Wyatt Earp and his brothers stay in Tombstone to get revenge for their brother's murder and meet Doc Holliday and the Clantons.
Old Man Clanton (Walter Brennan) offers to buy cattle from Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda) for $5 a head, but Wyatt and his brothers are taking them to California. At night Wyatt, Morgan Earp (Ward Bond), and Virgil Earp (Tim Holt) visit Tombstone. Wyatt asks for a shave, but the barber runs from shooting. The marshal quits, and Wyatt drags out the drunk Indian. Wyatt declines to be marshal. In the rain they find the cattle gone and James Earp dead.
Wyatt takes the marshal job with his brothers as deputies. Wyatt visits James' grave, and he learns Clanton has cattle. Wyatt plays poker, and Chihuahua (Linda Darnell) sings "Dead Broke." Wyatt catches her signaling and pushes her into a water trough. Doc Holliday (Victor Mature) arrives and tells the cheat to get out of town. He buys Wyatt champagne and tells him to draw, but Wyatt has no gun. Doc and Wyatt go to the theater and then find the actor Granville Thorndyke (Alan Mowbray) on a bar reciting "To be or not to be " Wyatt has to shoot a man with a gun, and Clanton whips his sons.
Clementine Carter (Cathy Downs) arrives on a stage looking for Dr. John Holliday. Thorndyke leaves on the stage. Doc tells Clementine to go back home. She says she loves him but agrees to go. Doc is ill and drinks. He shoots a lamp, and Wyatt knocks him down. Doc tells Chihuahua that he is going to Mexico, and she wants to go. Clementine goes to church with Wyatt. The preacher plays the fiddle, and Wyatt dances with Clementine. Doc tells Clementine he will leave and advises Wyatt to carry a gun. Chihuahua sees Doc leaving as he throws a bag of money to her. Chihuahua tells Clementine to leave. Wyatt rides after Doc and, after losing a gun duel, takes him back for the murder of James; but Chihuahua says that Billy Clanton gave her the jewelry taken from James. Virgil rides after Billy. Doc operates on wounded Chihuahua. Virgil goes to the Clantons and sees that Billy is dead, but they shoot Virgil. Kate (Jane Darwell) takes Chihuahua home to take care of her. Clanton and his boys bring Virgil's body, and Old Man Clanton says they'll be at the OK Corral. Doc says that Chihuahua died, and he joins the Earps. Wyatt, Morgan, and Doc shoot the Clanton brothers, and Old Man Clanton gives up. Wyatt tells him to get out of town; but he turns and shoots, and Morgan kills him. Doc Holliday is dead. Clementine tells Wyatt she will teach school there, and he kisses her goodbye.
This fictional version of the historic shoot-out is
not accurate, but nonetheless it is an archetypal western drama
with Wyatt and his brothers as the heroes, the Clantons as the
villains, and Doc as the doomed gunslinger. The sparse desert
reflects the emptiness of living where violence can erupt so easily.