Another view of Tombstone looking down Allen Street from a few years ago. It never grows old! 🙂
As we’re leaving No. 11 today, the movie Tombstone hasn’t been far from our thoughts so in honor of the movie, we thought we’d re-post our take on some of the costuming aspects of the movie, so enjoy!
On a costuming level, the movie Tombstone never fails to excite interest and invariably, the question will arise: “How historically accurate are the costumes?” The short answer is “Somewhat…” Yes, much of the costuming is fairly accurate although one may quibble on the specific details. One of my favorites is the much-maligned Johnny Behan:
Behan’s is wearing a well-tailored sack suit proper for someone in his position. Unlike the usual image of the scruffy frontier marshal or sheriff, Behan was more of a politician and his primary job was collecting enough tax revenue to keep the Cochise County government financially afloat. The actual work of dealing with criminals was tasked to several deputies.
That said, let’s take a look at the central focus of the movie, Wyatt Earp:
This is the iconic Wyatt Earp outfit, one that has been widely imitated over the years by those recreating the Earp persona, usually for reenactments of the gunfight at the OK Corral. Now, as for historical accuracy, the coat itself is wrong. There were no ankle-length frock coats. Anything this long would be some sort of greatcoat. The frock coat of the later 19th Century tended to come down to just above the knee.
OK, so it rates a boo and a hiss…or does it? Bear in mind that this is a movie and a movie’s primary goal it to tell a story. Costuming supports this story-telling process and it’s often subject to conscious design changes in order to increase the dramatic effect. In this case, it’s pretty successful, judging from how much it’s imitated and let’s face it, it does increase the dramatic effect, especially when done in black (both the length and color choice were deliberate choices made the director). The effects of black color, coat length, and pictures of it flapping open in the breeze all suggest a superhero figure. So in the end, it’s all about telling a story.
Now just for a little equal time, here’s the Earps and Doc Holliday off to the OK Corral gunfight in the movie Wyatt Earp:
Compared to the top picture from Tombstone, the look in the above picture from Wyatt Earp is bit more gritty and less heroic (in fact, the actual gunfight scene itself is a bit anticlimactic in the movie). One is not more “correct” than the other, both go for a specific dramatic effect. Whether one is more effective than the other is subjective, in the eye of the viewer (we have our favorite, too).
So Gentle Readers, where does this leave us? Well, it goes to show that one must be mindful of the historically correct while at the same time being mindful that a movie’s objective differs from simply a recitation of historical events in that it also seeks to entertain. As a rule, costume designers go to great lengths to school themselves on what is historically appropriate for the period being depicted and they know exactly where departures are made.
If one thinks that this is a recent development, it is not. A good example of this in an earlier era is from the movie Gone with the Wind which was released in 1939. in which the costuming of the background and supporting characters is historically correct but the costumes for the lead actors were not. In closing, we view movies with an open mind and believe that costuming for film is an art form all itself and we like that.
Today we the trail and head out to No. 11 after a long hiatus. Our goal? Take some nice fashion pictures, work on the house, and otherwise relax. This will be Fiona’s first road trip. 🙂
And for something a bit different today…Star Trek meets the Gunfight at the OK Corral! This was a popular post a few years back so I thought I’d bring it up again. And for bonus points, here’s a behind-the-scenes picture of our favorite Vulcan going “heeled”… 🙂 Enjoy!
Today we return briefly to Tombstone through the medium of television and specifically the episode of the original Star Trek television series entitled “Spectre of the Gun.” First aired on October 25, 1968, the episode centered on the inhabitants of planet Theta Kiokis II using an episode out of earth history, the gunfight at the OK Corral, as a means of punishing Captain Kirk for attempting to establish contact with the Melkotians in spite of being warned away by them.
The sets are somewhat surreal with incomplete walls, clocks and pictures that hand in mid-air, etc. because the Melkotians are using Kirk’s thoughts as the basis for Tombstone and the gunfight to recreate them as an illusion. The premise is a cleaver one and one can see it reflective of the spirit of the late 1960s with references to Man’s tendencies towards violence and killing, often for little reason.
In terms of props and costumes, this was no doubt easy to put together since Paramount Studios still had a large collection of wardrobe and props suitable for Westerns (after all, this was the tail end of the heyday of the television Western). Also what is interesting is that while this was filmed on a soundstage, they actually have a live horse or two as background- nice touch that you probably would not see if it were filmed today.
Turning to the costumes, it’s pretty much television B-Western stuff but in context of this being a Star Trek episode, it works. Here are some shots of Ensign Chekhov with Sylvia, the love interest:
We first meet her in a saloon girl style dress that’s right out of B-Western Central Casting. Unfortunately, I could not get a good screen shot of the whole dress but it’s short and the color is appropriately bright and gaudy.
Here we see Sylvia in something more demure, a generic bustle dress. Once again, I was unable to secure a screen shot but it’s a pretty generic B-Western look for the 1870s or 80s. Like much of this costuming of this era, the actresses did not wear any period undergarments (like say, a corset) and it’s evident in this picture. The hat appears to be something from the 1930s or 1950s that’s been reconditioned.
Next we have the Enterprise landing party. No surprises here and they’re all wearing the stereotypical buscadero rigs for their guns, a look that was invented for Hollywood in the early 1920s. The web belt on Spock is interesting though- no doubt they all were simply dug out of the prop room with little thought except that they fit.
Now let’s take a look at some of the other characters:
And of course no gunfight at the OK Corral is complete without:
And we can’t forget:
Kind of a contrast to this: 🙂
And for a few more shots:
The above shot of Morgan Earp, framed by lightning is very effective in revealing his character, a manic individual who is bent on a gunfight no matter what.
From a costume perspective there’s not a lot going on here but as a Star Trek episode, it was imaginative and fresh for the time. In some respects it hits on themes that are still relevant in later film versions of the Gunfight at the OK Corral and the events leading up to it.
“Do you live in a Victorian House?” It’s usually the first thing we’re asked. Well, for twenty years, we’ve been laughing (sometimes not!) at the slow restoration process of our vacation house in an Old West town that you may have heard of. Today, we got news that the contractor found a bit of architectural fun.