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.