Cast & Crew
Denver John Collins
In Arizona in 1887, John H. "Doc" Holliday, whose soft-spoken demeanor belies his reputation as a notorious gunslinger, enters a seedy saloon and offers to gamble a patron for prostitute Kate Elder. After easily winning the draw, he staves off the man's attempt on his life and throws him out. Although Doc is rough with Kate, she soon responds to his attentions, and later asks him to take her with him to Tombstone. He at first refuses, but upon noting that he has dispatched her protector, agrees to take her along. The trip over the mountains is long and dangerous, especially once they learn that the bartender has sold them vinegar instead of water. Soon the pair is exhausted, and Doc, who suffers from tuberculosis, is barely able to help Kate when she collapses. Finally, they reach a river and revive there, camping for the night. Kate states that she knows from the way he moves that he is a killer, and after explaining that he was once a dentist from the East Coast, he insists that she rest for the long journey ahead. Once in Tombstone, they survey the crowded, violent town. As Kate bids him farewell and returns to her former job at the whorehouse, Doc asks at the hotel for Marshal Wyatt Earp, then retreats to his room, where he endures an intense coughing fit. That night, Wyatt enters the room and the two old friends embrace. They go to the local saloon, where ranchers Ike and Billy Clanton and their nephew, called The Kid, drink and carouse with fellow troublemakers Frank McLowery and Johnny Ringo. Wyatt tells Doc that because the sheriff, John Behan, cannot control the ranchers, Wyatt plans to run for sheriff. He asks Doc to oversee the town's gambling syndicate, assuring him that they both will gain power and wealth. As Doc begins to gamble, he notes Kate's entrance. When Ike gets rough with Kate, Wyatt rescues her, after which Doc instructs the band to play a slow song so he can dance with her. Later, Wyatt and his brothers Virgil, Morgan and James hold a campaign party, at which the townsmen whisper about Doc, assuming that he is Wyatt's hired gun and noting that his mortal illness makes him one of the West's toughest fighters. Doc then suffers a coughing fit and leaves the party to buy opium from Wong, the owner of the local opium den. That night, The Kid approaches Doc, predicting trouble and requesting that Doc teach him to shoot to protect himself. Although Doc is reluctant, The Kid's innocence and reverence sway him. Over the next weeks, Doc takes The Kid on as his student, growing fond of the young man in the process, while Wyatt and Ike continue to clash. After watching Kate dancing with men night after night, one evening Doc pulls her from her bed and deposits her in his room, stating that he has "retired" her. The next day he presents her with a white dress and takes her to their new home. Although the cabin is dark and dirty, Kate happily plans to clean and furnish it. Soon after, Ringo holds up a Wells Fargo stage, prompting Wyatt and Doc to visit the Clantons for more information. Ike claims to have no knowledge of the robbery and, after taunting Wyatt, the two engage in a fistfight. The heavyset Ike beats Wyatt until Doc stops him. Back at home, Wyatt instructs one of his brothers to offer Ike a deal to turn in Ringo, affording Ike the reward money and Wyatt the glory. Wyatt states that he plans to clean up Tombstone, but his brother counters that he wants only "to clean it out." Later, a horrified Doc sees The Kid kill a man, and almost opposes Wyatt when the lawman arrests The Kid. Meanwhile, Wyatt's sister-in-law Alley instructs Kate she must be married in church, but Kate rebuffs her. After his campaign speech, Wyatt talks with newsman Clum, who states that Doc is after not money but "a wild and permanent gesture of size." Ike agrees to Wyatt's deal, but later tries to renege, so Wyatt offers to trade Ringo for the jailed Kid. Unknown to Wyatt, however, Doc has bailed The Kid out, dismissing the boy in disgust when he states that he wants to be just like Doc. At home, Kate reveals to Doc that her love for him has ignited a desire to leave town and start over while he still has time left, but he merely walks away. Wyatt hears that Doc has bailed out The Kid and finds his friend in a drunken stupor at the saloon. Although the scheming Wyatt is angry, Doc explains that he is tired of the senseless violence and wants "to leave something behind." Without The Kid as a bargaining chip, Wyatt changes tactics and has his brothers inform Billy that he will charge Ike and The Kid for the Wells Fargo robbery, knowing this will bring the Clantons into town for a final showdown. Later, Kate, hysterical because Doc has been missing, locates him at Wong's and, in a fury, sets fire to the opium den. The next day, The Kid informs Doc that Ike is coming with six others, including himself, to kill Wyatt. Doc has his portrait taken and silently leaves it with Kate, then joins the three Earp brothers. They approach the Clantons at the OK Corral, but before the Clantons have time to reach for their guns, the Earps gun them down. Only The Kid is left standing, and although the boy drops his gun, Doc takes aim and shoots him dead. As he walks the gauntlet of the watching townspeople, Wyatt vows to them that he will build a better Tombstone. Later, Wyatt asks Doc why he killed The Kid, and before leaving town alone, Doc replies, "I guess he reminded me of too many things."
Denver John Collins
Bruce M. Fischer
Dan Van Husen
Luis Bar Boo
Jose Maria Alarcon
Juan Antonia Aguilar
Mariano Garcia Rey
Enrique La Jara
Raul Pérez Cubero
José María Rodríguez
Luis G. Valdivieso
Holliday's story is one of the legends of the American West, one that's been disputed, backed up with fact, undergone a slew of rehashes and been put through a Hollywood filter ever since the first filmmakers, having made it all the way to the west coast, turned their cameras to the east and began to build a profitable industry out of gunslingers, tumbleweeds and dusty old saloons.
So, this was not new ground when Frank Perry, a stage director turned filmmaker, helmed another version of a familiar story in 1971. Perry was confident behind the camera and frankly seems forgotten these days, despite having directed Burt Lancaster in one of his finest performances in the sinister and unsettling adaptation of John Cheever's The Swimmer in 1968. Six years earlier, he picked up accolades for the groundbreaking romance David and Lisa (1962), though it was Eleanor Perry, his wife and frequent collaborator, who lent her background in psychiatry to give the story an extra dash of reality. Unfortunately, Perry's name is often linked to the no-holds-barred Faye Dunaway performance in his late career entry Mommie Dearest (1981), but maybe the less said about that picture the better.
Either way, Perry does a fine job handling material that's straightforward and to the point, as heavy on Western iconography and tropes as any other entry in the genre. The color palette doesn't stray from browns, mustards and lighter browns, and the camera doesn't miss a single grain of sand, twisted shrub or rocky, inhospitable mountain.
The true revelation in this version of Holliday's story is the central performance by Stacy Keach, who had yet to appear in his star-making role in John Huston's Fat City (1972). Oddly enough, the actor looks much older and more mature in Perry's film, but perhaps the mustache and the grimy forehead add a couple years of pain and gain. Keach doesn't crack a smile in this film, but he manages to win us over with his confident charm and self-assuredness while playing Holliday with the complexity of a man wrestling with his mortality (the story catches us as Doc is deep into his struggle with tuberculosis, staining handkerchiefs with blood and escaping the pain with opium).
There's some handling of female characters that's a little harder to swallow, with Perry and screenwriter Pete Hamill opting for a version of the West in which all women were prostitutes or madams, but thankfully Faye Dunaway lends her take on Katie Elder a depth of self-respect and pathos that moves her beyond archetype.
What's refreshing about Doc is seeing the grittiness of a new age of Westerns leaking into the frame. Peckinpah revolutionized the genre two years earlier with The Wild Bunch (1969) and without it one wonders if the gunshot wounds in Perry's film would be as bloody and visceral as they are. There's also a general dirtiness to the film that never wears off: Keach stays dust-covered and bloodied while Dunaway's matted hair and dry skin bear the weight and whip of the desert wind. There's also an interesting performance from Harris Yulin as Wyatt Earp, who plays the role with a lot less confidence and bravura than Henry Fonda did in My Darling Clementine (1946). While making comparisons, it's fair to say that Keach's Holliday is a far cry from Victor Mature's suave dentist turned gunslinger, too.
Doc deserves greater recognition, for its take on the harsh west and the legendary figures who gave it color, both in fact and fiction.
By Thomas Davant
The opening and closing cast credits vary slightly in order. The closing credits run over a sepia photograph of Stacy Keach with the name "John H. Holliday" and the dates 1852-1887 below.
Writer Pete Hamill, a columnist for the New York Post, stated in a February 1969 New York Times article that he had originally planned the story as a novel but, upon researching the Old West locations, decided a more visual medium would better serve the story. In a July 1971 Harper's Bazaar feature, Hamill added that in 1968 he told Frank Perry about his ideas and the producer-director asked him to write a screenplay for him. As noted in many contemporary sources, Hamill and Perry planned for Doc to expose a more realistic version of Old West mythology.
Although a November 1969 Variety news item announced that the film would be shot in Southern California and Mexico, when production began in August 1970, all scenes were shot on location in Almeria, Spain and at Estudio Roma in Madrid, as noted in several contemporary sources. Although a June 1971 Hollywood Reporter news item adds music director Jimmy Webb to the cast, his appearance in the final film has not been confirmed.
Author Dan Greenburg, who made his feature film debut as "Clum," wrote a November 1970 New York Times article on his experience acting in Doc. In the article, he noted the extreme high temperatures during the production, and stated that Hamill's mother acted in one scene. Her appearance in the final film has not been confirmed. In addition, Greenburg stated that Perry planned to edit an hour of footage out of the finished film. The Hollywood Reporter reviewer noticed the edits, stating, "To judge by the stills that accompany the published screenplay, the film has been cut drastically."
Although Doc was originally released with an R rating, MPAA records indicate that the rating was changed to GP in 1972. For more information on Doc Holliday, see the record for Badlands of Dakota (1941, ).
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971