There are some historical characters who turn up in Hollywood films and TV shows time and time again.
The popularity of westerns meant that people like Billy the Kid, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Jesse James, Bill Hickok, the Daltons – and Doc Holliday were portrayed many times over the years.
I’ve never looked for, or expected historical accuracy from Hollywood. So I just accepted whatever character a scriptwriter and actor would give Doc Holliday .
Here are some of the actors who played Doc Holliday. Mostly he was the man in black who was handy with cards and guns.
In “Frontier Marshall”, Doc Holliday doesn’t even make it to the OK Corral. He is killed earlier and Wyatt Earp goes alone to the Corral and kills the entire gang!
Myron Healy in several episodes of “The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp.”
Douglas Fowley , also in the Wyatt Earp TV series.
The episode of this TV series (starring Hugh O’Brien as Earp), does a good job of telling the OK Corral story, with Wyatt explaining to a judge in flashback the events.
The episode is on You Tube.
Walter Huston as Holliday, here on the set of THE OUTLAW, with Thomas Mitchell.
Two rare photos I found recently of Walter Huston on the set of “The Outlaw”, with the film’s producer, Howard Hughes
James Griffith was good as Holliday in “Masterson of Kansas.”
Gerald Mohr in MAVERICK
Warren Stevens in “Death Valley Days.”
Adam West played Holliday in three different TV westerns – COLT 45, LAWMAN, SUGARFOOT.
Dewey Martin in ZANE GREY THEATRE.
Kent Taylor in TOMBSTONE, THE TOWN TOO TOUGH TO DIE.
Martin Landau in TALES OF WELLS FARGO.
Don Beddoe in PISTOLS AND PETTICOATS.
Henry Silva In WAGON TRAIN.
Jack Kelly in THE HIGH CHAPARRAL.
Arthur Kennedy in CHEYENNE AUTUMN, with James Stewart.
Robert Lansing in THE TALL MAN.
Jason Robards in HOUR OF THE GUN.
Holliday has also been played by Stacey Keach and Val Kilmer and Dennis Quaid.
And my favourite.
Kirk Douglas is excellent as the consumptive Holliday who knows his time is limited.
I’d love to see all the TV versions of Doc Holliday. Can anyone comment on a favourite ‘Doc’?
Are there any other Doc Holliday portrayals I’ve missed?
The real John Henry Holliday. He was a trained dentist, not a doctor as portrayed in some films. He died at the age of 36 from tuberculosis. He was a gambler and handy with a gun. He and Wyatt Earp were friends.
At one time, he took an ad out in a local paper, saying:
“J.H.Holliday, dentist, very respectfully offers his professional services to the citizens of Dodge City……where satisfaction is not given, money will be refunded.”
(information from tombstonetimes.com).
According to records, the famous fight in 1881 only lasted 30 seconds, and did not take place in the corral, but nearby.
Political opponents of Wyatt Earp put him on trial for the deaths of three of the outlaws at the Corral. He was cleared.
A useful site for Earp/Holliday information – bewaretheblog.com.
EXTRA: My thanks to Corey for pointing out that the photo of Doc Holliday which I used above is not the famous dentist. It is in fact John Escapule who settled in Tombstone.
My two favourites are Val Kilmer and Kirk Douglas. I thought Jason Robards was very good too.
Re portrayals you may have missed – IMDB used to allow you to see a character’s filmography, but they removed that facility a year ago …
It’s a pity about the removal. It was handy.
Pistols and Petticoats! Haven’t thought about that in ages.
I love this post. Star Trek: The Spectre of the Gun episode is set in Tombstone. Sam Gilman played Doc.
The 1932 western Law and Order is a fictionalized story of the famous shootout. Huston’s character Saint Johnson is Earp. It’s been such a long time since I’ve seen it that I can’t recall who was the Holliday character.
My fave is Vic Mature in My Darling Clementine. There’s a sincerity to the performance.
Thanks for extra info. I don’t know that 1932 movie but according to IMDB it was Harry Carey who played the Holliday character.
Wonderful gallery as always,and I love the way
that you have sourced several TV Doc’s.
Always thought John Carradine in his prime, would have
made a superb Doc.
Just wish I could see all of them! I agree Carradine would be good.
It was interesting finding out about the real Doc Holliday and the famous OK Corral fight.
Just fyi, the photo of the “real” Doc Holliday you used isn’t Doc Holliday, it’s John Escapule. Common mistake.
Thanks so much for this info about the wrong photo . Will get the right one as soon as possible.
Vienna, this is a fun post. There have been many actors portray Doc Holliday since the 1930’s. My favorite is still Kirk Douglas, although I do like, Val Kilmer, Dennis Quaid, and Jason Robards. Quaid lost 43 pounds to realistically look like the frail Doc Holliday. He went from 182 to 139 in 3 months.
Yes, the John Escapule photo isn’t Doc Holliday. Also, the other photo has never been verified, although it has been the most widely circulated. The verified photos are from the Holliday family. One was in possession of Doc’s first cousin Mattie, who later became Sister Melanie, a nun. Doc wrote letters to her all the years he was in the West. Mother Superior Melanie died in 1939. The letters were destroyed by a younger sister. What a loss to History. GONE WITH THE WIND writer Margaret Mitchell’s great-grandfather was Mother Superior Melanie’s uncle, but that is another story. http://victoriawilcoxbooks.com/doc-holliday-history/doc-hollidays-family-affair/ Her photo of Doc was when he was 20 years old, upon graduation from dental school. Another adult photo of Doc, from the family, was of him in Las Vegas, New Mexico during 1879. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doc_Holliday Also, there are 2 infant photographs of John Henry Holliday, from the family.
Vienna, I sent a post about Doc Holliday. I think it may be hung up in cyberspace. On my side it says comment is awaiting moderation. It might finally show up.
Thanks for all that info and links. I was aware the second photo I used wasn’t authenticated but it is like the one on the wanted poster, though I don’t know if that is authentic.
Vienna, I see my post did find its way through cyberspace. There have been a lot of actors portraying Doc Holliday. A list would be handy. Here are some of the ones that I have seen and remember. In HOUR OF THE GUN(1967) Bill Fletcher portrayed Sheriff Jimmy Bryan. In TV’s ALIAS SMITH AND JONES Fletcher was Doc Holliday in 2 episodes, “Which Way to the O.K. Corral?(1972) and “The Ten Days That Shook Kid Curry”(1972). Dennis Hopper was Doc in WILD TIMES(1980) a TV 2-part movie. John McLiam was Doc in the 2-part TV premiere of BRET MAVERICK, “The Lazy Ace”(1981). Jeffrey DeMunn in I MARRIED WYATT EARP(1983) a made for TV movie. Willie Nelson in STAGECOACH(1986) for TV. Randy Quaid in PURGATORY(1999) a TNT original movie. I’m sure there are others out there.
That’s amazing, all these extra names. Many thanks.
Vienna, your most welcome. I remembered another one. Christopher Dark in “Calamity Over the Comstock” a 1963 episode of BONANZA. Dark was Doc and Stephanie Powers was Calamity Jane Canary.
Another one! Thank, Walter.
Currently showing on Spike (UK TV channel).
Haven’t heard of this series, Wynonna Earp.
Val kilmer, was the best character to play Doc Holiday.
Thanks for your comment.