Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Doc Holliday

"I found him a loyal friend and good company. He was a dentist whom necessity had made a gambler; a gentleman whom disease had made a vagabond; a philosopher whom life had made a caustic wit; a long, lean blonde fellow nearly dead with consumption and at the same time the most skillful gambler and nerviest, speediest, deadliest man with a six-gun I ever knew." -- Wyatt Earp speaking of Doc Holliday

"There was something very peculiar about Doc. He was gentlemanly, a good dentist, a friendly man and yet, outside of us boys, I don't think he had a friend in the Territory. Tales were told that he had murdered men in different parts of the country; that he had robbed and committed all manner of crimes, and yet, when persons were asked how they knew it, they could only admit it was hearsay, and that nothing of the kind could really be traced to Doc's account. He was a slender, sickly fellow, but whenever a stage was robbed or a row started, and help was needed, Doc was one of the first to saddle his horse and report for duty." –- Virgil Earp, The Arizona Daily Star (May 30, 1882)

"Holliday seemed to be absolutely unable to keep out of trouble for any great length of time. He would no sooner be out of one scrape before he was in another, and the strange part of it is he was more often in the right than in the wrong, which has rarely ever been the case with a man who is continually getting himself into trouble." -— Bat Masterson, from Gunfighters of the Western Frontier, 1907

"I said to him one day, ‘Doctor, don’t your conscience ever trouble you?’ ‘No,’ he replied, with that peculiar cough of his, ‘I coughed that up with my lungs long ago.’" -- Colonel Deweese, Attorney for Doc Holliday, via The Denver Republican

'Big Nose' Kate, his long-time companion, remembered Holliday's reaction after his role in the O.K. Corral gunfight. She reported that Holliday came back to his room, sat on the bed, wept and said, "that was awful — awful". [Doc Holiday Bio]

"This is funny." -- Doc Holliday's last words, according to witnesses by his bedside. Just before he died, he asked for a glass of whiskey, sipped it down and smiled looking at his bare feet, because he'd always expected he would be killed someday with his boots on. Doc Holliday of Spalding County

18 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

A complex man. I've always found old Doc more intersting than most of the western desperadoes.

ARCHAVIST said...

That newspaper clipping's cool - Doc's always played second fiddle to Wyatt but in many ways his story is even more interesting.

Georgie B said...

Thanks for stripping away the Hollywood veneer on a 19th century legend, and making him seem a little more human.

David Cranmer said...

Charles, So true and Wyatt's quote sums it up. In another time and place he may have stood with Aristotle or Plato.

Archavist, Dennis Quaid and Val Kilmer did a lot to evaluate Holliday in their portrayals. I still have to order the bio of his you highlighted on The Tainted Archive.

Georgie B, If you ever want to read a no bs account of these men check out INVENTING WYATT EARP by Allen Barra. It tells the real story that's far more interesting than the myth.

D.A. Riser said...

Great write up. That last quote about the boots is greatness. If I wrote that into one of my stories, someone would probably remark that it wasn't realistic.

Anonymous said...

Physically, Dennis Quaid nailed that part in the Kevin Costner movie.

Diane

Scott Parker said...

As a historian, quotes like these always excite me as they are primary sources. But of all the quotes, this one is the most enlightening: "that was awful — awful." Like Georgie B said, it makes him more human. Wonderful collection of quotes. Thanks.

David Cranmer said...

D.A., I know what you mean. Amazingly the "You're a daisy if you do'' line that Val Kilmer utters in Tombstone was accurate according to eyewitnesses.

Diane, My thoughts are Dennis Q. nailed the physical part but Val’s portrayal is closer to the essence of Holliday.

Scott, We are simpatico on this. That quote puts some blood back into a man that’s become a coughing cardboard cutout.

Georgie B said...

Thanks for the tip.

I'll do a search and destroy for it this upcoming weekend.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Nice post, David. I'm trying to remember who played him in the Costner movie. Was it Dennis Quaid?
Oh, yes, I see it is on your comment. I thought he did a good job with him but you prefer Kilmer. I'll have to rent it.

Ray said...

And not fogetting Jason Robards in 'The Hour Of The Gun'.

Holliday is always shown as a secondary figure to Wyatt Earp - but when you get right down to the nitty gritty I get the feeling that he stood head and shoulders above.
When I think about that cool intellect - maybe he had more to do with the making of a legend.

David Cranmer said...

Georgie B, No problemo.

Patti, Ray added Jason Robards and he definitely shouldn't be forgotten. You will enjoy Tombstone.

Ray, I forget about 'Hour of the Gun' and maybe it's because of Garner but I'm not sure. It's more of a character study and maybe that's the reason. The always reliable Robert Ryan is another reason to watch. Maybe it's time for me to check it out again.

Barbara Martin said...

I found this very interesting to read the personal comments about Doc Holliday. It provides a new identity to a man who has so many rumours said about him.

David Cranmer said...

Barbara, Sometimes I think bios should be written this way. Just publish the quotes of friends, family, and foes. A genuine picture emerges of the person.

Georgie B said...

Hey David, I found that book at my public library yesterday (gotta love the library, yay.) and will give it a whirl this weekend. Already glanced at the first eight pages in the intro and looks really interesting.

Thanks for the tip.

David Cranmer said...

Georgie B, I'm glad you found it. I'm doing a Forgotten Book on it for tomorrow and looking online found some critics not digging it. Please let me know what you think. I read it almost ten years ago but I thought it was pretty damn good.

Georgie B said...

You got it.

Personally, I don't listen to critics when it comes to books.

Especially non-fiction.

I let it stand or fall on its own merits.

Like I said, the first few pages of the intro really grabbed me. I think this will get read by Monday.

David Cranmer said...

I'm glad it's off to a good start. I think you should do a review when you're done reading it. My review today skimped a little on details because I was going off memory.