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Monday, May 26, 2008

MY DARLING CLEMENTINE (1946)

The first of John Ford's post-WWII Westerns only hints at the 'Serve the Myth/Subvert the Myth' contrarian mentality that would enrich so much of his late work. Even so, this telling of Wyatt Earp’s famous gunfight is pretty thrilling moviemaking with a near perfect mix of ingredients. The background views of the cultural & religious life in Tombstone are lovingly sketched, and the hand of studio chief Darryl Zanuck has the positive effect of keeping Ford from dawdling.  (On the debit side, Zanuck pushes the sentiment and forced a reshoot of Henry Fonda's graveyard talk to his brother after Ford had moved on to another project.  Supposedly, Lloyd Bacon did it and it really sticks out visually from the rest of the film.)   The whole cast is exceptional, Fonda's Sheriff fully earns its legendary rep, Walter Brennan is scary as Hell, and the under-valued Victor Mature shows banked power as Doc Holliday. And look for Tim Holt in another one of his standout perfs from his amazing line up of classic pics under Ford, Welles, Huston and King Vidor between what was otherwise a career of hackwork.

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