Wyatt Earp profiled on PBS

Wyatt EarpHistory, fact, fiction, and myth all collide Monday night, January 25th when American  Experience premieres , “Wyatt Earp”, a one hour documentary on the famed Western  lawman. (9 pm PBS). This new Earp profile should go a long way in separating the  real Wyatt from the character who has inhabited our popular culture for over 100  years. “Wyatt Earp” is edited by Bruce Shaw, written, produced and directed by  Rob Rapley, and narrated by Michael Murphy.

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.

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