Two shots are fired through the glass of the window in the saloon's back door, a dozen feet from where Morgan Earp is standing. The first bullet hits him in the back, severing his spine; it passes on through, comes out, and hits a bystander in the leg. The second shot thunks into the wall just above Wyatt Earp's head. Retribution, it would appear, for the deaths of Frank and Tom McLaury and Billy Clanton, who were killed at the OK Corral the previous October...
Here's the curious thing... Was talking to Tombstone historian (and author of more books than you can count) Ben Traywick one day, and he told me he didn't think Morgan was buried there. Not under THAT stone, anyway. Ben checked in with the graveyard sexton the day he paid his respects at Morgan's grave, and went through a big leather book -- a day by day account of cemetery business going back to the 1850s.. He says, according to the record, the man buried under the stone with Morgan's name on it is not Morgan, but somebody else entirely. Further, (and this is where it starts to get both interesting and credible) the person buried four plots down is listed as having "spine severed by bullet" and "wearing blue waist coat." Ben says he knows as a matter of historical fact that Morgan was buried in Doc Holliday's blue jacket. Considering the haste and confusion that must have accompanied moving all those bodies in 1892, interesting, no?
I liked the movie Tombstone. Liked it a lot. About the best telling of those events ever put on film, I think. Kurt Russell was just about perfect as Wyatt, Sam Elliott was credible as Virgil, Val Kilmer stole the movie with his little tin cup... but Bill Paxton was awful as Morgan. Just awful. The absolute worst thing about an otherwise pretty great movie was this unbelievably flawed casting. Paxton plays Morgan Earp as weak and simpering, going reluctantly down to the OK Corral with his lip trembling, and it couldn't be further from the truth. Morgan Earp was a firebrand. A tough, brave guy with a hot temper who was probably Doc Holliday's closest drinking and gambling companion. One of the witnesses to the OK Corral fight testified that as the Earps and Holliday walked past her, she heard one say, "Kill 'em all," and the other replied, "Sure, alright," and she was pretty sure it was Morgan and Doc. (And Josie Earp recalled that Morgan knocked Sheriff Johnny Behan to the ground one time when he was foolish enough to slap her around.)
Well, in fairness, it probably wasn't Bill Paxton's fault. He's actually a pretty good actor. This depiction of Morgan as weak-kneed and vacillating seems like a director's touch to me. George Cosmatos' idea, maybe, to bring home how grave and dangerous the situation was that day. But, even so, the casting of Morgan is so... off. On his best day, Bill Paxton doesn't have either the gravitas or the charisma to portray Morgan Earp anything like he really was.
So, a shaky, weasel-eyed little twerp? No way. A brave guy. A stand up guy. Rest in peace, Morgan.