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Wyatt Earp and his brothers Morgan and Virgil ride into Tombstone and leave brother James in charge of their cattle herd. On their return they find their cattle stolen and James dead. Wyatt takes on the job of town marshal, making his brothers deputies, and vows to stay in Tombstone until James' killers are found. He soon runs into the brooding, coughing, hard-drinking Doc Holliday as well as the sullen and vicious Clanton clan. Wyatt discovers the owner of a trinket stolen from James' dead body and the stage is set for the Earps' long-awaited revenge. Written by
Doug Sederberg <email@example.com>
Set amid the sweeping vistas and the towering sandstone buttes and spires of Monument Valley, this John Ford film, about Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda) and his encounters with the Clanton gang in rowdy Tombstone, Arizona, fulfills our need to experience the Old West as mythic romanticism. The visuals are striking. El Greco skies oppress a majestic and lonesome landscape of rock, dirt, dust, and cattle. Ghostly human figures confront death in heavy rain. Indoors, small, overhead lanterns emit soft light in tough barrooms. The B&W cinematography conveys a somber, moody, idealized vision of the nineteenth century American frontier.
But the film's romanticism is not just the product of adroit cinematography. The relaxed narrative weaves multiple, seemingly insignificant plot lines into a unified whole, and thus depicts the Old West as a place and time of humor, wit, religious faith, amiable conflict, even poetry and philosophy.
And so, in his heartfelt soliloquy of "the undiscovered country", Granville Thorndyke (Alan Mowbray), that congenial thespian rogue who quotes Shakespeare and who seems so out of place, adds texture and soul to the script, as a precursor to violence and death. This is after all ... Tombstone.
Inspired by the real life gunfight at the OK Corral, the story is less factual than suggestive. It's not just the film's fanciful portrayal of the shootout that abets credulity. It's the setting ... Tombstone is nowhere near Monument Valley.
But this is not a textbook. It is a romanticized cinematic interpretation of a long-ago culture, using a textbook incident as a premise. The film's theme centers on the nobility of outcasts and the basic goodness and humanism of frontier people. It's a broad-brush character study of historical figures like Doc Holliday (Victor Mature), Old Man Clanton (Walter Brennan), the Clanton sons, and of course Wyatt Earp and his sons. Although one could argue that Fonda lacks the tough guy strength and roughness that we would expect for a frontier legend, the casting and the acting are overall quite good. Editing, costumes, and production design also enhance the film's credibility.
Understated and meditative in tone, "My Darling Clementine" is a different kind of Hollywood western, one that conveys a humanistic theme with emotional depth. Characters are multi-dimensional, unvarnished, and as striking and memorable as the stately buttes and spires of Monument Valley.
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