If you’re on Facebook, you might want to “friend” Doug Nye, the former (and, I believe, last) TV critic at The State, if only to get his daily “Western of the Day” update. Here’s today’s:
“My Darling Clementine” (1946) Director John Ford’s version of the gunfight at the OK Corral demonstrates just how stunning a black-and-white film can be. With Ford at the helm, it becomes pure visual poetry from a lonely nighttime prairie to an outdoor dance at an unfinished church.
Henry Fonda makes for a terrifically laconic Wyatt Earp and Walter Brennan is perfect as the surly Old Man Clanton. Of all the actors who have played a Clanton, Brennan’s performance leaves the most lasting impression. Victor Mature enjoys one of his best screen roles playing Earp’s pal, the sickly Doc Holliday.
Among the others in the cast are Linda Darnell as Holiday’s girl, Cathy Downs as Clementine, Ward Bond as Morgan Earp, Tim Holt as Virgil Earp and John Ireland as Billy Clanton.
In this version of the story, Wyatt and his brothers are driving a herd of cattle east to Kansas. One evening, they stop outside of Tombstone. Brother James is left to watch the herd while the others go into town. When they return, James is found dead and the cattle are gone. The suspicion is that the Clantons are responsible.
Wyatt takes the marshal’s job in Tombstone mainly because he wants to get his revenge on the Clantons. We all know that it will eventually lead to the famous shootout at the OK Corral. Much of the film is leisurely paced, allowing the viewer time to savor the images of the West that seem to be lifted straight out a series of old tintypes. Even the showdown is played out almost like a dream sequence. Ford’s poetic hand again in what remains on of his finest westerns.
According to many sources Ford actually knew Wyatt Earp, who died in 1929. One suspects part of the film was based on what Earp had told Ford about the event in Tombstone. That is certainly possible because Earp was well known in the Hollywood community. Among the pall bearers at his funeral were cowboy movie legends Tom Mix and William S. Hart.
Doug knows his stuff, particularly when it comes to Westerns. He is to Westerns what “Shooter” (the Dennis Hopper character) was to basketball in “Hoosiers,” if you’ll forgive me for dragging in another genre.
I’m not nearly the Western fan Doug is — although I do have one (“High Noon”) on my all-time, desert-island Top Five Movies list — but I appreciate the guidance of a true connoisseur in helping me know which ones are worth my time.
And for his part, Doug’s into more than just Westerns. For instance, he’s one of the few people I know who also cherishes the memory of watching “Spaceship C-8” on WBTW out of Florence, starring the late great “Captain Ashby” Ward…