a kind of gang warfare going on in and around tombstone in the late 1870s 1880s. You had ranchers who are employed most of the Cowboys like the great like the Clintons, like the MC Lowery’s and others. They had been there for for quite some time, most of them and they wanted to keep things the way They word have access to town whenever they wanted it and they could pretty much do what they wanted to do some rustling on the side do some stealing of gas in Mexico. And then you had a different kind of gang represented by the earth or brothers or family, where they did not come to Tombstone to be any kind of law man to be any kind of, let’s let’s let’s make civilization stronger in Tombstone. They were there to make money. You know that that was the thing. But in order to make money, you had to have a certain kind of structure and peacefulness and you could be having cowboys shooting the town up every Saturday night. Inevitably, reluctantly And inevitably, the ERB gang was sort of getting getting into a warfare with the cowboy gangs, and which eventually reached its you could say it’s reached its climax with the gunfight at the OK Corral. But unlike a lot of books and movies, the story does not end with a gunfight at the OK Corral.


Dan LeFebvre  10:56

Upon arriving at tombstone in the movie, Wyatt Earp immediately sets up the brothers with a way to make money. There’s a rather vacant barn town called the Oriental run by a guy named Milt Joyce. The reason it’s vacant in the movie is because of a guy named Johnny Tyler. He was played by Billy Bob Thornton in the movie, and he’s described as someone who just barged in one day, and then started dealing at the Pharaoh table and run off all the customers. Milt, the owner of the Oriental can’t seem to get rid of him. And so that’s Johnny Tyler, the guy who came in milk can’t get rid of them. So white or comes in and scares off Johnny Tyler. After that, the basic setup seems to be that the brothers are working at the Orient almost some kind of protection, it seems from Johnny Tyler or someone like him, and then in exchange, they get 25% of the houses take is that a good portrayal of how the herbs made money in Tombstone?


Tom Clavin  11:52

Yeah, it’s it’s a shorthand version, but it’s pretty much based on fact. You know, and the earth brothers, you know, it does make them cast him in like an unflattering light. But that’s, that’s what they could do. They could offer protection. I mean, when earlier in his in his so called career, Wyatt and and was was a bouncer as was brothers, bordellos. And they ran kind of a protection racket in Wichita, and elsewhere. And so it was something they did brothers all stood together at any particular time. There could be four brothers involved with with Jim and Morgan and Wyatt and Virgil. And so the same thing in Tombstone is they saw an opportunity. They were also investing in some silver mines because that’s what was really powering the economy and tombstone was the mining and the surrounding hills. But that’s kind of iffy, you know, as little more of a sure thing, if you could run a gambling house and offer protection and and keep the money was, you know, fraud. As far as we know. It was not a crooked gambling house. But still the waves gambling house was set up to house usually one anyway, at once. And you know, part of the part of the story there is that why it was had a security, let’s say is a better way to put it of the Oriental. And then when things were getting a little more heated between he and other gambling houses. He brought his he requests his friend bat Masterson to come visit to help him out become like the assistant head of security, which is what happened. So in 1881, bat Masterson was in tombstone with his pals, the earth brothers. If it wasn’t for the fact that back in Dodge City, one of bats brothers was was being threatened with being killed. And Ben had to make his way back to Dodge City to straighten that situation out. He may well have also been part of the gunfight at the OK Corral. Oh, wow. Yeah. Which would have made it even more of a legendary event?


Dan LeFebvre  13:47

Yeah, yeah, I can. I mean, it’s already pretty legendary. It’s hard to imagine how much more it could be. But yeah, for sure.


Tom Clavin  13:54

Just imagine if you had you know, and it was it was actually truth. You had Virgil, Morgan Wyatt. Doc Holiday bat Masterson facing off against the clans and the Mughal hour. That would have been, you know, even even more sensational. Oh,


Dan LeFebvre  14:07

yeah. Yeah, I can imagine. Wow. But somebody else I want to ask about that we see in movie are the Mr. Fabian and Josephine Marcus. They arrive in in tombstone with their Trooper performers, and they start putting on shows that local theater, and immediately Josephine seems to catch why it’s I Much to the chagrin of why it’s wife Maddie. And this is just an ongoing theme that we see throughout the movie. So can you share some more historical context around the dynamic between Wyatt and Maddie and Josephine that we see in the movie? You


Tom Clavin  14:40

know, Josephine is a fascinating character in in the white urban legend. She, she is often portrayed and with some accuracy of coming to Tombstone, as an actress, I think I think in my book, she’s, it’s she’s part of a troupe This good performing a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta is traveling around and that’s that’s was often happened in those days these traveling troops of entertainers that’s how they made some money in how the town’s got some entertainment when they were out on the frontier. And, and she did catch Wyatt’s eye. He, you know, inconveniently she was the fiance of Johnny B and the marshal or the sheriff I should say a Ford county that Ford county of the county I think was Cochise County that eventually got separated to a different county. And and they had this romance and then they lived happily ever after after tombstone. And to some extent, that’s quite true. I mean, it’s it’s, she was also a prostitute, Josephine, Marcus, and earlier her life and and she wrote a book that came out. Kind of rather late in her life, she lived into the 1940s, Josephine Marcus, I mean, she was she was quite elderly, and she was very close to one of the ERPs to ally ERP, Virgil’s widow. And they were very close, I think they’re actually buried next to each other, and so a long life. And so Josephine wrote a book that was a total whitewash you know, I married white herb where I was whiter twice up to like that was a pretty much a whitewash that portrayed her and and such as complimentary, like most of which was just made up. But having said that, it did seem to be a genuine romance there. And and once the whole Tuesday business was done, and why it went to fetch, Josephine Josie, who had been sort of sheltering in San Francisco. They were together for the next 40 something years now portrayed by Dana Delaney. I don’t blame him. Yeah,


Dan LeFebvre  16:47

I mean, there had to been something real there. I mean, it like you mentioned if she was friends with Virgil’s widow for even even beyond, you know, the brothers being there. You know, that’s, that’s not pretty. That’s not for show, you know, that’s not something that you’re just doing for whatever the benefits may be.


Tom Clavin  17:07

That’s you seems why it’s fourth wife. Now, okay. You know, it seems like he finally got it right. On the right. It wasn’t like she was four before and it was five and six and seven. You know, he had had these other relationships and then he Josie got together and that was it. But but for both of them for the next 40 something years. Wow.


Dan LeFebvre  17:24

It seems like in the movie, he talks about how he wanted to retire and settle down. It seems like that’s kind of what what he was going for.


Tom Clavin  17:29

He retired as a law man, but they did anything with settle down. They roamed for decades. I mean, literally, they they they roamed the West thing, and he ran a bar in Alaska. He sold real estate in San Diego, California, always moving around. They didn’t stay too long at one place until in a later two years. They were pretty much set in a cottage in Los Angeles. And he was getting some work as a advisor on silent film westerns.


Dan LeFebvre  17:54

Okay, I guess settling down is a metaphorical term for life relationship,


Tom Clavin  18:00

you get what gunfights


Dan LeFebvre  18:03

Well, speaking of gun fights, if we go back into the movie, there was a major turn of events. Currently, bill gets drunk one night and then just is shooting off his guns and middle of the road. The Marshal Fred white goes out to stop him. But then curly build shoots and kills the marshal. Since Sheriff B hand won’t do anything about it. Virgil Earp seems to feel bad for the people of Tombstone. And so Mayor Klum makes Virgil the new Marshal in town. And one of the first things that Virgil does is to post an ordinance prohibiting anyone from carrying a gun in town. Of course the Cowboys don’t follow this role then we find out Morgan has a badge too but why isn’t quite going back to being a law man yet was Marshall White being killed by curly Bill kind of the catalyst that the movie seems to imply for the herbs getting swept up into law enforcement in Tombstone?


Tom Clavin  18:56

It was it was it was a very important turning point because Marshall ye was a well regarded figure in Tombstone and it was pretty much the killing of of the of the martial was kind of like an accident. So it wasn’t like curly bills got drunk and said I’m gonna get rid of this martial because he’s bothering me. He was he was trying so like kidding around with the martial like, Okay, here’s my gun. A gives him the gun in the martial takes, grabs the barrel of the gun and the way he pulls it, curly Bill’s finger still on the trigger and near the trigger and the gun goes off. Okay, technically, it was an accident that the marshal got killed and that that one gunshot was enough to kill him too. But it did was it was like crossing a line in the sand. You killed the the well regarded law man. And there was a vacuum there. You know, usually after a marshal gets killed, it’s not a long line of applicants. And, but Virgil did feel a sense of responsibility. And he had a law enforcement experience, having worked as a law enforcement officer as deputies elsewhere and back in Prescott, I think he was a deputy Marshal in Prescott. Before they came in, he and his wife came to Tombstone. So he thought he would step into that vacuum and maybe, you know, calm things down a little bit, which, you know, he kind of did. And he’s good for the role in it. This is also where I think the casting of the films both this film tombstone, and the other wider, wider film called wider really helps because I mean, as much as people remember Val Kilmer from the movie Tombstone, you know, maybe next to that, or a second to next to that. I remember Sam Elliot, as Virgil or, you know, his presence in the movie as the older brother is really very powerful, even though he does have a lot to say. Real Life Virgil didn’t have a lot to say, but his presence was influential. And it’s also think I drew Sam Elliot as part of that, that that quadrate that trio of brothers.


Dan LeFebvre  21:01

Yeah, I think he did a great job of being that. He was the one that could kind of go to for, for whatever sort of insights they might want that you might get expect from an older brother, but also just kind of silently they’re letting you know what’s right and wrong.


Tom Clavin  21:20

Exactly. Yeah. Said he had that kind of gravitas. So he carried off very well.


Dan LeFebvre  21:25

If you head back into the movies, timelines, the tensions in Tombstone are continuing to rise with the herbs on one side of the law, cowboys on the other side. In particular, there’s a scene where we see things almost boil over when one of the Cowboys Ike Clanton is playing at the Orientals Pharaoh table with Doc Holliday. The movie mentions that Doc Holliday has been playing for like 36 hours straights, of course, they’ve both been drinking a lot. And I just gets more and more irate as Doc keeps winning. When the herbs sit down at the table, Virgil as the lawmen tries to calm it down, but he insists that the herbs are in with the cheating with Doc and it comes to blows when Virgil has to knock it out with the butt of his pistol takes him to jail to sleep adult sleep off the alcohol. But then the next day, I hasn’t forgotten about the events from the night before and Su rides off. He promises the herbs that a fight is coming. Can you give us a little more historical context around some of the tensions that were building in Tombstone just before the famous Gunfight at the OK Corral?


Tom Clavin  22:29

Well, the ARPs kind of unfairly was seen as there to clean up the town weren’t Yes. Okay. Virgil became the marshal. But he I think his idea was just like, Let’s keep it going, keep it calm, everybody. He was not a reformer, you know, he did have a mandate. This this great momentum to try and, you know, turn tombstone into into a different kind of place than what it was. But because of Virgil in his position there and he would, he would routinely deputized Morgan and or Wyatt when he had to go arrest somebody or do some other, you know, we need some money to help you. You know, what better person to have at your back then one of your brothers. So, they became the, this this, this symbol of a, a emerging Tombstone is more sophisticated kind of town. And it really was, I mean, in the short amount of time that the few years since the tombstone, founded, you had French restaurants who were building hotels had, you know, they had dancing troops with the touring dancing troops that would come to the like the like nightclubs, they are the entertainer, they had a theater. The Cowboys, and the rancher employers, like the clans and like them are McClary. So this is threatened, being they feel threatened by all this, because they, they started to see themselves as, as the old wave that was that was, you know, had already washed up against the shore was was receding. And so there was a resentment there, that their way of life was going to be was already was in jeopardy, and would be maybe even eradicated you had yet other tensions, like the first appearances like sheep farmers, the people putting fences up fencing off the land is, it was it was kind of like the same kind of issues that were plaguing and maybe they would do so a little ahead of its time, but playing areas of like Wyoming and Montana, where you had, you know, sheep farming coming in less grassland for the cows, the fun, that’s what would have been considered public land being fenced off by new settlers. So it was it was so the tension really was that the ranches it felt that they were in danger of becoming extinct. And they targeted. Eventually they targeted the herbs as the people who are the point of the spear so to speak.


Dan LeFebvre  24:54

Yeah, that makes sense. They’re kind of the what whether or not that that’s actually the case leads the way the movie implies it They’re the ones that are leading the charge since they kind of have law law behind them I get the impression that well with with a lot of old west things it’s okay the the law men are the only ones keeping things in check whether or not they actually are you know, they weren’t actually there for that but they sounds like they got roped into it


Tom Clavin  25:20

they did again the IRPs that they would have been perfectly happy not ever putting on a badge again and making money because they wired for this entire life had a hard time making money he just was was one of those people that never got lucky and every time he thought there was a chance he was gonna strike a race thing fell apart you know when he was either in Nevada Alaska or places like that. So here in Tombstone everything you know it looked very promising for the earth so you we got at least three of the brothers together and then Warren would join them to meet four brothers together and they had Jim herb and his his wife Bessie operating the latest bordello enterprise was in Tombstone it’s he had five brothers together and we will each have each other’s backs and their respective you know girlfriends slash wives with them in a booming town I mean this looks very promising and then unfortunately for them they got they just couldn’t stay out of it like hey you guys silly differences we have nothing against anybody we just want to make some money they got they got caught up swept up in this in the tension that was going on and and the day came when they made a stand about it. Yeah,


Dan LeFebvre  26:29

now speaking of that, we are at the point in the movie where the gunfight at the OK Corral happens which I call it that because that’s what everybody knows it as now even though the movie does kind of point out that the fight itself doesn’t happen at the okay corral. On one side we see Wyatt Virgil Morgan herb along with Doc Holliday holding a shotgun and then on the other side the movies camera makes it a little bit difficult to see everyone at a single time on frame but it looks like maybe there’s six cowboys there at first one of them runs away as soon as the three Epson Doc Holiday shows up. Leaving five I think there’s a two pairs of brothers. I can Billy Clanton was Tom and Frank Nick Lowry. And then based on the movie, it looks like the last cowboy is Billy Clairborne going Yeah,


Tom Clavin  27:13

yeah. The end up parties actually participating in the gunfight. Oh, okay. Okay. He didn’t I think he was persuaded or decided, wait a minute. I don’t like this. I’m just gonna slack off to the side here with nobody’s noticing, because I don’t think he ever drew his gun and participated in the fight. Okay, so Okay, so it was four and four really with the brothers and GUC holiday. You know, it’s kind of a funny scene, if you know anything about dark holiday, where he he sort of guilts Wyatt into letting him and Virgil to living and become one of these deputies. I mean, the last the last person, almost the last person that Virgil are born to deputize will be Doc Holliday. And because he never died, he said to loose cannon and probably drunk and he also Doc Holliday was a terrible marksman with a handgun. He couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn is there’s numerous examples certainly in my book tombstone, where he gets into gunfights and he can’t hit anybody.


Dan LeFebvre  28:11

Sidewinder given the shotgun teaches


Tom Clavin  28:14

that’s exactly why when you see that why, why does Virgil give doc the hot the shotgun? It’s because he figures maybe with a shotgun docket hit the body, hopefully one of them and not one of us.


Dan LeFebvre  28:26

That’s funny, because in the movie, you get the impression that dark holidays is the gunfighter amongst them like he’s the one he’s super fast and the draw and you can hit anything it seems. He


Tom Clavin  28:36

was a gunfighter because he got the gunfights he just had a hard time killing anybody.


Dan LeFebvre  28:41

In the movie, we see that it’s Doc Holliday kind of winks at Billy Clanton to get him to be the one to draw his pistol first it looks like wider my next will be the first one to shoot his pistol when he hits Billy Claiborne. But by the time the shooting stops, there’s three cowboys that are killed and Morgan Earp is injured. How well did the movie do actually showing Gunfight at the OK Corral.


Tom Clavin  29:06

It did a good job especially again, I mentioned before when you compare it to some of the other portrayals on screen just one one example at the top of my head there’s the the movie titled Gunfight at the OK Corral. In 1957, I think it was we had Burt Lancaster’s wider and again the of the of the strange casting of Kirk Douglas is Doc Holliday. I mean, Doc Holliday is supposed to be this rather feeble guy who’s barely staying alive. And incidentally, he’s been portrayed by Spartacus. So it doesn’t, it doesn’t make sense. But anyway, when he gets to the gunfight the Okay, well, it takes up the last 15 minutes of the movie. Because they’re there. They’re in the corral. They’re running around the corral. They’re running behind other buildings shooting at each other. They’re running behind horses. And the final event of that particular gunfight is Burt Lancaster chasing Billy klant, the youngest one Memory of the of the gunfight Billy Clanton up some stairs into a hotel where they had the file shoot out and he kills Billy clan who by the way is portrayed by a very young gun as hopper. And so the gunfight at the OK Corral, but some many people are surprised to learn was was 30 seconds there was 30 shots exchanged in 30 seconds. So it was a very intense fight that alley there was only like 15 feet across. So you’re talking about, you know, seven or eight guys in an alley within 15 feet of each other, firing 30 times in the course of the woman seconds. It’s a wonder anybody walked stuck gonna


Dan LeFebvre  30:35

say how did anybody has implemented everybody’s gets hit? Well, Wyatt


Tom Clavin  30:40

was the only one unscathed. Bad. Doc was was hitting the hip though, is a glancing shot. Virgil, I think was hitting the leg. And Morgan was hitting the shoulder. And of course the Lowery brothers were both killed and Billy clan was killed and by Clanton was survived mostly because when the shooting started, he made like a rabbit and bolted. So so the in the movie Tombstone, they do a good job because they don’t stretch out the gunfight into like a five minute or 10 minute affair. It is it is over pretty quick, quick. And it is that that explosion of violence as the editor did a good job of piecing that scene together those things together. Yeah,


Dan LeFebvre  31:22

definitely was short. And it makes sense, I guess, talking about a movie called the gunfight at the OK Corral. I could I can understand why a movie called that has to try to spread it out. But yet 30 seconds. That’s, that’s fast. I mean, that’s, I mean, I’m sure it didn’t seem like 30 seconds while you’re in the middle of it, but


Tom Clavin  31:38

it probably seemed like it was five hours you know, you know what, which bullet has my name on it, but but it was over. And I think what the real Gunfight at the OK Corral being that’s 30 shots in 30 seconds, the intensity of it. And the sheer violence of it was a almost like a cathartic event because all the tensions had built up between the two opposing sides that the men representing the majority of people in Tombstone, and you had the Cowboys representing the past couple of decades of ranchers and cowboys from Texas into Arizona. And it was like a lightning strike. You know, the things boil up to the point where they when they finally had a chance to go at it. They did so very intensely wasn’t like a couple of shots were fired. Say, Okay, let’s call this off. That was like a duel. Yeah, okay. I met I missed you, but at least they fired that satisfies my honor. No, we’re older we’re out to kill.


Dan LeFebvre  32:32

Is that kind of what kind of fights were like in the old west? Or is that there’s kind of a standout to this one that was different.


Tom Clavin  32:38

I think one thing that was very different about this one as hell it’s such an enclosed space. Now I don’t mean enclosed like there was a roof they were interior, but it was an alley. Not


Dan LeFebvre  32:49

in our industry like EC and your high noon.


Tom Clavin  32:52

Yeah, it was It wasn’t in the street. With the exception of Ike Clanton none of the participants tried to hide although there were a couple of horses in the alley that provided some cover. I think that there was it was in a small space with guns that were you know, six shooters that you could fire after your six gun. But many people at the time carried an extra gun. So it was and that the the game with the exception of I Clinton ran away. Nobody any point said, Okay, I surrender. You know, it was a fight really, it was a fight to the finish, which a lot of times in gunfights. It was like, somebody got wounded you just stop. And this


Dan LeFebvre  33:35

one, it seems like everybody knew it was a fight to the finish. Not just one person that that way, but it seems like everybody was


Tom Clavin  33:41

once that first shot was taken, it was just this this this tidal wave of gunfire.


Dan LeFebvre  33:47

Why in the movie in the wake of the big gun fight, we see things aren’t still done. We see some retaliation from the Cowboys. Both Virgil and Morgan Earp are shot in separate incidents. We don’t see Virgil getting shot in the movie but after leaving Wyatt and Morgan at the Oriental during a thunderstorm one night he wanders back in before collapsing on the floor. And according to the doctor verjus want to live but he’s going to lose the use of his left arm. And then at a different time we see Morgan playing polo at the Oriental when he shot through the window. Morgan’s wounds are much worse and he ends up dying and why its arms. Did those retaliations happen like we see in the movie?


Tom Clavin  34:29

The Hurt vendetta ride was was exaggerated in the in the movie, the circumstances leading up to it portrayed pretty accurately the one thing they mostly left out is that Wyatt and dark and Virgil and worgen were all arrested or charges were levied against the for them for murder. Because Morgan and Virgil were wounded and and recovering, they were sort of left alone. But Wyatt and Doc were actually arrested. And were put on trial trial less than a month. And as a lot of testimony, and in fact, one of the things I had the good fortune is that when I began working on my book tombstone, they just discovered in the bowels of the courthouse there in Tombstone, a transcript of some of the testimony given during that, that it was a sort of a trial into a court of inquiry, including white IRPs. Oh, you can get a lot of eyewitness really perspective from Wyatt, which is very helpful. And at the end of the this is the end of November, is a trial took up all 30 days of November. The presiding think his name was wells, the presiding judge found that there was not enough evidence to put the chains on Wyatt and and dock and haul them off to Tucson for a official murder trial. And that’s the anger the Cowboys a lot because from their point of view, the mug Lowery’s and Billy clan were murdered. That they that the herbs ganged up on him that was, it was true, but that’s the filter he grieved. And they held off trying to do anything for revenge because he said, Well, let’s let the court system find these guys guilty and string them up. And when that didn’t happen, that’s when they started to say, well, we got to do something got to take the matter into our own hands. And that’s what happened first with Virgil, it was very close to Christmas time, I think December 18, at one where he was bushwhacked in the streets of what was making his rounds is martial. And then of course, the mostly the or family circle the wagons and try and move they moved into a hotel, where they could better protect the the, with all lived together in his hotel where they could better protect each other. And it was really a Wesleyan restless Morgan and in March, mid March in 1882, that he had got to see a play and he he’s planning to be white afterwards, which he did and why he was like, Okay, let’s get back to the hotel at work. It’s like Oh, come I was so stuck in there I was I was supposed to shoot some pool. And so he persuaded Wyatt, which was here he would always regret to go to the pool hall. And like you mentioned when it was very well at the pool of the play pool that these bullets came through the window and then Morgan was shot in the back and when doc arrived the there’s this moment where after Morgan is pronounced dead, that y and Doc sort of look at each other and this understanding passes between them that we’re not going to wait for the court system to do anything about this. We’re going to we’re gonna we’re gonna go get these guys I suppose responsible going to track them down. So in Tombstone, ladies, they have Kurt Russell’s blaring out tell him I’m coming and I’m bringing hell with me. Which there’s some truth to that to that he made a declaration saying to the the the Cowboys get the word out, recover for you guys. And so he and Doc and Warren Earp, who was quite young, but he saddled up to some of their friends when I was with data right now in the movie it’s portrayed is taking place over a long period of time discounting tried chasing after these guys and tracking down a shooting of down a high body count but if I remember correctly I think there were three people killed now is still pretty impressive to track down and basically murder in cold blood three people but it was not the dozen or so as as portrayed in the movie there was this this bloodbath? Yeah,


Dan LeFebvre  38:38

the movie definitely makes it seem like I think it’s like a series of montage shots that you see them think it’s even some former cowboys they kind of throw down their red sash and masters Texas jackin Creek JOHNSON I think are their names that why deputizes


Tom Clavin  38:55

but where are the upside now are the good guys side note afterwards.


Dan LeFebvre  38:58

The impression I got then is that if it wasn’t personal before it definitely is personal now because they’re you know, killing Morgan shooting it at Virgil. Do you think that is a pretty fair interpretation of what it was actually like? Was it actually personal against him you said earlier it was almost like they felt like their their way which is kind of on the way out now after the gunfight at OK Corral. Did it almost seem personal at that point? They’re not just the ones that are the visionary leaders?


Tom Clavin  39:32

That’s a good question. Because they previously the tension against the earth was war with the earth represented. They had a bed a badges and they represented the law and order faction which was was the the growing majority and tombstone. But when you when you when the laneway to bushwhack Virgil and shot warrior in the back that was that was acts of violence directed specifically because they were IRPs. So it was it was personal because there are other law men in Tombstone Could have been attacked to make a statement against a law and order position but they care to their brothers and their brothers were in Tucson in the first place to watch each other’s backs and make money together. And he had things that deteriorated so badly that they’re getting ambushed. Speaking


Dan LeFebvre  40:14

of ambush in movie, we see an ambush with White Earth when he walked after that montage, he goes out and he finds curly bill and shoots him in the river was clearly bill actually the the leader of the Cowboys did. How was this kind of in the movie? It was almost kind of wrapping up the conflict between the herbs and the Cowboys when they kill currently Bill who’s the leader of the Cowboys? Did it kind of wrap up that way?


Tom Clavin  40:42

It did I mean, it was there’s always some it’s almost like the Cowboys had two leaders or they had curly Bill was there was more visible leader. But you had Johnny Ringo, who was almost like their spiritual leader. And, and so Johnny Ringo det that genuinely did not like Doc Holliday, the director did not like each other and they had had a confrontation that got diffused before it ended up being gunfight. But currently, Bill and his company have been had outlaws that set up a ambush for the ERP holiday vendetta ride troupe. So I don’t think it was I don’t think that why it new curly Bill was with this particular group I don’t think they they they didn’t expect a group there and wait for them when they wrote into it why was out front you know, they started the gunfight son got started shooting what had had was shotgun and he shot curly bill with the shotgun killed him. I don’t know if he died right away but he was it was effective enough. And here’s another example of like, why it had gone unscathed in this intense okay Corral gunfight also being visible and guns being pointed at him. And I think the only injury got was like a bullet bounced off the you got he got to the heel of his boot shot off at that at a saddlehorn got shut off. And they were bullets actually passing through the coat that he wore. But again, he escaped he killed curly bill and escaped but you know, back to where the other guys were there and without being hit. So it’s it’s you know that that’s part of one of the ingredients that led to the Legend of White Earth was that he was he was unkillable. He wasn’t


Dan LeFebvre  42:38

lucky with money, but man he was sure cheers lurcher. Lucky with bullets, they


Tom Clavin  42:42

want to I guess I guess the universe had the the plan for him to live a long time so he could figure out that he’s never going to make money.


Dan LeFebvre  42:52

Yeah, you mentioned Johnny Ringo. And we do see him in the movie as kind of that. After curly bill is killed then the big character to kill left is Johnny Ringo. And we see Doc holidays health is declined a lot. He’s coughing up blood. He ends up staying at Henry hookers ranch to play by Charlton Heston again, another nice little cameo there in the movie. But then Johnny Ringo calls out Wyatt for a one on one at the Oak Grove near Silver Springs Canyon. So why it goes to fight Ringo while Doc is back at hookers ranch. But it seems like Doc pretended to be worse than he was knowing that why it was losing a gunfight with Ringo. So doc shows up a little early, and then kills Ringo under a big oak tree. How much of that actually happened like we see in the movie?


Tom Clavin  43:37

Here’s where the film slips. Maybe it’s a B plus territory. Because we radically understand what they’re doing. But oh, by the way, it’s talking about cameos. There’s a very famous Hollywood actor, legendary Hollywood actor in the film, who you never see. Never if you know what I’m talking about. The narrator is Robert Mitchum.


Dan LeFebvre  43:57

Oh, yes, yes. No. Yes, actually, I think just watching it for this time I realized that yes, yes.


Tom Clavin  44:03

There’s another nice caveat to but he is weighs. A couple things that are about this that are definitely based. In fact, in his adult life, Doc Holliday was probably no healthier than he was when he lived in Tombstone. And the reason was because it was exactly the climate that his doctors back in Georgia has said to him, it’s going to be the best for you. If you find this kind of climate, it’ll extend your life. And here you live living in Tombstone, the southeast corner of Arizona. It’s not that there’s never any winter there, but it’s mostly dry your warm temperatures. And doc who is never going to be robust, but he was relatively healthy. So welcomers performance is absolutely fantastic. And you can’t keep your eyes off him when he’s on screen. But his performance show Doc is a much sicker man than he actually was in in Tucson. The other thing is Johnny Ringo and Wyatt never set an appointment with each other to go have this kind of a gunfight now, if anybody was going to go fight fight each other would have been doc and Johnny because they they had a couple of confrontations that were thwarted. But Johnny Ringo did not go to be wired up for a gunfight Doc Holliday did not kill Johnny Ringo doc Holly was nowhere near the where Johnny Ringo died. And the general consensus is that Johnny Ringo and for reasons that you know, doesn’t take up time going into but he killed himself. He was alone he was drunk he killed himself Johnny Ringo was a very complicated character manic depressive. And he got some fairly got drunk and depressed enough that one day by himself he said I this this world that is is being created around me this of law and order in a day of the Cowboys over I’m not I don’t live in that world anymore. And he killed himself in Doc Holliday was hundreds of miles away so dramatically it’s effective and the third thing is your Doc Holliday hitting somebody in a gunfight chances are he would want the if he was facing off with Johnny regular Paul does God the only damage would have been done to the tree beyond judgment


Dan LeFebvre  46:21

that’s so funny because that’s exactly like in the movie threat movie see with with Val Kilmer is Doc Holliday, you just get the impression he’s this like gunfighter that, you know is is so I just expect he’s going to have the best aim. But it’s Yeah, yeah. She’s not.


Tom Clavin  46:36

Well, again, what a reputation is a good fighter gunfight? You just didn’t do any damage? Yeah.


Dan LeFebvre  46:43

Yeah, I guess I’m just used to you know, the, the Old West movie sound like the gun, the gun fighter. He’s the best one best shot there is, you know, and so despite that he’s not. That’s pretty funny. Yeah, thank you so much for coming on to chat about tombstone. For listeners who want to learn more of the true story. I’ll make sure to include a link to your best selling book also called tombstone and the show notes for this episode. Before I let you go, though, I have a two part question.


Tom Clavin  47:10

I bet I have two answers. Okay, that’s


Dan LeFebvre  47:13

good. The first part is for listeners who have not gotten their own copy of Tombstone yet. Can you share one of your favorite stories from the book for someone who maybe has only seen the movie and wouldn’t know? And then the second part is listeners who have already read tombstone, can you share a peek of your latest book?


Tom Clavin  47:31

As far as the story is concerned? The the movie pretty much presents Johnny behead as a one dimensional character. He’s callow. He’s cowardly. He’s slimy. There’s some truth of Johnnie being really be like that. But he’s also more of a complicated character than that. He was a pretty effective he was the Sheriff of that county. He’s a pretty effective sheriff. He had been married, he had a he, his wife had a child who died. He and Josephine Marcus really did have a romance. And they actually live together at one point. And the, with his his son from his first marriage. And I think that there’s there’s more, there’s more of a humanity to the Johnny be in character that comes across in the movie. There’s only room for so many stories you could tell him we understand that. And ultimately, Johnny B had failed to do his job at the gunfight at the OK Corral. It could have been avoided completely. So it’s some said that some of that blood is on his hands. So if you read my book tombstone, also to give a shout out to less gunfight, but Jeff Gwynn, which is a very good book on the subject, too. And it’s very, very well researched. The Johnny being character is much more interesting. He’s portrayed on film, so it gets worse. And of course, the other story very quickly, is that how much the Kurt Russell direct tombstone? George Cosmatos is the director of record. But the there’s a fascinating story behind the making a tombstone that Kevin, Kevin Jr. had written a script and was the director and he actually started directing the picture, but very quickly got so far behind budget that he was fired. And George Cosmatos was just coming off directing Rambo to. He was available, they brought him in, but supposedly they brought him in as what’s called the ghost director. He was supposed to be the front director of record. And supposedly Kurt Russell was the actual director of the picture. And some of the other cast members will confirm that and have confirmed it that Kurt Russell did the actual behind the scenes directing. So so the story that you won’t know if you have seen only the movie and it’s an obviously did a very effective job because the movies still considered one of the top at least of the top 20 Best Westerns of all time, and I’m a top 10 For many people’s lists. My next book is coming out in May. It’s called throne of grace with my good friend Bob glory. We’ve done seven or eight books before, including the heart of everything that is and blood and treasure about Daniel Boone. New Book throne of grace is about the Explorer Jedediah Smith, who was followed in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark and exceeded them actually, in his explorations of the American West. But he’d be but he’s pretty much an unknown figure and he had a very adventurous life very exciting. really did a lot towards opening up the American West sue the the people back in the east and did nothing about what was out there. We don’t know fantastic creatures, monsters, we don’t know. And yet Smith was this intrepid heroic figure that made all these trips back to the West Coast is back to report on his findings. And so it’s the gold throne of grace will be out in May, and we think that people enjoy it.


Dan LeFebvre  50:51

I’ll make sure to add a link to that in the show notes for this episode. Thank you again, so much for your time today.


Tom Clavin  50:55

Thank you very much. I enjoyed it.



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