MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946) B/W 97m dir: John Ford

w/Henry Fonda, Linda Darnell, Victor Mature, Walter Brennan, Tim Holt, Cathy Downs, Ward Bond, Alan Mowbray, John Ireland, Roy Roberts

A superior western about Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and the doings in Tombstone, Arizona. Fine direction by Ford, bolstered by a very good cast.

From The Movie Guide: "Perhaps the best orchestrated western of all time, courtesy of the modest Mr. Ford. No western figure inspired more cinematic lore than the indomitable Wyatt Earp, and Fonda, just back from WWII, gives a definitive portrayal of the famous frontier lawman. ...

"Dramatic and brooding, with shadows at night and blinding light at day under a sky that never ends, MY DARLING CLEMENTINE doesn't follow history exactly, but Ford is much more concerned with the myth of the West. The scene where Wyatt brings harmony to Tombstone by eliminating the disruptive element --- notably, a Native American --- is almost a prototypical expression of the genre's obsession with the formation of community. The most famous scene in this regard, however, is the dance at the church-founding social, where Wyatt and Clementine (Downs) walk down the street like it was a wedding aisle. Fonda was rarely better, his Midwest accent and measured delivery perfect for the part. His chair-balancing makes wonderful use of his lanky body, and his deliberately stiff but gracefully folksy dance with Clementine is a brilliant bit of acting. The often underrated Mature is also outstanding, acting out the tormented Holliday with amazing passion and restraint. Darnell's luscious noir persona is effective, even if she is too glamorized and seems about as Latina as 'My Wild Irish Rose.' Downs, meanwhile, cast as a refined parallel to Darnell, isn't much of an actress, but then this isn't much of a part; schoolteacher Clementine is less a character than the embodiment of civilization from the East, and the ingenue fills the bill admirably. Finally, Brennan, downright chilling as Clanton, will make you forget every rerun of THE REAL MCCOYS you ever watched.

"As with other Ford films, there is no sustained score; [Alfred] Newman merely provides haunting little variations of the title song on a harmonica, and other western ballads on fiddles or guitars as needed. The script [by Samuel G. Engel and Winston Miller, based on a short story by Sam Helman from the novel Wyatt Earp, Frontier Marshall by Stuart M. Lake] is lean and tight, and [Joseph] MacDonald's startling photography, under the Master's guidance, provides graphics so sweeping that the whole of the West seems bounded by the frame.

"Many other films about Wyatt Earp have been made: LAW AND ORDER with Walter Huston; two films named FRONTIER MARSHALL with George O'Brien and Randolph Scott in the role; TOMBSTONE, THE TOWN TOO TOUGH TO DIE with Richard Dix; WICHITA with Joel McCrea; GUNFIGHT AT THE O.K. CORRAL with Burt Lancaster; HOUR OF THE GUN with James Garner; and DOC with Harris Yulin. This, however, is the definitive rendering, if only for the sequence at the church dance. If that scene doesn't either give you chills or make you cry, see your doctor immediately."