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View Full Version : OT - Wyatt Earp movie - historically accurate?



panther3485
09-30-2006, 12:58 PM
Hi guys!

My wife picked up the DVD movie 'Wyatt Earp' (1994 - Kevin Costner, Dennis Quaid, Gene Hackman) and we watched it yesterday evening.

We both enjoyed it a lot, even though it was on the lengthy side (about 3 hrs, I think).

My question is, how historically accurate is this movie? I don't know much about the history of the 'Wild West', but it seemed to have a feel of authenticity that you don't often get.


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panther3485

ploughman
09-30-2006, 01:12 PM
Not seen that one mate, but I did like "Tombstone." No that that answers your question. Did you know John Wayne knew Wyatt who saw out his final years in San Bernadino county? Neat eh? The wild west and all that stuff seems so long ago I always find it suprising when it turns out a man alive today (no the Duke, but you know what I mean) could have actually known a character from that period. A few months ago someone posted an obit for the last buffalo soldier on this forum. Amazing really.

panther3485
09-30-2006, 01:26 PM
Originally posted by Ploughman:
Not seen that one mate, but I did like "Tombstone." No that that answers your question. Did you know John Wayne knew Wyatt who saw out his final years in San Bernadino county? Neat eh? The wild west and all that stuff seems so long ago I always find it suprising when it turns out a man alive today (no the Duke, but you know what I mean) could have actually known a character from that period. A few months ago someone posted an obit for the last buffalo soldier on this forum. Amazing really.

No, I certainly didn't know about John Wayne's acquaintance with Wyatt, although it doesn't seem all that incredible now you mention it - seeing JW was born in 1907!

At first, the 1800's may seem a very long way back but I don't think they are really. Recently, I saw newsreel film of a re-union get-together for a small group of American Civil War veterans. You could see they were all such old men but this was footage from the early 1930's IIRC. My Dad was a kid then! http://forums.ubi.com/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_eek.gif

I always find history amazing, though!

Bo_Nidle
09-30-2006, 02:12 PM
Costners "Wyatt Earp" is one of my favourite films. I do not claim to be an expert on the West but I do know that Earp was never hit during his life and died of old age. A remakable achievement considering his lifestyle.

This film came out at the same time as "Tombstone" which was directed by George Pan Cosmatos. The Costner film was directed by Lawrence Kasdan. I have seen both and IMHO "Wyatt Earp" is by far the superior film.

Allowances have to be made for Hollywood of course but I believe that its pretty close.

It is accurate where it shows the climactic battle between Earp and the Cochise County rustlers lead by "Curly Bill" Brocius in Iron Springs (also known as Mescal Springs) on the 24 March 1882. Earp used a Stevens 10gauge double-barelled hammer gun (serial number 927 - it is in a collection in America. It was later used by another peace oficer named Heck thomas to kill Bill Doolin, a famous Oklahoma and Arkansas outlaw in August 1896). However Costners shotgun in this scene is not the Stevens model used but Kurt Russells portrayal of Earp in the same incident in "Tombstone" does use the correct model. (Perhaps I should get out more? http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/sadeyes.gif)

The shootout at the O.K. Corral shows Doc Holiday (played superbly by Dennis Quaid) borrowing a shotgun from Virgil Earp (played by Michael Madsen)when in actual fact Holiday was infamous for carrying his own sawn off Belgian made 10gauge with a cut down stock giving it an overall length of about 18 inches. It had a leather bandolera strop fastened midway on its point of balance allowing it to drop naturally into his hand when carried concealed beneath the long coat he invariably wore.

During the fight at the O.K Corral Holiday was the only one armed with a shotgun.He shot Tom McLowry with both barrels of his 10 gauge then pulled his pistol and began firing.Of the men killed and wounded in the fight, all except Tom McLowry were hit by revolver bullets. All except McLowry were able to return fire for one or two shots before expiring. Thats why the shotgun was such a popular weapon of the time.

I find it a fascinating period in American history (especially being a weapon enthusiast as well) and Earp is one of the most outstanding personalities of that era.

Great film!!

horseback
09-30-2006, 02:32 PM
A note of interest for you guys - southern Arizona's weather is at its most pleasant in the fall, and if you can make it, Tombstone's 'Helldorado Days' will be taking place in October, with the community going all out for a week of reenactments (most of them painstakingly researched), opening tours of the mines under the town, and all sorts of materials & historical sites available to the general public.

Having attended a few times myself, I recommend it highly. Besides being entertaining and fun, it can be a real eye-opener about frontier life in the late 1800s.

cheers

horseback

SeaFireLIV
09-30-2006, 04:02 PM
I watched the movie 'Wyatt Earp' and thought it was pretty interesting, so i did a bit of reading and internet searching and a lot the stuff in the film is true to actual events. It`s quite well documented. They probably made Wyatt a little `nicer` than in the real thing (for instance, his opinion of women isn`t massive) but it`s not a bad representation.

It seems like he never got a scratch in all his gun fights at all, no matter how much they shot at him.

Good film, interesting real life person.

ploughman
09-30-2006, 04:18 PM
I've been watching Deadwood lately and did a bit of 'research' and was impressed by how true to the historical record the thing is, thus far (end of season two, no spoilers please). Funnily enough I finished "Flashman and the Redskins," a few months ago and it had Flash meeting Wild Bill just outside the Bella Union and I was thinking to myself, "Wild Bill never set foot in the Bella Union."

But did he?

RCAF_Irish_403
09-30-2006, 04:18 PM
Gotta say it...Val Kilmer does the best Doc Holiday ever in "Tombstone"

Bearcat99
09-30-2006, 04:30 PM
Tombstone was more Hollywood..... Wyatt Earp was actually a fantastic move and my favorite of the Earp movies, including the B&W classic ..... did you notice the dialog? It was actually written more the way people spoke back then.... note that in Tombstone and most other modern day westerns the dialog is actually spoken in modern style... minus the slang of course... not so with Dances With Wolves and Wyatt Earp.. I remember watching those movies and comenting to myself about the dialog.. how it was kind of..... stuffy.... and almost too wordy... it wasnt until I rewatched Ken Burns' The Civil War series and listened to some of the letters from the period.. which wasnt far removed from Earp and right in there with Dances with Wolves... that I realized what the "oddness" was.... Lonesome Dove... the original series with Jones & Duval was another GREAT western series....

Tombstone and Silverado were great entertainment.... but DWW, WE & LD were great period pieces.

ploughman
09-30-2006, 04:43 PM
My other half and I were talking about authentic 19th Century dialog this very evening Bear, and we agreed how very eloquent most folk were in the old days. Social intercourse demanded rather more than a quick "sup dog," back then.

Seems Wyatt Earp'll have to go to the head of my rental list.

Low_Flyer_MkVb
09-30-2006, 05:06 PM
Apparently, the real Butch Cassidy never lost his Lancashire accent. http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-surprised.gif

mrsiCkstar
09-30-2006, 05:10 PM
Wyatt Earp is one of my favorite movies and I'm pleased to find out that it is so accurate... a friend of mine keeps telling me how much better Tombstone is but I just tell him to talk to the hand http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/16x16_smiley-very-happy.gif

F6_Ace
09-30-2006, 05:12 PM
I've seen Tombstone and it wasn't too bad at all. Muriel's Wedding is a superior film, however.

mrsiCkstar
09-30-2006, 05:19 PM
I actually thought Muriel's Wedding was good http://forums.ubi.com/images/smilies/blush.gif

PS: your signature freaks me out!

DuxCorvan
09-30-2006, 05:55 PM
In fact, that OK Corral affair was some of a murder, more like a personal & familiar war business than a true law enforcement effort. And Holliday shot first -against still unarmed Lawry.

VF51_Flatspin
09-30-2006, 08:12 PM
From what I heard when "Wyatt Earp" came out, it was supposed to be the most historically accurate, utilizing new 'forensic' information whatever the heck that means - how much forensic info can you distill from a living town??

Anyway, still one of my favorites even though I usually can't stand Kevin Costner's acting.

panther3485
09-30-2006, 08:28 PM
Thanks, guys! Some great replies there.

Like I said, I know very little about the history of the 'Wild West', but I had a feeling the 1994 Wyatt Earp movie would be reasonably authentic - it just seemed to 'come across' that way somehow.

And oh yeah, I thought Dennis Quaid was great as well!

Von_Rat
10-01-2006, 11:39 AM
Originally posted by Ploughman:
Not seen that one mate, but I did like "Tombstone." No that that answers your question. Did you know John Wayne knew Wyatt who saw out his final years in San Bernadino county? Neat eh? The wild west and all that stuff seems so long ago I always find it suprising when it turns out a man alive today (no the Duke, but you know what I mean) could have actually known a character from that period. A few months ago someone posted an obit for the last buffalo soldier on this forum. Amazing really.

my father, whos still alive btw, met american civil war vets when he was young. and they werent drummer boys, they were regular soldiers.

Slickun
10-01-2006, 06:49 PM
Wyatt Earp follows a famous book about him called "Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshall" by a fellow named Stuart Lake. It came out a couple of years after Earp died (late 20's).

It is generally felt to be the most accurate depiction of the subject on film, even though it doesn't get it exactly right, and neither did Lake, even though he corresponded with Earp during the writing.

Dux' claim that the gunfight was murder, and Tom McLaury was unarmed, are common claims that the "anti-Earp" side of the question often pose. Lets just say there are two sides to every story, and there is a ton of evidence Tom had a pistol, and certainly had access to a rifle in a scabbard on a horse he hid behind.

The surviving cowboys, Ike Clanton, Billy Claiborne, and West Fuller, along with Sheriff Behan and Will McClaury (Frank and Tom's brother, a lawyer), tried to get the Earp's and Holliday to be tried for murder, but the hearing, Judged by Wells Spicer, found there to be no real chance of conviction, and they were released. The Cowboys claims, especially Ike Clanton's, were destroyed in the hearing by the defense lawyers for the Earps.

No neutral witness saw the Cowboys with their hands in the air before the shooting started (as the prosecution claimed), and Virgil Earp, the actual city Marshall (not Wyatt), went into the vacant lot with a cane IN HIS GUN HAND. He called on the Cowboys to surrender, and shouted a last warning as the Cowboys cocked their guns before pulling "Hold on, I don't want that!". Hardly in keeping with one intent on murder.

The gunfight, as portrayed in "Wyatt Earp" is pretty close to most folks' idea of how it went down.

Virgil was crippled in an ambush before Morgan was murdered, not on the same night as the movie portrays.

The Earp Vendetta possee killed for sure two Cowboys, Frank Stillwell in the train station, one (Indian Charlie) in the woods. The gunfight at Iron Springs resulted in one more killing, probably. Earp shotgunned Curly Bill Broscius, and wounded another. Some researchers deny that EArp killed Broscius.

Johnny Ringo was found sitting in a tree bole with a hole in his head, ruled a suicide, some months later. Ike Clanton was killed during a getaway from a bank job some years later.

Wyatt Earp was a man of his times, a gambler, pimp, saloon operator, undercover agent, deputy sheriff, deputy US Marshall, constable, race horse owner, miner, entrepeneur, murderer, boxing referee, pioneer, married at least 3 times, was in on the killing of at least 5 men, (Hoy, Frank McLaury, Stillwell, Indian Charlie, Broscius), and survived well into the 20th Century. Not the law enforcement angel dressed in white as Lake described him, but an amazing able and complex man that all who knew agreed had absolutely no fear in him.

Oh yeah. He was a true bad *** as well.

panther3485
10-01-2006, 09:36 PM
Originally posted by Slickun:
Wyatt Earp follows a famous book about him called "Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshall" by a fellow named Stuart Lake. It came out a couple of years after Earp died (late 20's).

It is generally felt to be the most accurate depiction of the subject on film, even though it doesn't get it exactly right, and neither did Lake, even though he corresponded with Earp during the writing.

Dux' claim that the gunfight was murder, and Tom McLaury was unarmed, are common claims that the "anti-Earp" side of the question often pose. Lets just say there are two sides to every story, and there is a ton of evidence Tom had a pistol, and certainly had access to a rifle in a scabbard on a horse he hid behind.

The surviving cowboys, Ike Clanton, Billy Claiborne, and West Fuller, along with Sheriff Behan and Will McClaury (Frank and Tom's brother, a lawyer), tried to get the Earp's and Holliday to be tried for murder, but the hearing, Judged by Wells Spicer, found there to be no real chance of conviction, and they were released. The Cowboys claims, especially Ike Clanton's, were destroyed in the hearing by the defense lawyers for the Earps.

No neutral witness saw the Cowboys with their hands in the air before the shooting started (as the prosecution claimed), and Virgil Earp, the actual city Marshall (not Wyatt), went into the vacant lot with a cane IN HIS GUN HAND. He called on the Cowboys to surrender, and shouted a last warning as the Cowboys cocked their guns before pulling "Hold on, I don't want that!". Hardly in keeping with one intent on murder.

The gunfight, as portrayed in "Wyatt Earp" is pretty close to most folks' idea of how it went down.

Virgil was crippled in an ambush before Morgan was murdered, not on the same night as the movie portrays.

The Earp Vendetta possee killed for sure two Cowboys, Frank Stillwell in the train station, one (Indian Charlie) in the woods. The gunfight at Iron Springs resulted in one more killing, probably. Earp shotgunned Curly Bill Broscius, and wounded another. Some researchers deny that EArp killed Broscius.

Johnny Ringo was found sitting in a tree bole with a hole in his head, ruled a suicide, some months later. Ike Clanton was killed during a getaway from a bank job some years later.

Wyatt Earp was a man of his times, a gambler, pimp, saloon operator, undercover agent, deputy sheriff, deputy US Marshall, constable, race horse owner, miner, entrepeneur, murderer, boxing referee, pioneer, married at least 3 times, was in on the killing of at least 5 men, (Hoy, Frank McLaury, Stillwell, Indian Charlie, Broscius), and survived well into the 20th Century. Not the law enforcement angel dressed in white as Lake described him, but an amazing able and complex man that all who knew agreed had absolutely no fear in him.

Oh yeah. He was a true bad *** as well.

OK, so what I get here is that the movie 'tidies him up' a bit and makes Wyatt somewhat 'nicer' and simpler than the man really was but essentially, the events as shown unfolding are (apart from a few details) pretty much historically accurate?

Thanks mate, that was very intersting! And in general, it confirms my initial 'feeling' about the movie.


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panther3485