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(The original, unbutchered script) (1992)

by Kevin Jarre
Admittedly, a script is not a book. But I was excited finally to have the opportunity to read Kevin Jarre's original script to 1993's Tombstone, because for a long time I'd heard that it was more faithful to history than the film -- which was taken away from Jarre's control -- turned out to be. Not that I'm knocking the finished film; in fact, it's one of my favorites. It would have been an even better film, however, if it had retained more of the material in Jarre's script (kindly provided to Deuce of Clubs by the film's historical advisor).

Jarre's script was remade and remodeled after Jarre was fired as director and replaced by George Cosmatos, the guy who directed Rambo and Cobra. Apparently, the producers wanted the Peckinpaugh vision of the West, so they doctored the script accordingly (particularly the last third or so). But it would have been a richer film if it included everything Jarre had planned. It's still a satisfying film to watch, and the script is a fascinating read for any fan of the film.

Among the deleted highlights:
  • numerous scenes providing deeper development of Johnny Ringo's character

  • the theft of Wyatt Earp's horse by the cowboys, and his bold trip to their camp to take it back (which really happened)

  • the inclusion of Old Man Clanton (who was to have been played by Robert Mitchum) and the Skeleton Canyon massacre

  • several interesting expositional scenes between Morgan Earp and Josie Marcus (!)

  • a line making it clear that the place where the cowboys were armed and gathered before the gunfight -- beside Fly's photo studio -- was where Doc and Kate were rooming at the time

  • Doc's wounding during the fight (he was grazed in the thigh; Wyatt was the only unscathed combatant)

  • Wyatt's presence at the assassination of Morgan (Wyatt nearly took a bullet in the head at the same time)

  • development of the character of Sherman McMasters (who, in real life, may have infiltrated the cowboy contingent as a double-agent)

It would have been interesting also to see the film deal with the real circumstances of John Ringo's mysterious death (he was found cradled in a five-trunked tree, with his boots off, feet wrapped in a shirt, wearing a cartridge belt upside-down). And I still haven't seen any film about the gunfight that even hints at what historians suggest was one of the major causes of the trouble: Ike Clanton's fear that Wyatt might reveal a secret deal the two of them had struck that entailed Ike betraying some of his outlaw pals.

It's too bad that the DVD hasn't any extras included on it -- even the laser disk version of the film included some deleted scenes. It would be nice to watch the film with a commentary track by Jarre himself. This is unlikely, however; it's rumored that he has never watched the completed film. After reading his script, as much as I like Tombstone, I can't say that I blame him.