Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My Darling Clementine (1946)

Victor Mature's take on Doc Holliday is the perfect prescription for western movie fans.

Henry Fonda gets top billing in John Ford's 1946 western, but Mature is a real treat to watch as the former doctor who now sends people to the graveyard instead of restoring their health.


The town of Tombstone is the perfect place for the Shakespeare-quoting killer with a taste for champagne and lots of readin'.

Mature's Doc speaks softly and is tormented by who he used to be and who he has become.

The four Earp brothers are herding cattle to California. When Wyatt (Fonda), Morgan (Ward Bond) and Virgil (Tim Holt) ride into Tombstone, youngest brother James (Don Garner) is killed by cattle rustlers.


Wyatt, ex-marshall of Dodge City, decides to enforce the law in Tombstone. Old Man Clanton (a great Walter Brennan) and his boys stand out as the likely culprits. The ominous music when pops and one of his boys appear on camera the first time is a pretty good hint these aren't peace-lovin' folks.

But give Brennan top marks in his secondary role as one mean, cruel father. Here's a guy who whips his sons when they mess up. "When you pull a gun, kill a man," is one of the practical pieces of advice he offers his offspring.

Holliday and Earp aren't chummy buddies at first, but a respect does grow between the two men. The now bad doctor, who is keeping time with saloon girl Chihuahua (Linda Darnell), confronts his past when old flame Clementine Carter (Cathy Downs) ends up in Tombstone after a long search for her much-loved beau.


Veteran movie critic Roger Ebert hails My Darling Clementine as director John Ford's greatest western. Those are high words of praise for the American filmmaker whose resume also includes The Searchers, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Rio Grande.

Besides several great performances, there is plenty of humour in this film ranging from slapstick to clever word play. The scenery is beautiful and the composition of some of Ford's shots in this black-and-white film is inspired.

The DVD I watched included an interesting 42-minute documentary about the preview print screened compared to the final version released to theatres. Learn why producer Darryl F. Zanuck wasn't entirely happy with Ford's cut of My Darling Clementine.

Rating: 8/10

FUN FACTS: Mature appeared in the 1976 film, Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood. Linda Darnell was Hollywood's youngest leading lady when, at 16, she appeared in Hotel for Women in 1939. Her next fact isn't fun, but sad. Darnell died in a house fire in 1965. She was 41. Darnell was watching Star Dust, a film she made in 1940, at the time. Cathy Downs moved from westerns to science-fiction/horror films with credits in Missile to the Moon and The She-Creature in the 1950s.

My Darling Clementine (1946, 97 minutes). Cast includes Henry Fonda, Linda Darnell, Victor Mature, Cathy Downs, Walter Brennan, Tim Holt, Ward Bond, Alan Mowbray, John Ireland, Roy Roberts, Jane Darwell and Grant Withers.

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