Kirk Douglas holding a gun in a scene from the film 'Gunfight At The O.K. Corral', 1956. (Photo by Paramount Pictures/Getty Images)
Movies - TV
Kirk Douglas Had To Carefully Choreograph Every Cough In Gunfight At The O.K. Corral
John Sturges’ “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” is one of the most illustrious retellings of the infamous 1881 Tombstone, Arizona, shootout that elevated figures like Wyatt Earp to mythic status. This classic Western stars Kirk Douglas, who portrayed the dentist-turned-gunslinger Doc Holiday, and though his character’s life was constantly threatened, Holiday’s cough was the actual danger.
Holiday suffered from tuberculosis, with his cough getting progressively more alarming as the film drew closer to its conclusion. However, no matter how severe his hacking got, it never overshadowed Douglas’ performance as the resolutely stoic antihero, thanks to the carefully planned coughs that never took up more screen presence than the man carrying it.
Douglas explained, “I had to cough a lot in ‘Gunfight at the O.K. Corral,’ and I had to choreograph every cough. Since movies are not shot in sequence, I had to plan where I was going to cough, how lightly or deeply, and where I was going to have an attack. In some scenes, I didn’t cough at all. [...] A movie is not real. You create the illusion you want to create."