Thursday, November 24, 2011

My Darling Clementine

Perhaps if I didn’t know what Tombstone really looks like, having visited the town in the summer of 2010, and if I hadn’t already watched other movies about the gunfight at the O.K. Corral and Tombstone, My Darling Clementine would have held my interest.  As it was, though, this black and white 1946 film, despite being directed by John Ford and having Henry Fonda in the lead as Wyatt Earp, did not hold my interest.  Sacrilege, I know!

It was hard to differentiate the characters from each other and the plot of My Darling Clementine seemed more like a bunch of scenes strung together than a cohesive film.  Cathy Downs plays Clementine Carter, a lady from the East in love with Dr. John Holliday; this female character is completely fictional, which substantially decreased my interest in the film.  Nor does she resemble Clementine Hale as played by Sally Field in ASJ; this Clem would never be friends with men such as Heyes and Curry. 

Henry Fonda, whose voice is so distinctive in later movies, was not persuasive as Wyatt Earp.  Victor Mature, as Doc Holliday, exhibits the traits the gunman was so well-known for—the coughing, the quick temper, the card-playing—but throughout the movie I kept comparing his performance to that of Val Kilmer’s in Tombstone.  Instead of Big-Nose Kate, a woman named Chihuahua is Doc’s love interest here. 

Walter Brennan (Silky in The Day They Hanged Kid Curry and Don't Get Mad, Get Even, Gantry in Twenty-one Days to Tenstrike) plays the patriarch of the Clanton Gang but his part was small and with a beard and hat covering much of his face, I wouldn’t have known it was him without looking at the movie’s credits.

In My Darling Clementine, the famous gunfight was set in the middle of the desert around two horse corrals.  The Clantons were based at the O.K. Corral, and the Earps and Holliday used the Wells Fargo Corral as their base.  As for what happened during the actual gunfight, all I will say is that it does not conform to historical events.  I suppose I prefer Westerns, if they are based on historical incidents, to hew more closely to fact than this movie does.

One bonus feature on the DVD is a commentary by Scott Eyman, a biographer of John Ford, and Wyatt Earp III, a descendant of the main character in the film.  The commentary was quite interesting and helped me better appreciate the movie.  The other bonus feature is the theatrical trailer for My Darling Clementine.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Shoot Out

A cute orphaned kid plus an ex-convict gunfighter do not equal a wonderful movie.  Shoot Out has its moments, mostly because Gregory Peck plays the gunfighter, Clay Lomax (and what was he thinking when he accepted this role?).  This 1971 film, produced by Universal Studios, could have been much better if the villains hadn’t been played as caricatures.

Paul Fix (Clarence the undertaker in Night of the Red Dog) has a small role as a train brakeman who delivers the orphan girl to Lomax.  Jeff Corey (Governor Baxter in The Day the Amnesty Came Through) plays Trooper, a wheelchair-confined ex-soldier saloon keeper who knows where Lomax’s nemesis, Sam Foley, now lives. 

It was Foley, played by James Gregory, who was Lomax’s partner in a bank robbery; Foley shot him in the back and as a result, Lomax spent seven years in prison and is now out for revenge.  Bud Westmore  and Larry Germain were the make-up artist and hairstylist for Shoot Out and did the same for the Pilot.

Foley hires a cowpoke to follow Lomax and most of Shoot Out is about what happens on the trail.  Lomax finds himself caring for the little girl after his attempts to foist her off on the owners of the mercantile, the schoolteacher, and the preacher in a town are unsuccessful.  Perhaps it was the same with Heyes and Curry after they lost their folks and that’s how they ended up at the Valparaiso Home for Waywards. 

There are several encounters—including shoot outs--between Lomax and the bad guys as they all slowly make their way to Gun Hill, where Sam Foley lives.  The final shoot out of the movie is moderately interesting but other than Gregory Peck’s performance, this movie is not worth the 94 minutes it takes to view it.

As I was watching this film, it seemed almost like a mirror image of True Grit: Instead of a young girl hiring an aging marshal to get revenge, Shoot Out has an aging ex-criminal saddled with a little girl who wants revenge.  But then the credits reveal that the producer, director, and screenwriter responsible for True Grit had the same roles in this movie, and it was no longer such a coincidence.