#70. My Darling Clementine (1946)
Directed by: John Ford
Written by: Samuel G. Engel, Winston Miller, Sam Hellman (story) (based on Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal by Stuart N. Lake)
Starring: Henry Fonda, Victor Mature, Linda Darnell, Walter Brennan
During last December’s John Ford marathon here at Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Film Club, I saw a handful of incredible films that had somehow alluded me up to that point. Ford’s 1946 film My Darling Clementine was the first in the marathon that stopped me in my tracks – I instantly knew that I had a new addition to my endless list of favorite films. My Darling Clementine tells the well-known story of Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda) becoming marshal of the town of Tombstone, his relationship with dentist Doc Holliday (Victor Mature), their rivalry with the Clanton gang, and the subsequent Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Though the story of these events has been told countless times through the years, My Darling Clementine manages to stand out from the crowd of mostly good films. It’s surprisingly grounded for essentially being a film about one of America’s most famous shootouts, and that’s one of the things that make it such a memorable experience. Ford adds poetic touches to the film throughout, featuring some small, memorable moments that help us understand Wyatt Earp and his motivations. These moments are aided by the film’s beautiful cinematography that communicate the hot, dry weather of Tombstone, and some gorgeous use of shadows. While My Darling Clementine may not be the thrill ride that films like Tombstone are, it features John Ford’s subtle sense of humor and some great pacing to negate the need for constant action. When things finally do ramp up, they feel that much more satisfying and deserved. Henry Fonda’s performance as Wyatt Earp is terrific, as he brings a certain sense of levity and passion to the performance. His chemistry with actors like Victor Mature and Ward Bond also can’t be understated, as it makes his various relationships far more believable and meaningful. My Darling Clementine is one of John Ford’s many masterful westerns – his passion for the time period and settings is unmatched by most American directors, and this comes through in every minute of his films. If you’d like to read my full review of My Darling Clementine, you can check it out here.