Tuesday, July 19, 2011

My Darling Clementine (1946)

The Gunfight At The O.K. Corral

- My Darling Clementine is a rousing and stylish fictional account of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday's gunfight with the Clanton gang at the O.K. Corral from director, and sage of the western genre, John Ford. Allow me to reiterate the word "fictional" – My Darling Clementine includes a lot of story events that conflict with the actual account of the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral. I am not going to get into that because A.) Look up the discrepancies yourself, you lazy bum, and B.) It has no significant bearing on the film in the end.

My Darling Clementine is a very good movie and is my pick as the best overall movie about Wyatt Earp and the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, despite not being 100% historically accurate. Ford creates an exquisite chorus of law and order in the American West full of character, heart, action, and, of course, visual treats. My Darling Clementine has some of the best cinematography (especially in regards to lighting) in a John Ford film and Monument Valley stands proudly in the background as it has in many great John Ford westerns (poignantly echoing death in some scenes, as the buttes stand like great gravestones in the sand).

Also, a terrific cast is assembled. Henry Fonda is a dominant lead as a laconic and easygoing Wyatt Earp and Victor Mature gives a moving and intense performance, throwing himself into the role of the drinking, deteriorating wildcard Doc Holliday (no doubt throwing himself into the role off screen as well). Many films have been made about the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral but, in my opinion, none of them have featured a better Wyatt Earp than Fonda and only Dennis Quaid (of Wyatt Earp (1994)) tops Mature's Holliday. Ford frequenter Ward Bond also co-stars as Morgan Earp; B-movie western King Tim Holt supports as Virgil Earp; the captivating and beautiful Linda Darnell and Cathy Downs appear as the objects of Earp and Holliday's affections; and Walter Brennan, usually cast as some quirky side-kick buddy character, plays a great bad guy as Old Man Clanton.

My Darling Clementine is a really good western - and Ford almost lost it to the draconian dictates of the studio monster. Disliking Ford's original cut, 20th Century Fox Studio Tsar Daryl F. Zanuck re-cut and ordered retakes (directed by Lloyd Bacon) of the film. Modern versions of the film have added back in John Ford's original scenes and/or take on a scene from the original cut; however, due to lost footage the first 20 minutes remain unfortunately and irreversibly Zanuck's cut. Zanuck may have left a permanent mark on the overall film but, thanks to Ford's style and the great cast, My Darling Clementine survives as a strong John Ford western nonetheless.

CBC Rating: 8/10

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