My Darling Clementine (1946)

DailyView: Day 318, Movie 454

One of the greatest Westerns around is My Darling Clementine from director John Ford. I had never seen it, but it always felt as if I had because I was first introduced to the movie through the iconic M.A.S.H. episode “Movie Tonight” where Col. Potter arranged the showing of My Darling Clementine to raise the morale of the camp. Of course, the film kept breaking down, forcing the members of the 4077 MASH to entertain themselves. During the episode, several scenes were shown from the John Ford movie and it was interesting seeing these scenes in their actual context.

Wyatt Earp(Henry Fonda) and his brothers were driving their cattle to California, but stopped off on a break in Tombstone, Nevada. Their cattle were rustled and one of his brothers was shot dead. Earp decided to accept a position as town marshal until he could discover the man or men who was responsible.

In Tombstone, he met Doc Holliday (Victor Mature), who ran the local gambling. Doc had a love interest with a local lady named Chihuahua (Linda Darnell). Doc had fled from the east and a relationship that he had with Clementine (Cathy Downs) because he was sick with tuberculosis. Clementine tracked Doc to Tombstone, setting off some anger from Chihuahua and Doc. Wyatt Earp found that he was also having feelings for Clementine.

It turned out that Old Man Clanton (Walter Brennan) and his four sons were behind the rustling and the death of Wyatt’s brothers, which led to the classic gunfight at the OK Corral.

This version of the Wyatt Earp story was based on a highly fictionalized novel Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal by Stuart Lake. While there are some actual events (according to Ford, the Gunfight at the OK Corral came directly from stories told him by Earp himself when he would come to the set to visit friends he had known from Tombstone.

The focus of the film was on the relationships between Doc, Wyatt, Clementine and Chihuahua, which was uncommon for Westerns at the time. It is also, most likely, the reason why this film is considered such a classic and how it has survived the test of time.

Seeing the actual filmed section of the gunfight at the OK Corral, the scenes from MASH made it seem much more violent than what this film showed. It was an intriguing scene with some surprising decisions made by the characters.

I can see why Colonel Potter thought that this film would raise the morale of his camp. It raised mine.

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