Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USA, 1946. Twentieth Century Fox. Screenplay by Samuel G. Engel, Winston Miller, from a story by Sam Hellman, based on the book by Stuart N. Lake. Cinematography by Joseph MacDonald. Produced by Samuel G. Engel. Music by Cyril J. Mockridge. Production Design by James Basevi, Lyle R. Wheeler. Costume Design by Rene Hubert. Film Editing by Dorothy Spencer.
John Ford didn’t just make movies, the man was the movies; he manages to cross all paths with many of his excellent films, providing myth and archetype as well as character and detail to give those standard cliches of the medium depth and vigour. In My Darling Clementine, these qualities are held up by strong images and terrific writing as the tale of Wyatt Earp is fictionalized to great effect. Free-ranging cattle wrangler Earp (Henry Fonda, giving one of his richest performances of undeniable sincerity) decides to set up shop in Tombstone after his cattle are rustled and his youngest brother is murdered. He suspects the evil Clanton family, led by mean old Walter Brennan (enjoying a villainous role for a change), but takes a job as the town’s marshal until he can prove himself right. While waiting to settle the score, however, he makes the acquaintance of local tough guy Doc Holliday (Victor Mature) and becomes involved in his romantic entanglements with two women; if you can believe it, one of them’s a lovely virgin and the other one’s a feisty ho! Ford, however, not content to just give people what they want, teaches his audience to demand something rich, providing a film with heroes, villains, virtuous women and gold-hearted saloon gals, all of them (even Linda Darnell playing Latina) feeling strangely real. If you love soaking up a good western, do not skip this one; it’s a wonderful precursor to the fifties when Ford would start really looking at the dark heart of America’s favourite genre.