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Tombstone is a 1993 American Western directed by George P. Cosmatos, written by Kevin Jarre (who was also the original director, but was replaced early in production) and starring Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, and Dana Delany, and narrated by Robert Mitchum.

The film is based on events relating to the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, along with the Earp Vendetta which followed it soon after in Tombstone, Arizona during the 1880s. It depicts a number of western outlaws and lawmen, such as Wyatt Earp, William Brocius, Johnny Ringo, and Doc Holliday as it explores crime, political corruption, and law enforcement in the old American West. The film was a co-production between Cinergi Pictures and Hollywood Pictures. It was commercially distributed by Buena Vista Pictures theatrically and by Buena Vista Worldwide Home Entertainment for home media.

Tombstone premiered in theaters in wide release in the United States on December 24, 1993, grossing $56,505,065 in domestic ticket sales. The film was viewed as a moderate financial success after its theatrical run, and was generally met with mixed critical reviews. It failed to garner award nominations for production merits or acting from any mainstream motion picture organizations. A widescreen Blu-ray Disc edition featuring the making of Tombstone, director's original storyboards, trailers, and TV spots was released in the United States on April 27, 2010. The original soundtrack, composed by musician Bruce Broughton, was released by the Intrada Records label on December 25, 1993. On March 16, 2006, an expanded two-disc version of the film score was released by Intrada Records; it features supplemental musical compositions by the Sinfonia of London session orchestra.

For the Western genre as a whole, Tombstone ranks number 12 in the list of highest grossing films since 1979.


Wyatt Earp (Russell), a retired peace officer, reunites with his brothers Virgil (Elliott) and Morgan (Paxton) in Tucson, Arizona, where they venture on toward Tombstone, a small but growing mining town, to settle down. There they encounter Wyatt's friend Doc Holliday (Kilmer), a Southern gambler and expert gunslinger, who seeks relief from his tuberculosis in Arizona's drier climate. Also newly arrived in Tombstone with a traveling theatre troupe are Josephine Marcus (Delany) and Mr. Fabian (Zane). The married Wyatt attempts to resist a strong attraction to Josephine.

Wyatt's wife, Mattie Blaylock (Wheeler-Nicholson), is becoming dependent on laudanum. Just as Wyatt and his brothers begin to benefit from a stake in a gambling emporium and saloon, they have their first encounter with a band of outlaws called the Cowboys. Led by "Curly Bill" Brocius (Boothe), the Cowboys are identifiable by the red sashes worn around their waist. Conflict is narrowly avoided upon Wyatt's insistence that he is retired and no longer interested in a career enforcing the law. This is also the first face-to-face meeting for Holliday and Johnny Ringo (Biehn), who take an immediate dislike to one another.

As tensions rise, Wyatt is pressured to help rid the town of the Cowboys. Shooting aimlessly after a visit to an opium house, Curly Bill is ordered by Marshal White (Carey) to relinquish his firearms. Curly Bill shoots the marshal and is forcibly taken into custody by Wyatt. The arrest infuriates Ike Clanton (Lang) and the other Cowboys, who threaten Wyatt, his brothers, and Doc. Curly Bill stands trial, but is found not guilty due to lack of witnesses.

Virgil, unable to tolerate lawlessness, becomes the new marshal and imposes a weapons ban within the city limits. This leads to the legendary gunfight at the O.K. Corral, in which Billy Clanton (Church), Frank McLaury (Burke), and Tom McLaury are killed, Virgil and Morgan are wounded, and the allegiance of county sheriff Johnny Behan (Tenney) to the Cowboys is made clear. As retribution for the Cowboy deaths, Wyatt's brothers are ambushed: Morgan is killed, while Virgil is maimed.

A despondent Wyatt and his family leave Tombstone and board a train. Followed by Ike Clanton and Frank Stilwell, Wyatt sees that his family leaves safely, and then surprises the assassins who had come to kill them. Stilwell is killed, but Wyatt lets Clanton return to send a message. Wyatt announces that he is a U.S. Marshal and that he intends to kill any man he sees wearing a red sash. Wyatt, Doc, a reformed Cowboy named Sherman McMasters (Rooker), and allies Texas Jack Vermillion and Turkey Creek Jack Johnson, join forces to administer justice.

Wyatt and his posse are ambushed by the Cowboys in a riverside forest. Wyatt wades out into the river and engages in a gunfight which ends with Wyatt killing Brocius. Johnny Ringo then becomes the head of the Cowboys.

Doc's health is worsening and they depend on the accommodations of Henry Hooker (Heston). At Hooker's ranch, they encounter Josephine, learning that Mr. Fabian was shot by Cowboys who tried to steal Josephine's watch. Wyatt finally realizes he wants to be with Josephine, but is unable to commit to her because of his ongoing fight against the Cowboys. Ringo sends a messenger (dragging McMasters' corpse) to the ranch telling Wyatt that he wants a showdown to end the hostilities and Wyatt agrees. Doc knows he is a better match for Ringo, but is in no condition for a gunfight.

Wyatt sets off for the showdown, not knowing that Doc has already beat him to the scene. Doc confronts a surprised Ringo, saying they are just finishing their previous challenge "to play for blood". Doc gets the first shot off, hitting Ringo, and killing him. Wyatt runs when he hears the gunshot only to encounter Doc. They then press on to finish the job of eliminating the Cowboys, although Ike Clanton escapes their vengeance after he throws down his red sash.

Doc is later sent to a sanatorium in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. After a visit from Wyatt, Doc looks at his bare feet and the condition of the bed in which he is lying: realizing he is about to die with his boots off, he passes away peacefully, muttering "I'll be damned. Oh, this is funny." At Doc's urging, Wyatt pursues Josephine, locating her in Denver. Robert Mitchum narrates an account of their long marriage, ending with Wyatt's death in Los Angeles in 1929.


  • Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp
  • Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday
  • Sam Elliott as Virgil Earp
  • Bill Paxton as Morgan Earp
  • Powers Boothe as "Curly Bill" Brocius
  • Michael Biehn as Johnny Ringo
  • Charlton Heston as Henry Hooker
  • Jason Priestley as Billy Breakenridge
  • Jon Tenney as Sheriff Johnny Behan
  • Stephen Lang as Ike Clanton
  • Thomas Haden Church as Billy Clanton
  • Dana Delany as Josephine Marcus
  • Paula Malcomson as Allie Earp
  • Lisa Collins as Louisa Earp
  • Dana Wheeler-Nicholson as Mattie Blaylock
  • Joanna Pacuła as Big Nose Kate
  • Michael Rooker as Sherman McMasters
  • Harry Carey, Jr. as Marshal Fred White
  • Billy Bob Thornton as Johnny Tyler
  • Tomas Arana as Frank Stilwell
  • Paul Ben-Victor as Florentino Cruz
  • Robert John Burke as Frank McLaury
  • Billy Zane as Mr. Fabian
  • John Corbett as Barnes
  • Buck Taylor as Turkey Creek Jack Johnson
  • Terry O'Quinn as Mayor John Clum
  • Frank Stallone as Ed Bailey
  • Peter Sherayko as Texas Jack Vermillion



The film was shot primarily on location in Arizona.

According to an interview with Kurt Russell, Kevin Jarre, and Kevin Costner were going to make the movie together, but disagreed over its focus. Costner felt that the emphasis should be on Wyatt Earp and decided to make his own movie with Lawrence Kasdan. Russell made an agreement with executive producer Andrew G. Vajna to finance Tombstone with a budget of $25 million.

Jarre and Russell wanted to cast Willem Dafoe as Doc Holliday, but Buena Vista refused to distribute the film if he was cast, due to Dafoe's role in the controversial The Last Temptation of Christ. As Costner was making a competing Wyatt Earp film, he used his then-considerable clout to convince most of the major studios to refuse to distribute Tombstone– Buena Vista was the only studio willing to do so. Jarre and Russell then went with their next choice, Val Kilmer.

Portrait shot of Wyatt Earp around 1867.

Filming was plagued with several problems. Russell and Kilmer both have said that the screenplay was too long (Russell estimated by 30 pages). According to Kilmer, "virtually every main character, every cowboy, for example, had a subplot and a story told, and none of them are left in the film." He has said that over 100 people, cast, and crew, either quit or were fired over the course of the production. Russell even went so far as to cut his own scenes in order to let other actors have more screen time.

Early in the production, screenwriter Jarre was fired as director due to his refusal to cut his screenplay and going over schedule. Disney panicked because the film was two weeks behind and contacted George P. Cosmatos, who had worked with executive producer Vajna earlier on Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985). After Cosmatos' death in 2005, Russell claimed in one interview Cosmatos had in fact ghost-directed the movie on Russell's behalf. Every night, Russell claimed he gave Cosmatos a shot list for the next day, and developed a "secret sign language" on set to exert influence.

Robert Mitchum was originally set to play Newman Haynes Clanton, but suffered a horse riding accident which left him unable to work. Mitchum ultimately narrated the film, while the part was written out of the script. Much of Old Man Clanton's dialogue was spoken by other characters, particularly Curly Bill, who was effectively made the gang leader in lieu of Clanton. Glenn Ford was also cast as Marshall White, while Harry Carey, Jr. was to play a wagonmaster, but Ford dropped out of the project and Carey was cast as White.



The original motion picture soundtrack for Tombstone, was originally released by the Intrada Records label on December 25, 1993. On March 16, 2006, an expanded two-disc version of the film score was also released by Intrada Records. The expanded soundtrack features additional musical compositions by the Sinfonia of London session orchestra. The score for the film was composed and produced by Bruce Broughton. David Snell conducted the score, while Patricia Carlin edited the film's music.

The score contains strong echoes of Max Steiner's music for John Ford's 'The Searchers' (1956) with variations on the 'Indian Traders' theme used midway through the Ford movie.

Track listing

Disc 1

  1. Logo
  2. Prologue; Main Title; And Hell Followed
  3. A Family
  4. Arrival in Tombstone
  5. The Town Marshall; A Quarter Interest
  6. Josephine
  7. Gotta go to work
  8. Ludus Inebriatus
  9. Fortuitous Encounter; Wyatt And Josephine
  10. Thinking Out Loud
  11. Opium Den; Law Dogs; You Got A Fight Comin'
  12. Virgil Thinks
  13. The Antichrist; Gathering For A Fight; Walking To The Corral; OK Corral Gunfight
  14. Aftermath
  15. The Dead Don't Dance; Dehan Warns Josephine; Upping The Ante; Morgan's Murder
  16. Defections
  17. Morgan's Death
  18. Hell's Comin'; Wyatt's Revenge
  19. No More Curly Bill
  20. The Former Fabian
  21. Brief Encounters; Ringo's Challenge; Doc And Wyatt
  22. You're No Daisy; Finishing It
  23. Doc Dies
  24. Looking At Heaven; End Credits

Disc: 2

  1. Arrival in Tombstone [w/alternate intro]
  2. Josephine [short version]
  3. Fortuitous Encounter [w/alternate midsection]
  4. Morgan's Death [short version]
  5. Tombstone [Main Theme Only]
  6. Pit Orchestra Warm-Up
  7. Thespian Overture [long]
  8. Tympani
  9. Waltz
  10. Piano/Cello Duet



A paperback novel published by Berkley Publishers titled Tombstone, was released on January 1, 1994. The book dramatizes the real-life events of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and Earp Vendetta, as depicted in the film. It expands on western genre ideas written by Kevin Jarre's screenplay, which took place during the 1880s.


Critical response

Among mainstream critics in the U.S., the film received mixed to generally positive reviews. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 77% of 39 sampled critics gave the film a positive review, with an average score of 6.3 out of 10. Following its cinematic release in 1993, Tombstone was named "One of the 5 greatest Westerns ever made." by True West Magazine. The film was also called "One of the year's 10 best!" by KCOP-TV in Los Angeles, California.

"Grafted onto this traditional framework, the film's meditative aspects are generally too self-conscious to fit comfortably. Especially when the movie tries to imagine a more enlightened role for women in the Old West, the screenplay begins to strain."
—Stephen Holden, writing in The New York Times

In a mixed review, Chris Hicks writing in the Deseret News said, "aside from Russell and Val Kilmer's scene-stealing, sickly, alcoholic Doc Holliday, there are so many characters coming and going, with none of them receiving adequate screen time, that it becomes difficult to keep track of them all." But he did comment that there were "some very entertaining moments here, with Russell spouting memorable tough-guy lines". Overall, he felt "Taken on its own terms, with some lowered expectations, Western fans will have fun." Emanuel Levy of the Variety staff believed the film was a "tough-talking but soft-hearted tale" which was "entertaining in a sprawling, old-fashioned manner." Regarding screenwriter Jarre's dialogue, he noted that "Despite the lack of emotional center and narrative focus, his script contains enough subplots and colorful characters to enliven the film and ultimately make it a fun, if not totally engaging, experience." The film however, was not without its detractors. James Berardinelli writing for ReelViews offered an almost entirely negative review recalling how he thought that "Not only is the last hour anti-climactic, but it's dull. Too many scenes feature lengthy segments of poorly-scripted dialogue, and, in some cases, character motivation becomes unclear. The gunplay is more repetitious than exciting. The result — a cobbled-together morass of silly lines and shoot- outs — doesn't work well."

Stephen Holden writing in The New York Times saw the film as being a "capacious western with many modern touches, the Arizona boom town and site of the legendary O.K. Corral has a seedy, vaudevillian grandeur that makes it a direct forerunner of Las Vegas." He expressed his satisfaction with the supporting acting saying that the "most modern psychological touch is its depiction of Josephine (Dana Delany), the itinerant actress with whom Wyatt falls in love at first sight, as the most casually and comfortably liberated woman ever to set foot in 1880's Arizona." Critic Louis Black, writing for The Austin Chronicle viewed Tombstone as a "mess" and that there were "two or three pre-climaxes but no climax. Its values are capitalist rather than renegade, which is okay if it's metaphoric rather than literal. Worse, as much as these actors heroically struggle to focus the film, the director more successfully hacks it apart." Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly gave the film a C– rating calling it "preposterously inflated" at "135 minutes long". He observed the film as being a "three-hour rough cut that's been trimmed down to a slightly shorter rough cut" with "all that holds the film together is Kurt Russell's droll machismo." Author Geoff Andrew of Time Out commented that "Kilmer makes a surprisingly effective and effete Holliday". He negatively acknowledged that there was "a misguided romantic subplot and the ending rather sprawls" but ultimately exclaimed the film was "'rootin', tootin' entertainment with lots of authentic facial hair."

"From the audience's viewpoint, it's difficult to assign responsibility for the most serious of this film's shortcomings, but one thing is clear: somewhere along the way, the creative process misfired. Large segments of Tombstone belong buried at Boot Hill."
—James Berardinelli, writing for ReelViews

Richard Harrington of The Washington Post highlighted on the film's shortcomings by declaring, "too much of Tombstone rings hollow. In retrospect, not much happens and little that does seems warranted. There are so many unrealized relationships you almost hope for redemption in a longer video version. This one is unsatisfying and unfulfilling." Alternately though, columnist Bob Bloom of the Journal & Courier openly remarked that the film "May not be historically accurate, but offers a lot of punch for the buck." He concluded by saying it was "A tough, guilty-pleasure Western."

Box office

Tombstone premiered in movie theaters six months before Costner and Kasdan's version, Wyatt Earp, on December 24, 1993 in wide release throughout the United States. During its opening weekend, the film opened in 3rd place grossing $6,454,752 in business showing at 1,504 locations. The film's revenue increased by 35% in its second week of release, earning $8,720,255. For that particular weekend, the film jumped to 3rd place screening in 1,955 theaters. During its final weekend in release, Tombstone opened in a distant 14th place with $1,761,844 in revenue. The film went on to top out domestically at $56,505,065 in total ticket sales through a 7-week theatrical run. For 1993 as a whole, the film would cumulatively rank at a box office performance position of 20.

Home media

Vista Series DVD parchment-colored portrait artwork for Tombstone.

Following its cinematic release in theaters, the film was released in VHS video format on November 11, 1994. The Region 1 Code widescreen edition of the film was released on DVD in the United States on December 2, 1997. Special features for the DVD include French and Spanish subtitles, Dolby Digital Surround Sound, original theatrical trailers, and chapter search options. A director's cut of Tombstone was also officially released on DVD on January 15, 2002. The DVD version includes a two-disc set and features The Making Of Tombstone Featurette in three parts; "An Ensemble Cast", "Making An Authentic Western", and "The Gunfight At The O.K. Corral". Other features include audio commentary by Director George P. Cosmatos, an interactive Tombstone timeline, Director's Original Storyboards: O.K. Corral Sequence, The Tombstone "Epitaph" – an actual newspaper account, Faro At The Oriental: Game Of Chance – DVD-ROM Feature, and a collectible Tombstone map.

The widescreen hi-definition Blu-ray Disc edition of the theatrical cut was released on April 27, 2010. Special features include, the making of Tombstone; director's original storyboards; and trailers & TV spots. A supplemental viewing option for the film in the media format of Video on demand is available as well.

External links

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