Wednesday, February 02, 2011
#48:My Darling Clementine
The first thing about My Darling Clementine that will favorably incline your interest towards this movie is the title track. As the opening credits of the movie start, you hear the chorus singing the song like a perfect smattering of butter over some fresh bread. O my darling, O my darling, O my darling Clementine..., it goes. You presume, this is going to be a romantic flick and are prepared for the movie to take shape accordingly. It all seems fine except that 5 minutes into the movie you also realize that the movie is not just going to be about only Clementine.
It is the story about Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda) who in the sleepy town of Tombstone becomes the town marshall after witnessing the lawlessness of the land. His partner is Doc Holiday (Victor Mature) who is fast succumbing to the fatalities of too much alcohol. While his love interest, the graciously disarming Clementine Carter (Cathy Downs) arrives in town, Doc has already made his decision to leave her. The other plot that runs parallel to this is the mysterious disappearance of some cattle and the murder of one of the younger brothers of Wyatt. The suspects are the brash and the savage Clanton brothers. However, with no proof, Wyatt and his brothers are helpless to take any recourse to justice. Walter Brennan plays old man Clanton. As the leader of the Clanton brat pack, Walter is magnificently uninhibited, uncouth and unruly. The people of the town are scared of the Clantons and no one dare speak anything against them but under the supervision of taskmaster Wyatt, the town regains a semblance of sanity. But with these winds of change we also know a showdown is around the corner and the movie culminates with famous Ok corral shootout between the Wyatt and the Clanton brothers.
Henry Fonda with his no-nonsense approach is stern but plays the character of Wyatt with a lot of warmth- his friendship with Doc being one of the show stealers of the movie. The conversations between Doc and Wyatt are laced with some lovely bits of humor and these maintain a nice contrast to the overarching theme of revenge that runs across the movie. Victor Mature is effortlessly stylish as Doc Holiday and it's a pity that Victor wasn't known for too many other major roles during his career. Linda Darnell as the playful Chihuahua (her name in the movie) wins your heart with a performance that might be short in duration but doesn't fall short of being memorable. The subtle humor in the movie gels well with the characters- all of whom are dealing with a sad memory from their own town even as they go about their daily chores as if life's normal.
My Darling Clementine is just another shining proof that John Ford could direct anything western and make it a timeless classic. The movie will continue to charm generations to come because of the enduring themes of friendship, justice and love- all of which are showcased superbly in a movie as short as 97 minutes. With a smart and pacy screenplay, wonderfully memorable characters such as Old Man Clanton and solid performances that will win you over, My Darling Clementine is one classic you just shouldn't miss out on.
As an aside, it was Sam Peckinpah's favorite western. It has to be something, doesn't it !