My Darling Clementine [1946]

Genre: Drama, Western
The most famous and sublime treatment of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral, John Ford's My Darling Clementine is by any measure one of the most classically perfect Westerns ever made. Henry Fonda plays a hard, serious Wyatt Earp leading a cattle drive west with his brothers when a stopover in the wild town of Tombstone ends in the murder of his youngest brother. Wyatt takes up the badge he had turned down earlier and tames the wide-open town with his brothers (Ward Bond and Tim Holt), all the while waiting for the wild Clantons (led by Walter Brennan's ruthless Old Man Clanton) to make a mistake. Victor Mature delivers perhaps his finest performance as the tubercular gambler Doc Holliday, an alcoholic Eastern doctor escaping civilization in the Wild West. Ford takes great liberties with history, bending the story to fit his ideal of the West, a balance of social law and pioneer spirit. Though the film reaches its climax in the legendary gunfight between the Earps (with Doc Holliday) and the Clantons, the most powerful moment is the moving Sunday morning church social played out on the floor of the unfinished church. As Earp dances with Clementine (Cathy Downs)--Fonda's stiff, self-conscious movements showing a man unaccustomed to such social interaction--Ford's camera frames them against the open sky: the town and the wilderness merge into the new Eden of the West for a brief moment. --Sean Axmaker

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