My Darling Clementine ()

directed by John Ford
featuring Henry Fonda, Linda Darnell, Victor Mature, Jane Darwell, Walter Brennan, Cathy Downs, Ward Bond

Show Synopsis

One of the greatest movie Westerns, John Ford's My Darling Clementine is hardly the most accurate film version of the Wyatt Earp legend, but it is still one of the most entertaining. Henry Fonda stars as former lawman Wyatt Earp, who, after cleaning up Dodge City, arrives in the outskirts of Tombstone with his brothers Morgan (Ward Bond), Virgil (Tim Holt), and James (Don Garner), planning to sell their cattle and settle down as gentlemen farmers. Yet Wyatt, disgusted by crime and cattle rustling, eventually agrees to take ...


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May 10, 2020

Watching My Darling Clementine During The Pandemic

I have been watching the classic Westerns during the pandemic, most of which I hadn't seen before. Among the films new to me was John Ford's 1946 film "My Darling Clementine", one of many films about Wyatt Earp, but special. In 1991, "My Darling Clementine" was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

The film is set in Tombstone, Arizona, in the early 1880s. It stars Henry Fonda as Wyatt Earp, Victor Mature as "Doc" Holliday, Linda Darnell as Chihuahua, Cathy Downs as Clementine, and Walter Brennan, as Old Man Clanton, the leader of the Clanton rustlers with his four sons. Chichahua and Clementine are fictitious characters. The film makes no pretense of historical accuracy; its importance lies elsewhere.

In this film, Wyatt Earp and his three brothers are cattlemen driving their cows to market when the first run into the Clantons. After three of the brothers take a brief trip to Tombstone, they return to find their cattle stolen and their youngest brother dead. Wyatt accepts an offer to be the marshall of Tombstone in an effort to track down within the law the killer of his brother and the rustlers of his cattle. Earp's search to bring the killers to justice leads ultimately to the legendary Gunfight at the O.K. Corral between Earp and his remaining brother, Virgil and, Doc Holliday against the Clantons.

The focus of the movie is not on the gunfight. The film describes the journey of the West from a place of wildness to the beginnings of community. It is also a romance,showing the taciturn, awkward Wyatt Earp's first experience of love. The movie focuses on Earp's character and on his relationship with Clementine more than on guns. Clementine is a schoolteacher from Boston who comes to Tombstone in the search of her former lover, "Doc" Holliday and finds him much changed. Holliday, a killer and a gambler in his new life rather than a surgeon, has become involved with Chihauhua, a bar singer and prostitute. When he rejects Clementine, she and Earp begin a brief, subdued relationship.

Of many wonderful scenes in this movie the highlight occurs just past mid-point. The first church is being dedicated in Tombstone and it is celebrated by a dance. In a spare field and with the American flag waving high, the reluctant Earp and Clementine kick up their heels in what surely is a portrayal of the growing community and of its change in character. Another beautiful moment occurs at the conclusion of the film. Earp and his brother ride away from Tombstone to inform their father of the death of the two other Earp brothers. Earp and Clementine have a moving yet restrained parting as Clementine says she will be staying in Tombstone to become the first schoolteacher. There is the hope that Earp and Clementine may meet again someday.

The film is in black and white and the cinematography captures the dusty streets of Tombstone and the craggy breadth of the desert. In the wildness of the surroundings, the film has a feel of grandeur. Wyatt Earp as a tough, hard man but also reflective and introspective.

My fascination with "My Darling Clementine" led me to some research. A great deal has been written analyzing this film and bringing out its many themes and offering varying interpretations. Some of this material is easily available through an online search and undoubtedly there is a great deal more.

"My Darling Clementine" deserves its reputation as a Western classic. I loved seeing and thinking about the film. This movie, together with several other Westerns, offers both entertainment and a way to think about and be inspired by the American experience and American creativity during our current time of difficulty.

Robin Friedman


Dec 10, 2015

Another Golden Oldie!

An excellent old movie! Perhaps one of the best from in the western movie category! Get a much better taste of what really happened at the OK corral. Recommend it to the folks that really like the western genre. I watch it perhaps once a year just to keep my hand it! The modern movies just smear the real story! Recommend that western lovers should have a copy of My Darling Clementine! You wouldn't regret it!

Patricia M

Aug 12, 2011

"My Darline Clementine" review

This film is an idealized view of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday and their relationship. It is not historically accurate, but is a good and entertaining film of three actors who were entering their prime years of movie making - Henry Fonda, Victor Mature, and Walter Brennan. I recommend this film for the story line and the ability to enjoy a John Ford directed western - no one does em' better!

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