Earp (1848-1929) has probably been the subject of more movies, and portrayed by more actors than any other historical figure from the 19th century American West. Henry Fonda, Burt Lancaster, James Garner, Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner are just a few of those who have been cast as Wyatt Earp, while Hugh O’Brien did the honors for several years on television. Most of movies about Earp concentrate on that short period of his life, in 1881, that led him and his brothers to Tombstone, Arizona, where they, along with Doc Holiday, faced the Clantons at the infamous O.K. Corral. That incident, however, lasted only a few seconds, of what was an 80 year life.
One event in Earp’s life, which has never been included in any film happened in San Francisco in 1896, where Wyatt was selected to referee a major prize-fight between Bob Fitzsimmons and Tom Sharkey. In front of 15,000 fans at Mechanic’s Pavilion, Fitzsimmons appeared to have knocked Sharkey out in the 8th round, only to have Earp accuse Fitzsimmons of a foul, awarding Sharkey the victory by way of disqualification. To this very day, boxing historians have speculated as to the honesty of Earp’s actions.