My Darling Clementine, 1946.
Directed by John Ford.
Starring Henry Fonda, Victor Mature, Linda Darnell, Cathy Downs, Walter Brennan, Tim Holt and Ward Bond.
A Western retelling of the shoot-out at the OK Corral.
John Ford’s classic Western gets a prestigious release on Blu-ray containing a stagecoach load of extras and features uncovering the legend of Ford and his personal vision of the Wild West.
My Darling Clementine is a perfect example of Ford’s brand of pure Western, containing elements of gun-toting action, wry humour and episodic tragedy. An overriding bleakness informs the film, which at its heart is an examination of the relationship between the Marshall of Tombstone, Wyatt Earp (a definitive role for Henry Fonda) and the morally ambiguous, tuberculosis suffering Doc Holliday (Victor Mature).
Focusing on the events that inspire the famous battle, the film takes us on the route taken by the Earp brothers as they lead a herd of cattle to California. Tiring from the heat, and with the animals in dire need of food and rest, they hear about the nearby town of Tombstone. Deciding to take a look, the older brothers leave youngest James with the cattle, while they check out the opportunities.
Wyatt soon realises what kind of a town Tombstone is – if the name itself wasn’t enough of a hint – when a drunk wild-man starts randomly shooting at locals. Wyatt takes him on and easily defeats him. Returning to the cattle, he and his brothers find James dead, and the animals gone.
Wyatt agrees to become Marshall to uncover exactly who murdered his brother and in order extract revenge. Along the way he meets Doc Holliday, Clementine Carver (Cathy Downs) and local saloon entertainer Chihuahua (Linda Darnell). The grim vagabond band of the Clanton gang are also an integral part of the ensemble.
Ford’s film was partly based on a fictionalised biography of Wyatt Earp named Frontier Marshall, which is also the name of a 1939 film included in this deluxe edition.
The stirring movie is an undisputed classic and a touchstone both in Ford’s career and in American cinema in general. A terrific starting point for anyone looking for an education in American folklore and mythology, My Darling Clementine stands alongside Stagecoach and The Searchers as one of the directors best-loved movies.
High Definition (1080p) Blu-ray presentations of My Darling Clementine’s theatrical and ‘pre-release’ versions and Frontier Marshal
Commentary on the theatrical version by author Scott Eyman and Earp’s grandson, Wyatt Earp III
John Ford and Monument Valley – a 2013 documentary on the director’s lifelong association with Utah’s Monument Valley containing interviews with Peter Cowie (author of John Ford and the American West), John Ford, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, James Stewart and Martin Scorsese
Movie Masterclass – a 1988 episode of the Channel 4 series, devoted to My Darling Clementine and presented by Lindsay Anderson
Lost and Gone Forever – a visual essay by Tag Gallagher on the themes that run through My Darling Clementine and the film’s relationship with John Ford’s other works
What is the Pre-Release Version? – a documentary by Robert Gitt, Senior Film Preservation Officer at the UCLA Film and Television Archive, comparing the two versions of My Darling Clementine
Two radio plays inspired by Wyatt Earp – a 1947 adaptation of My Darling Clementine starring Henry Fonda as Earp and Richard Conte as Doc Holliday, and a 1949 Hallmark Playhouse production in which Conte played the role of Earp
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert W Monk is a freelance journalist and film writer.