Two Truths and a Lie: Tombstone Edition

William J. Wright

Image: Hollywood Pictures / Cinergi Pictures

About This Quiz

Although it was only a modest success upon its release in December 1993, "Tombstone" has gone on to gain a reputation as one of the most famous westerns ever made. Set in the 1880s in the boomtown of Tombstone, AZ,  the film is based on the real-life events surrounding Wyatt Earp's war with a group of outlaws known as the Cowboys. 

Starring veteran actor Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp, "Tombstone" features a top-notch cast. With Sam Elliott and Bill Paxton as brothers Virgil and Morgan Earp, Val Kilmer rounds out the ensemble with a scene-stealing performance as the legendary gunfighter and gambler Doc Holliday.

Although the film plays fast and loose with the facts, it makes up for its lack of historical accuracy with sheer entertainment value. Packed with memorable performances, classic "big sky" cinematography and some of the most quotable tough-guy dialogue ever committed to film, "Tombstone" holds a hallowed place among 1990s cult movies and in the hearts of Western fans.

If you're a "Tombstone" superfan, then you're our huckleberry! It's time to strap on your movie trivia six guns and meet us at the O.K. Corral. Can you outdraw us in this "two truths and a lie" showdown?


Can you spot the lie about "Tombstone's" opening montage?

The narration at the film's opening and closing is spoken by legendary actor Robert Mitchum, a veteran of the Western genre. Charlton Heston, himself no stranger to Westerns, appears in the film as rancher Henry Hooker.

In the opening sequence, the Cowboys exact bloody revenge at a Mexican police officer's wedding. Which statement about this scene is untrue?

At the film's opening, the villainous Cowboys attack the wedding of a Mexican policeman in retaliation for the deaths of two of their brethren. Although the priest who intervenes to stop the bloodshed is, at first, spared, he's then slain by Johnny Ringo.

Can you spot the lie about Curly Bill Brocious' clothing?

"Tombstone" differs from many Western films in that the production design attempted to recreate the vivid hues of 1880s clothing and architecture rather than depend on a typical sepia-toned palette. Curly Bill is a standout in his red shirt, grimy white hat and custom ace card boots.

When we first meet Doc Holiday, he's just bested gambler Ed Bailey in a poker game. Can you identify the untruth about this scene?

We first see Doc Holliday in his natural environment — a high stakes poker game. Angered that Doc has beaten him, Bailey accuses the tubercular gambler of being nothing without his guns. Doc places his pistols on the table. Bailey lunges but meets his end at the point of Doc's concealed blade.

Can you spot the lie about the Earps' arrival in Tombstone?

In real life, Warren Earp was the youngest of the Earp Brothers. Although he does not appear in the film, he arrived in Tombstone with his brothers in 1880. He was not in town for the showdown at the O.K. Corral, but he returned to join Wyatt's posse after Morgan Earp's murder.

Which statement about the Oriental Saloon is false?

While showing Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan around, Marshall Fred White explains that the saloons lining Allen Street are the "real motherlode" of Tombstone. With gambling, hostesses and liquor, all the saloons are successful except the Oriental, which the old marshall calls "a real slaughterhouse."

Which statement about Wyatt Earp's confrontation with the Oriental's crooked Faro dealer Johnny Tyler is an untruth?

An unarmed Wyatt Earp helps out the Oriental Saloon's owner by ousting Johnny Tyler, a crooked bully who has installed himself as the bar's Faro dealer. Using sheer intimidation (and a couple of well-placed slaps), Wyatt forces the cowardly outlaw to turn over his gun. Johnny never draws his weapon.

After Wyatt's run-in with Johnny Tyler, the Earps unexpectedly run into Doc Holliday on the streets of Tombstone. Which statement about their meeting is false?

After Wyatt's confrontation at the Oriental, the brothers run into their old friend Doc Holliday who alerts them to an angry and armed Johnny Tyler. Doc is without his lady friend Kate in this scene.

Which statement about the performance at the Bird Cage Theatre is false?

The eloquent and mannered Mr. Fabian delivers the famous St. Crispin's Day speech from Shakespeare's "Henry V." Unfazed by gunshots from the rowdy Cowboys, Fabian makes quite an impression on lawman Billy Breckenridge.

Gunfighters Johnny Ringo and Doc Holliday have a tense exchange at Wyatt's Faro table. Can you spot the untruth regarding this scene?

There is immediate tension when Doc Holliday meets Johnny Ringo at Wyatt's Faro table in the Oriental Saloon. Doc, visibly unimpressed with the young gunfighter, tells Kate that Ringo is "the deadliest pistoleer since Wild Bill ... they say."

Which statement about Mattie Earp is untrue?

Although Wyatt says to Josephine that his idea of heaven is a family and kids, he and Mattie are childless and have a strained relationship. Mattie, resentful of Wyatt and Josephine, is frequently bedridden because of headaches she treats with laudanum to which she had become hopelessly addicted.

Doc proves himself to be a talented pianist. Can you spot the lie about his performance at the Oriental?

Despite being a hard-drinking gambler and gunfighter, Doc repeatedly proves himself to be a cultured Southern gentleman. While playing a nocturne by Frédéric Chopin to entertain himself and Kate, a drunken Billy Clanton says the tune sounds like Stephen Foster's "Old Dog Tray."

Can you spot the untruth about Curly Bill's opium-fueled rampage on the streets of Tombstone?

After leaving an opium den, an intoxicated Curly Bill, leader of the Cowboys, stumbles to the street babbling absurdities, howling at the moon and shooting wildly at passersby. Marshall Fred White attempts to apprehend Curly Bill, but the drug-deranged Cowboy kills him with a shot to the chest.

Ike and Billy Clanton confront Wyatt after the retired lawman apprehends Curly Bill. Which statement about this scene is untrue?

After Wyatt takes Curly Bill into custody, Ike Clanton tells him to release the Cowboy leader or be torn apart by the gang. A steely-eyed Earp places his pistol to Ike's forehead. Clearly terrified, Ike warns Billy Clanton off because he knows Earp is not bluffing.

Which statement about the production of "Tombstone" is not true?

Although screenwriter Kevin Jarre who wrote the script for "Tombstone" was initially hired as director, he was fired early on because he was unable to keep up with the production's shooting schedule. George P. Cosmatos replaced him.

Wyatt takes Curly Bill into custody for the murder of Marshall Fred White. Which statement about his trial his false?

Curly Bill's trial for the murder of Fred White is not shown on screen. Wyatt recounts the trial to his brothers over a game of billiards stating that "it took (Judge) Spicer three weeks to get back to town" for the trial and since Earp didn't see the shooting, that no witnesses means no murder.

Virgil Earp reluctantly becomes the Tombstone's town marshall. Which statement about the elder Earp's change of heart is false?

Despite his insistence to the mayor that he's "barking up the wrong tree" by trying to get the Earps to help clean up Tombstone, Virgil's conscience begins to get the better of him. When the Cowboys rampage through the streets nearly trampling a small child, Virgil has had enough.

As marshall, Virgil takes drastic measures to bring order to Tombstone. Which statement about Virgil's solution is false?

Virgil's first act as town marshall proves unpopular with the people of Tombstone. Posting notice that guns are not to be carried within the city limits, Virgil is met with angry jeers. A weary Wyatt scolds his older brother for getting involved.

Which statement about Morgan Earp is false?

Young and idealistic, Morgan is loyal to his brothers. When confronted by Wyatt over his decision to help Virgil clean up Tombstone, Morgan tells his older brother that he's only doing what he thought Wyatt would do.

After the gun ban, Doc Holliday plays poker with Ike Clanton and the McLaury brothers at the Oriental. Which statement about the game is an untruth?

On what Morgan says is a 36-hour drinking and gambling binge, Doc beats Ike Clanton 12 straight hands much to the Cowboy's anger. Doc suggests that poker might not be Ike's game and sarcastically challenges him to a spelling contest.

Doc Holliday suffers from tuberculosis made worse by his freewheeling lifestyle. Can you identify the lie about Doc's condition?

After Doc Holliday's 36-hour binge, he begins coughing up blood and collapses. The next day, his physician warns him that his condition is advanced and that he has lost around 60% of his lung tissue. The hard-living gunfighter is warned that he has "two years, maybe two days" if he stops immediately.

Can you spot the untruth about the shootout at the O.K. Corral?

One of the most exciting scenes in the film is its recreation of the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. As depicted in the film, Doc goads Billy Clanton into drawing with a wink. As the lead flies, Ike Clanton begs for his life. Virgil and Morgan are hit, but, as in real life, Wyatt is unscathed.

After the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Johnny Ringo threatens the Earps on the streets of Tombstone. Can you spot the false statement about this tense scene?

An angry and drunk Johnny Ringo warns Virgil, Wyatt and Morgan that he will have his revenge stating that he wants their blood and souls. Wyatt refuses to fight the hotheaded gunslinger, but Doc informs Ringo he's ready and willing. Curly Bill intervenes before shots are fired.

Can you spot the falsehood about Kurt Russell, the star of "Tombstone"?

Kurt Russell has had a long career in TV and film going back to the early 1960s. Early in his career, he had a 10-year contract with Disney. In 1979 he starred as Elvis in a TV movie directed by John Carpenter. Although he appeared in many '60s TV Westerns, he was never on "The Big Valley."

Can you identify the untruth about the night the Cowboys take their revenge on the Earps?

Under the cover of night and a raging thunderstorm, the Cowboys exact a bloody revenge on the Earps. Eldest brother Virgil is wounded, losing the use of his left arm. Morgan is killed.

Following Morgan's death, the Earps leave Tombstone. Can you spot the untrue statement about this sad scene?

Emotionally crippled by Morgan's death and Virgil's maiming at the hands of the Cowboys, Wyatt loads his family on the wagon and leaves town. Meeting Curly Bill on the way out, Wyatt tells him, "I want you to know it's over." A smiling Bill replies, curtly, "Well, bye." Ike, however, is silent.

Can you identify the falsehood about the late Bill Paxton who played Morgan Earp?

Although the late Bill Paxton had a musical background having played in the short-lived '80s new wave band Martini Ranch, his involvement with "Titanic" was limited to acting. However, Paxton did direct several short films including the infamously bizarre video for Barnes & Barnes' "Fish Heads."

Curly Bill orders Ike to take Frank Stilwell and finish the job on Wyatt and Virgil at the train station. Can you identify the lie about what happens next?

Unbeknownst to Ike Clanton and Frank Stilwell, Wyatt is on to Curly Bill's plot to finish him off. Wyatt surprises the two at the rail station as Virgil and the wives leave by train. The lawman cuts Stilwell down but tells Ike to run and tell the others that he's coming and hell's coming with him.

Can you spot the untruth about Wyatt and his posse's battle with Curly Bill at the creek?

Wyatt Earp and his posse, including Doc Holliday, find themselves pinned down by Curly Bill and the Cowboys near a creek. With Cowboys at their front and back, Earp is caught in a deadly crossfire. Driven by revenge, Wyatt charges Bill, killing him with a blast from his shotgun.

Val Kilmer's portrayal of Doc Holliday steals the show. Can you identify the untruth about this "Tombstone" star?

Although Val Kilmer's iconic portrayal of Doc Holliday garnered him no Oscar, it is a fan favorite. Walking a line between subtlety and audaciousness, Kilmer's performance is tinged with both humor and pathos — not to mention Doc's Southern-fried dialogue is eminently quotable.

With the Cowboys on their trail, Wyatt and his posse hole up at the Hooker Ranch. Can you spot the untrue statement about this scene?

Nursing an unconscious Doc and realizing they're outgunned by the Cowboys who are now wearing badges thanks to Marshall Behan, Wyatt and his posse take refuge at Henry Hooker's ranch. Doc, presumed to be dying, is put to bed. In a surprise reunion, Josephine Marcus arrives at the ranch.

Can you identify the untruth about the final showdown with Johnny Ringo?

In one of "Tombstone's" most memorable sequences, Doc Holliday steps up for his friend Wyatt Earp to duel gunslinger Johnny Ringo. Although Johnny seems to draw first, Doc is too quick and shoots the outlaw through the forehead. As Ringo stumbles, Doc tells him he's no daisy.

Can you identify the untruth about the "last charge of Wyatt Earp and his immortals"?

Wyatt and his posse of Doc Holliday, "Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson and Texas Jack Vermillion ride across the plains making good on Earp's vendetta against the Cowboys. They spare no one save for the cowardly Ike Clanton who removes his red Cowboy sash rather than die at Earp's hand.

Near the end of the film, Wyatt visits Doc at the Glenwood Sanitarium where he's spending his final days. Can you spot the lie regarding their last meeting?

After routing the Cowboys, Wyatt visits Doc Holliday who has been committed to a sanitarium. As Wyatt enters Doc's room, a priest is giving the dying gunfighter the last rites. Earp gives Doc a copy of "My Friend, Doc Holliday," which he's written in tribute to his friend. Kate is nowhere to be seen.

Can you pick out the falsehood about "Tombstone's" closing narration?

"Tombstone" ends with voiceover narration from Robert Mitchum summarizing the later years of the principal characters. Among the revelations are that Mattie Earp died of a drug overdose and Wyatt and Josephine were married until Wyatt's death in 1929. Western movie star Tom Mix wept at the funeral.

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