My Darling Clementine – 1946 – John Ford

My Darling Clementine – the title sounds like “let’s use a familiar folk tune as a hook for a crappy movie”. The scenery is absurd – it is Standard Cowboy Movie scenery: Monument Valley and a desert wherein there are a bunch of cowpokes (cows and the Arizona desert just do not co-abide, sorry). Everyone is dressed in big ploofy dresses or hats and jackets with vests. Hello, it is Arizona and it is the desert – it is hot enough to melt paint off a steam locomotive in the desert in Arizona.

But a brilliant director shugs off all the cliches and makes a great movie – and that is the skill and artistic talent of John Ford in this one.

Movies are at heart a visual medium, and there are plenty of interesting visuals. This one is one of my favorites: Victor Mature’s beautiful Italian profile which we get to admire in a scene where he turns away from the almost as beautiful Clementine (the first and last decent role for Cathy Downs).

Victor Mature and Cathy Downs

Victor Mature and Cathy Downs

It’s good, actually, that the movie isn’t called “The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” because it is a bit of a surprise when we realize that is what we are leading up to. And yes, the movie builds to that point and there is gunfire. But, the movie does not dwell on this lead-up. There is interesting character development, good fight scenes, and well-done sets that give the movie a sense of gritty reality that bring it alive.

John Ford ain’t Fellini, but we’ll drink deep from his hoss trough any time o’ the gol durn day.

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