The 1993 American western film, directed by George P. Cosmatos has become something of a cult favorite since its first release, drawing praise for the performances, gripping source material, and beautiful scenic locations filmed in and around Arizona and New Mexico.
Director George P. Cosmatos devoted himself to period-accurate clothing, facial hair, and set design.
Based on the real-life events surrounding the gunfight at the OK Corral on 26th October 1881
The film sees Kurt Russell in the role of famed western figure Wyatt Earp who, along with tuberculosis-riddled dentist-turned-gambler Doc Holliday (Val Kilmer) and his brothers Morgan and Virgil Earp (Bill Paxton and Sam Elliott respectively)
Engage in the now fabled confrontation with several known criminals, including Ike and Billy Clanton, Frank and Tom McLaury, William “Curly Bill” Brocius, and infamous gunslinger Johnny Ringo.
Wyatt Berry Stapp Earp (1848-1929) was an American lawman, gambler, brothel owner, and mine owner, born in Monmouth, Illinois on 19th March.
Born into a large family with eight children in total (including older brother Virgil, 1843-1905, and younger brother Morgan, 1851-1882) Wyatt Earp quickly developed a reputation for firmness, learning gambling, boxing, and fight officiating during his time working on the Union Pacific Railroad in the Wyoming Territory.
Despite a stint as a local constable under his father in Lamar, Missouri, as well as a stint in the Dodge City Police (In Dodge City, Kansas) in 1877, and as a marshall chasing outlaw Dave Rudabaugh through Texas in 1878, being a lawman was only a small part of Wyatt’s storied life.
As an older man, living in Los Angeles in the 1910s and 20s, Earp came to lament the 30 seconds that defined his life (the OK Corral), and resented the heroic image he and his brothers had been presented with, as he didn’t feel it portrayed the shades of gray within which they lived their lives.
Despite this however, history has continued to be inspired by his courageous acts, his no nonsense demeanor, and his longevity, which saw him outlive much of the old west and continue into the era of Hollywood, where he inspired and encouraged early western movie stars such as Tom Mix and John Wayne.
A historic city in Cochise County, Arizona, Tombstone was founded in 1877 by prospector Ed Scieffelin, and quickly became one of the last boomtowns of the American frontier.
Built around prosperous silver mines, which produced around $85 million in silver bullion, the town rapidly developed a reputation for drinking, gambling, brothels, and violence, but also for opulence.
Within two years of its founding, Tombstone had a bowling alley, an ice house enabling the chilling of foods and goods, four churches, a school, three banks, an ice cream parlor, and over 110 saloons.
There were also 14 gambling halls, several dance halls, as well as brothels – one of which, The Birdcage Theater, acted as a performance space where working people could see shows and light entertainment.
To this day, Tombstone is preserved as a living history museum, the main street resembling how it did in 1881 when the Earps resided there.
As such, many of the locations set in the town were shot on location, with many of the facades being used in the film, for example the jail, hotel, gun shop, saloon, and Sheriff’s Office.
Old Tucson Studios
Much of the film was shot at the Old Tucson Studios, an American movie studio and theme park west of Tucson, Arizona, a place famous for its role in western productions since its construction for the movie Arizona in 1939.
Having been featured in such productions as John Wayne’s Rio Bravo (1959), popular 1970s television series Little House On The Prairie, the Steve Martin comedy Three Amigos (1986), and The Quick And The Dead (1995) starring Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman, Old Tucson Studios, along with its nearby sister site in Mescal, Arizona has become a mainstay in the western genre.
In this film, the studios featured during the introductory wedding massacre scene, the famous “I’m your huckleberry” scene where Doc Holliday confronts Johnny Ringo, as well as the train station scenes where the Earps travel from Tucson to Tombstone.
The Mescal Studios also filled in for the wider shots of Tombstone, as well as the Glenwood Springs sanatorium, the Colorado convalescence hospital where the ailing Doc Holliday spent his final months.
Babocomari Ranch, Sonoita
This famed 1930s Arizona cattle ranch was used in key scenes within the film, being the ranch of wealthy rancher Henry Hooker during the earlier scenes of the film, and more prominently being the location of Doc Holliday’s final showdown with Johnny Ringo, wherein the wiley Holliday corners and outdraws the legendary gunfighter, despite his ailing health and addictions.
Exterior shots of the Arizona desert and woodland were also filmed on location, using a number of famed locations.
These include Texas Canyon, Skeleton Canyon, the San Simon Valley, the Little Dragoon Mountains, Tucson Mountains, Whetstone Mountains, Turkey Creek, Mount Lemmon, Granite Mountain near Prescott, the San Pedro River, and the Chihuahua National Monument, famed for its countless hoodoos (tall, thin spires of rock) and unusual “balancing rocks” (naturally formed occurrences that are in fact connected and not balanced).
And there we have it. It is easy to understand why the story of Tombstone still resonates with and inspires countless people even to this day.
The story of last stands, fierce lawmen, and dangerous outlaws is one as old as time, but it is the human stories of the Earps that make them ever popular, that and the beautifully shot American landscape, which in itself has become a mythic space within life and storytelling that continues to evolve and inspire creativity in those lucky enough to see it.
Go on, why not pay them a visit?
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