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Robert Osborn goofed on "My Darling Clementine" 1946


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One doesn't often hear Robert Osborn say something goofy about a TCM movie but he was way off with his comments about "My Darling Clementine" in two ways. First, he said that this movie was John Ford's last movie under contract with FOX and then gave the impression that it was something special. True, it was the last with FOX but there was nothing special about this clunker. Clearly it was a case of John Ford phoning it in just to satisfy the contract. Everything about it was wrong from the casting to the scenery to the plot to complete abandonment of any reference to historical fact. Even the name of the movie was goofy as it referred to a minor fictional character and not to the Wyatt Earp story or even the fight at the OK Corral. The only semi-believable part of the show came from Henry Fonda's professional approach to his acting in spite of it all. Ford was noted for changing whatever part of history that got in the way of telling a good story but this waste of film didn't bother to even have a good story.


Okay ... that didn't bother me too much. Those things happen. Not every movie, even an old one, is perfect. What got me was Robert Osborn's complete disconnect with reality in his closing comments after the show was finished playing. He said that the OK Corral scene was the most accurate ever shown on screen because Earp had told Ford all about it when they met in person in Los Angeles in the 1930s.


All I can say is that both Earp and Ford must have been dead drunk at that meeting in the 1930s because what was on screen bore no resemblence whatsoever to the actual historical fight. Just as an example, the movie has Doc Holliday being shot and dying at the corral. Holiday actually died in a hospital bed many years later from his affliction and was never shot at the OK Corral at all! The list of descrepancies is so extensive the the only thing the same between the film fight and the historical fight is the name of the place.

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TCM showed the Zanuck approved version of " My Darling Clementine ", it would have been better if they had shown Ford's pre - release version, which is the better of the two IMHO, and available on the Ford at Fox set, or in the Clementine DVD alone.


This is perhaps Ford's most poetic Western and the casting, IMHO, was flawless.

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My opinion of MDC is that it is lyrical from start to finish. Ford lets us know that

his purpose right from the TITLE on is to tell a story, not teach history. It isn't about

the life and times of Wyatt Earp or the Gunfight at the OK Corral---it's about the

civilizing of the west. It is storytelling. I might go on to say that anyone looking

for history lessons in movies may frequently be disappointed, just as those watching

documentaries of the same subjects may be bored silly.


One reads poetry for one reason, and a research paper for something else.

MDC is poetry. And not everyone has to like it. :)


And I guess Ford had an uncanny knack of "phoning in" masterpieces while

the rest struggled to create entertainment (Gunfight at the OK Corral).



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I'm at a loss as to how anyone could think Ford was phoning this one in. My Darling Clementine is Ford, perhaps, at his most lyrical.


The cinematography in this film is just wonderful and it is easily one of the best shot films of all time. The sparse landscape with the sun filtering through, the use of light and shadow to help tell the story, the acting by Fonda and Mature are all worth noting.


While the historical facts may not be accurate (this is, of course, directed by the man who often challenged us to think about myth vs fact), that cannot be laid entirely at Ford's feet. He did not write the script.


Plus as noted by MissG, it is the not the story of Earp or Holliday or the OK Corral gunfight. It is the story of men, family and a society on the edge of the frontier and the choices those that live there make and the consequences of those decisions.


From the beginning, Ford is telling you it is not a historical drama as the film was shot in Monument Valley and Tombstone is not on the edge of Monument Valley and, in fact, no where near Monument Valley.


As for the commentary by Robert O at the end, as has been noted here before, the researchers who either write his copy or supply him with the facts sometimes do a slipshod job and get the info wrong.


But that does not take away from the beauty and the lyricism that is My Darling Clementine.

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If one is to look at John Ford's career, you'd have to say that after the horrors that the man had witnessed during WWII, his mid to late 1940's to mid to late 1950's films were much darker, the wilderness that much closer to the camera.


Ford made wonderful documentary films on Pearl Harbor and Midway. He parachuted into Burma. Ford was at Omaha Beach on D-Day. As head of the photographic unit for the Office of Strategic Services, he crossed the English Channel aboard an American destroyer. He observed the first wave land on the beach from the ship, landing on the beach himself later with a team of cameramen who filmed the battle from behind the beach obstacles, with Ford directing operations.


In other words he saw an awful lot of action, much more than many. So when he got back to making films, I think his films were much darker. Look at the sacrifice of the men in They Were Expendable, his first film after WWII. Then we move on to the allegory of Clementine. Earp is shown as a man who wants no help, needs no help, but in the end is joined by others, especially Doc Holiday, another outcast who only wants to protect that which he values most, his aloneness, his privacy, the way any man (Ford) would after seeing what they had seen during the most horrible war this planet had ever seen. And of course, we have that other major character starting again to show itself: Monument Valley, so alone, aloof, a vast wilderness.


Clementine is not so much based on fact but it is a story, plain and simple. If you want the truth about any story, the movies are NOT where you need to go. Movies are entertainment. Sometimes, movies incorporate factual circumstances, but most of the time someone

is making it all up.


Ford did not merely show up and phone it in. The story is richly told with a perspective that isn't rarely shown today. An emphasis on character development and story telling. Masterful use of outdoor photography. Great heroes and some really great villains.


So, I think one needs to look at Ford's films right after the war and think again how the master treated his films within a framework of how he felt not only about himself but how he felt about the world. The world that almost destroyed itself.

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I'm a fan of this one too. Breath-taking cinematography. Profound acting. Wonderful small moments. Bless Senta for citing the two best scenes. The recitation of Shakespeare, and the dance at the still under construction church. Moments of soft sensitivity in a violent framework.


The original post is well articulated. If you want history, it's not for you. And I suspect the name of the love interest, and the movie, is the result of someone's fondness for the song. A different title might have better served this outstanding western.



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