The Wisdom of Doc Holliday

John ArmstrongFilm

Better Tombstone Readers know that I love film and visual art. One of my favorite Westerns is Tombstone (with Kurt Russell as Wyatt Earp and Val Kilmer as Doc Holliday). Tombstone tells the story of only one segment of Wyatt's illustrious life (a span of only a few years) but it includes the role of his two brothers and the infamous Doc Holliday, Wyatt's true-blue friend.

Wyatt Earp (1848-1929) was an honest-to-goodness law man. He was also a farmer, buffalo-hunter, gambler, miner, saloon keeper and boxing referee. The Earp legend appears to be mostly real, at least in the broad strokes. Maybe this is why so many books and movies have been made about Wyatt.

Earp83 He is best known for the famous shoot-out at the O.K. Corral, where Doc Holliday and his brothers, Virgil and Morgan Earp, were also involved. To put it mildly his status in the American West is iconic, especially because of the incident(s) surrounding Tombstone, Arizona, and the O. K. Corral.

Tombstone (1993) is a superb movie, as I noted. In many ways it is the best Earp movie. The other modern film on Wyatt Earp, stars Kevin Costner as Wyatt Earp and Dennis Quaid as Doc Holliday It is simply titled: Wyatt Earp (1994). I recently watched them both. (I had seen Tombstone back in the 1990s when it came out.) There are so many lines in the script of both films that are memorable that one could go on and on citing good ones. But in Wyatt Earp (1994) Doc Holliday has a line that I remember to this day. He says, when the guys face a real dilemma and a situation that has put them what appears to be a hook (dilemma): "There is no hook my friend, only what we do."

Too often people appeal to the difficulty of a situation and try to "get off the hook" in the process. Doc Holliday, at least as the script put it, got it right when he said there "is no hook, only what we do." We will be measured, and someday judged, for what we do, not for the hooks we get on or off in this life. Just remember, Doc Holliday said so!