Filmsite Movie Review 100 Greatest Films
My Darling Clementine (1946)
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Differences Between the Film and Actual History:

  • Tombstone in the film is surrounded by beautiful Monument Valley, located in the N. Arizona/Utah area. Tombstone is actually in the southern part of Arizona - a flat and uninteresting area. In the late 1870s and early 1880s, the town boomed after the discovery of silver in a strike in 1877. After a peak population of about 7,000 people, most moved away within a few years when profits dried up.

  • Wyatt Earp was a figure in history, both a lawman and a gambler. He was known for keeping company with the saloon crowd in the frontier cattle and mining towns, for gambling, for being a confidence man, and for associating with prostitutes and pimps. Compared to other lawmen of the time, he was probably no worse than most of them. There is no solid historical evidence to indicate that he was involved in many deadly gunfights and face-offs. During his years as a Dodge City lawman, he is thought to have killed only one man. After moving to Tombstone, the Earps developed a more 'respectable' reputation, aligning themselves with the Establishment - Republican businessmen. This put them at odds with local cowboys - which included the Clantons.

  • There were five Earp brothers - the fifth one not in the film was Warren. James was not the youngest - he was actually older than Wyatt.

  • James Earp was not murdered by the Clantons, but lived long after the events depicted in the film.

  • For an upcoming political contest (for Sheriff of Cochise County) in which Wyatt was rumored to be planning to run against incumbent Sheriff John Behan, Holliday (and possibly the Earps themselves) were accused by the Behan/Clanton/"cowboys" of being involved in the March 1881 robbery of a stagecoach. Refusing to be embarrassed by the charges, Earp counter-accused Behan of protecting the Clantons and other cowboys responsible for the stage robberies. The charges against Doc were eventually dismissed. The political struggle escalated and became heated when Behan's beautiful mistress, Josephine Marcus, left him and became the 'common-law' wife of Wyatt for the remainder of his life. The feuding sides opposed each other at the O.K. Corral over disagreements and accusations involving stage robbery and other simmering hatreds - the gunfight was not the direct result of retribution for the deaths of James and Virgil Earp and Billy Clanton.

  • The feud between the Clantons and the Earps was not only a few days in length, but lasted over a long period of time. It had nothing to do with stealing cattle, and more to do with the long-standing conflict in SE Arizona between the Republican business community (to which the Earps were aligned) and the Democratic ranchers/cowboys of the countryside (to which the Clantons were aligned).

  • In the film, the year is 1882. The actual gunfight was on October 26, 1881. On that day, Virgil Earp was Marshal in Tombstone and Wyatt was only a deputy.

  • Old Man (Newman) Clanton wasn't at the O.K. Corral. He was killed before the gunfight occurred, in a retaliatory action in Guadalupe Canyon, Mexico by Mexican soldiers against the cattle-rustling thief (August, 1881).

  • Virgil Earp was not killed before the fight, but was wounded in it. Billy Clanton was not killed prior to the O.K. Corral shootout either.

  • Doc Holliday (formerly a dentist, not a doctor) was not killed in the O.K. Corral gunfight, but died of tuberculosis about six years later. (He was born in Griffin, GA, Aug. 14, 1851, and died in a hotel in Glenwood Springs, CO, Nov. 8, 1887.) Originally, he had come West to relieve his tubercular condition. He visited a sanitarium for its "healing" springs.

  • Who actually was killed or wounded in the gunfight? - Ike Clanton ran and escaped injury. Billy Clanton was killed along with other Clanton supporters (Tom and Frank McLaury not in the film). Virgil and Morgan Earp were wounded. Doc Holliday was slightly wounded. The undertaker displayed the bodies in his window.

  • After the confrontation, Holliday and Wyatt were arrested. In an inquest, Republican justice of the peace Wells Spicer refused to indict them, judging that they had been acting in their proper roles as lawmen. They walked from the charges - and the feud continued. Within a few weeks after the inquest, Virgil was gunned down and badly wounded. Morgan was killed by unknown assailants. Wyatt became a deputy US Marshal, and with Holliday and others, led a retaliatory rampage against their cowboy enemies. Then, they fled Tombstone.

  • The historic O.K. Corral incident was over in a few seconds. Eyewitnesses couldn't agree what happened when it was all over. It will never be clear who drew and fired first

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