Personally, I’d be all over Chihuahua, with lips like that how could you choose differently?
Screenplay By: Samuel G. Engel & Winston Miller
Directed By: John Ford
My Darling Clementine isn’t a boastful Western, it is a quiet character driven Western. From the onset My Darling Clementine takes on an insular, almost sullen tone that differentiates it from most Westerns. At times this works beautifully to create a unique tone and atmosphere, but it also backfires during one important sequence. The character driven nature of the story allows for every important male character to be given the proper time and for them to develop and not seem like basic caricatures. Unfortunately this same courtesy was not extended to the women of My Darling Clementine who end up as cardboard cut outs of what John Ford thinks the Western versus Eastern woman dynamic should represent.
Like all Ford works, My Darling Clementine looks beautiful and presents a Western look that is easy to believe in and want to be a part of. The costumes, the sets, and the vistas all combine to form the basis of what a Western should look like. The score is inviting and also ominous, but it is a Western theme through and through, evoking the joy of the West and the peril at the same time. For any history buffs it is apparent right away that My Darling Clementine is a romanticized look at Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and the events of the OK Corral, but that shouldn’t bother anyone, movies are movies and dramatic license comes with the territory.
The small nature of My Darling Clementine allows for the performances of Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp, Victor Mature as Doc Holliday and Walter Brennan as Old Man Clanton to come to the forefront. Brennan is trouble without having to be arch about it, while Mature turns what could have been a cliched character into someone we actually care about. As he is prone to do Fonda shines brightest of all, layering Wyatt Earp with subtle nuances that resonate with us in scene after scene. The one area where the small nature of My Darling Clementine works against the film is the final showdown at the OK Corral. It is a moment that is built to in the film, but it is over in a second and very, very anti-climatic. More time needed to be given to the showdown, because even though it wasn’t the main focus of My Darling Clementine it still remains a major event in the movie.
My Darling Clementine is another great Western from the King of Westerns, John Ford. In the current movie going age where indie films are more popular than ever, the insular, small and almost indie nature of My Darling Clementine should connect with the modern moviegoer. Fonda’s performance as Wyatt Earp should connect with anyone regardless of their film preference, and anyone who has ever seen a Ford movie and enjoyed it really should see My Darling Clementine.