My Darling Clementine (1946)
Former lawman Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda) and his brothers are now cattlemen but when their youngest sibling is killed by cattle-rustlers outside the town of Tombstone, they decide to don their tin stars once more to bring justice to the perpetrators. This inevitably ends with the gunfight at the OK Corral……
This is a Western stuffed full of acting talent and directed by the most-accomplished of all genre directors, John Ford, which has achieved something of a mythical status. Oft-referred to as “the best Western”, you can see why critics and audiences have been so kind. Yet, this isn’t a movie which resonates completely with me.
Ford’s wide-shots of the landscapes of the West are as powerful as ever and the use of darkness and shadows (particularly on character’s faces) are an early indication of a trend in Ford’s movies which would reach an epic climax in “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” (1962). The script is also tight and there are some great pieces of dialogue – usually but not exclusively between Fonda’s Wyatt and Mature’s Doc.
Henry Fonda plays Wyatt Earp to perfection and with a reserved-ease fitting of the man legends are made of. Victor Mature is surprisingly fascinating to watch as the disintegrating Doc Holiday, for Mature himself is on the record as preferring golf to acting. Ward Bond offers rock-solid, but under-utilised, support as Wyatt’s brother, Morg Earp. Conversely, Walter Brennan was mis-cast in my opinion; I don’t like him as the cattle-baron Old Man Clanton. Although to be fair to Ford, he seems to have realised this and much of the film concentrates on the relationship between Doc and Wyatt; Brennan’s role being more of a bit-part than anything like an arch-villain.
Unfortunately, the final shoot-out at the OK Corral is a bit of a let-down, being both poorly choreographed and rather dull. I thought this was strangely out of character for a director whose action-sequences are so frequently entertaining. This is a problem with drags the entire film down in retrospect because the whole point of Ford’s film is to build-up to the final confrontation, yet this is indeed where the film really stutters and staggers.
Despite the title, this is not a film which offers much substance on women in the West – Ford’s characterisation is too concerned with the male characters and there is little relevance or screen-time afforded to either of the female ‘leads’, Linda Darnell and Cathy Downs.
Whilst these words may be anathema to purists, I don’t think My Darling Clementine is as good as it is often thought to be. There are much better Westerns out there, both from Ford and others.
Of course, “My Daring Clementine” is a good movie and more than enjoyable. Just don’t believe all the hype.
hotdog rating: 6.5/10