My Darling Clementine (1946)

my darling clementine poster 1946 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting : 9/10
Visuals: 10/10

Good looking movie


Movie Info

Movie Name: My Darling Clementine

Studio: 20th Century Fox

Genre(s): Western/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): October 16, 1946

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

my darling clementine victor mature henry fonda doc holiday wyatt earp

Fake fun history

Wyatt Earp (Henry Fonda), Morgan Earp (Ward Bond), Virgil Earp (Tim Holt), and James Earp (Don Garner) pass by the town of Tombstone on a cattle drive to California, they find themselves seeking justice when James is killed, and the cattle is stolen.  Wyatt finds himself butting heads with the local gambler Doc Holliday (Victor Mature) who has his own problems when his former girlfriend Clementine (Cathy Downs) comes looking for him while his current girlfriend Chihuahua (Linda Darnell) isn’t happy.  Someone in Tombstone murdered the Earps’ brother…and they are going to pay for their crime.

Directed by John Ford, My Darling Clementine is a Western romance action film.  The film adapts Stuart N. Lake’s 1931 novel Wyatt Earp:  Frontier Marshal and frequently is selected for Best Of lists.  The film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in 1991.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #732).

To call My Darling Clementine a historical film isn’t accurate whatsoever.  Just to start the movie the movie is inaccurate in that the film takes place in 1882…and the fight at the O.K. Corral was in 1881.  The movie is a work of fiction and has to be enjoyed as fiction instead of a real account of history.  As a fiction story, My Darling Clementine is a good romp.

my darling clementine chihuahua linda darnell cathy downs

If looks could kill…

While the story is inaccurate, it is compelling.  You have the standoff-ish Wyatt Earp feel obligated to take the job of marshal to avenge his brother.  The uneasy alliance between Earp and Holliday that leads to respect and friendship (Holliday and Earp actually knew each other before Tombstone).  You get action and violence, but you also have a strange love triangle or even a square with Earp’s love of Holliday’s former lover and Chihuahua’s resentment of Earp and dislike of Clementine.  Often romances in Westerns feel tacked on, but here, it feels ingrained into the plot.

The cast is also strong.  Henry Fonda works well with Ford, and Ford seems to always get good performances from him. Victor Mature is often hit or miss, but he does work here (although in another historic inaccuracy Holliday didn’t die at the O.K. Corral).  Cathy Downs is ok, but has the harder role as the “good girl” to Linda Darnell’s more vibrant Chihuahua.  I like the villainous father of the Cowboys played by Walter Brennan (who actually died before the gunfight at the O.K. Corral), and I also enjoy the Shakespeare sequence of the story with Alan Mowbray playing the travelling actor.

my darling clementine showdown at ok corral

Looks like we have what some might call a “showdown here at the OK Corral

Visually the movie is quite stunning, but like the story, it isn’t very accurate.  The real Tombstone is in the southeast corner of Arizona and Ford decided to shoot it in the much more scenic Monument Valley.  As a result, the movie has that classic western feel that you always imagine the old Southwest to have…but probably not as faithful to the area of Tombstone.

My Darling Clementine is a classic Western, and Westerns are often divisive.  I have to really gear up for a Western, but I do have a number of Westerns I do enjoy.  My Darling Clementine is one of the better Westerns that has a bit more broad appeal.  The book and the movie which it was based on are actually credited for helping making the “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” more of a known event (the 1957 movie The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral is generally cited as giving it that actual name).  Both Gunfight and My Darling Clementine are films that give history texture…even if the history aspect is a little light.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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