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Original vs. edited classic film versions: My Darling Clementine


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I just watched a pre-release version of the classic movie "My Darling Clementine" (1946) starring Henry Fonda, Linda Darnell and Victor Mature and directed by John Ford.  A commentary after the film explained and showed the differences between John Ford's original cut and the final version after many changes dictated by Darryl F. Zanuck.  First of all, the film is magnificent with beautiful black and white photography showing the sky and vistas with rock formations.  Characters are often silhouetted dramatically.  It's not just an action-type western but also a tender love story with really interesting characters.  In the original version, the score was simpler and included natural sounds or maybe a soft "My Darling Clementine" tune playing in the distance.   Lots of Hollywood-type orchestral music was added by Zanuck.  Zanuck took out some scenes and dialogue that help you understand the relationship between Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp as well as well as Chihuahua.  The original version (before Zanuck's cutting and changing) - at least for me - is so much better.  Somehow, it's more engaging and has more mood and atmosphere.  So glad it was restored and I had a chance to see it.

I would be interested to know of other films that were changed in there final versions and how this effected the quality of the films.

image.jpeg.b17e0076905c5a1d10214c6e5b5605ac.jpeg   Can't Explain: My Darling Clementine (1946)   My Darling Clementine / The Dissolve

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Famously Sergio Leone's Once Upon A Time In The West (1969)

Nice article with images here Once Is Not Enough Leones Railroaded Masterpiece

Also Leones Once Upon A Time In America (1984)

How 85 Minutes Disappeared, Once Upon a Time
Alex Abramovich

New York Times. June 8, 2003

''ONCE Upon a Time in America'' is the kind of movie where the telephone is allowed to ring 24
times and characters take 63 seconds to stir a cup of coffee. Which is also to say that it's a Sergio
Leone movie -- ambitious, operatic and, some would say, interminable. In fact, at 229 minutes, the
film is 49 minutes longer than Leone's 1966 masterpiece, ''The Good, the Bad and the Ugly''
(which is showing at Film Forum in a restored, three-hour cut).

Like Leone's spaghetti westerns, ''Once Upon a Time in America'' (1984) is something of an
international echo chamber -- an Italian film about Jewish gangsters, mostly set on New York's
Lower East Side and filmed in Miami, Montreal, Paris, Venice, Rome and Williamsburg,
Brooklyn. (Asked why he cast so many Italians in a movie about Jews, Leone is said to have
replied, ''Jews, Italians, there is no difference.'') But Leone's fascination with American archetypes
came back to haunt him as the work -- arguably his finest -- fell victim to the oldest of Hollywood
cliches, and the director lost control over his own film.

Nineteen years after the theatrical release, a butchered, 144-minute cut of ''Once Upon a Time in
America'' still crops up on late-night television; it's the only version many Americans have ever
seen. This makes a loving restoration of Leone's cut all the more desirable, and while the DVD
that comes out on Tuesday isn't exactly packed with extras, the quality of the transfer (which took
more than a year to produce) is everything Leone fans could hope for (Warner Home Video; two
discs, $26.99).

Despite its length (or, perhaps, because of it), Leone's cut demanded, and rewarded, repeated
viewings: it was his most carefully made and densely textured film. It moved gracefully between
three time periods (1922, 1933 and 1968) and built toward a flurry of last-minute revelations.
Interviewed by telephone from Los Angeles, James Woods, who stars in the film alongside
Robert De Niro, said: ''It was actually a movie. Not a merchandising opportunity. It was like doing
'Lawrence of Arabia.' A huge movie. Impossible to explain how big it was.''

Big enough for Gerard Depardieu to offer to learn English to play the role eventually given to Mr.
Woods, and (according to Christopher Frayling's excellent biography, ''Sergio Leone: Something
to Do With Death'') for Norman Mailer to lock himself in a Rome hotel room for three weeks,
consume several bottles of whiskey and emerge with an early, unusable stab at a screenplay.
Leone spent 16 years making the film, passing up an invitation to direct ''The Godfather.'' The
project took a tremendous toll on his health. And yet, at first, the effort seemed justified.

Mr. Woods said that when ''Once Upon a Time in America'' was shown at the 1984 Cannes Film
Festival, it received a 10-minute standing ovation. But the first American screening, which took
place in Boston on a cold winter's night, was a disaster. The producer, Arnon Milchan, recalls that
the audience waited, in the snow, for over an hour. Five minutes into the screening, the projector
broke. More than 100 people did not return from the intermission. That night, Leone's North
American distributor canceled a second screening, invoked a clause in the director's contract and
had the film re-edited. ''The Ladd Company panicked,'' Mr. Milchan said by telephone from Paris.
''They changed the movie to a linear story, and cut an hour and a half. The movie that was released
in the United States had nothing to do with the movie we made.''

The problem wasn't merely that ''Once Upon a Time in America'' had been shortened. Forced into
the chronological narrative Leone had consciously avoided, the film made very little sense.
Characters appeared out of nowhere, and disappeared at random. Clues to the film's carefully
constructed mystery went missing; plot lines floated in and out of focus. Bursts of violence went
unexplained, and ambiguities were smoothed over. Even the ending was changed. ''I was too
young to know how to defend it,'' Mr. Milchan said.

Mr. Woods said: ''I watched about 20 minutes of it and walked out. It was just too heartbreaking.
I mean, they even cut in the middle of a measure of music! I could not believe it. It's funny how
this business works: you can be so on top of the world, or so behind the eight ball. But this was
like being at the finish line in the Olympics, and tripping over your own feet. All they had to do is
take it and put it in the theaters, and the rest was going to be history. Release it in one theater,
uncut, and see what happens! It could not have been worse than what they did.''

The film, which cost more than $30 million to make, grossed just $2.5 million during its theatrical
release. Vincent Canby's review in The New York Times suggested that it had ''been edited with a
roulette wheel.'' Pauline Kael wrote in The New Yorker, ''I don't believe I've ever seen a worse case
of mutilation.''

Mr. Woods said: ''They dumped it on the market. It died in a day.'' He added, ''It was like
watching somebody cut the arms and legs off your child.''

Leone died of a heart attack at 67, at home in Rome in 1989 (while watching a 1958 Susan
Hayward film called ''I Want to Live!''). After ''Once Upon a Time,'' he never made another movie.
''It killed him,'' Mr. Woods says. ''I don't think he ever recovered. It just decimated him. It was a
terrible, terrible, crushing defeat.''

The DVD is a posthumous victory. Transferred directly from the original negatives, it has a depth
and clarity missing from the VHS version currently available. Ennio Morricone's score is remixed
in stereo -- it's practically a character unto itself -- and Richard Schickel, who reviews movies for
Time magazine, provides the obligatory commentary. A very slight caveat: the intermission comes
not between the discs, where it belongs, but during the second disc.

The extras aren't much to speak of: a trailer, a filmography and a handful of still photographs
from the set. Also included is a 20-minute segment of an hourlong documentary made for British
television in 1999, ''Once Upon a Time: Sergio Leone,'' which features some of the film's cast, a
few of its many screenwriters and members of Mr. Leone's family. The interviews are wonderful,
but it would have been nice to see the entire documentary.

That said, the reissue goes a long way toward rewriting a dark chapter in the history of 80's
cinema. A theatrical release would go even further -- more than most films, ''Once Upon a Time''
deserves to be seen on the big screen. But even a small one can't quite disguise the grandeur of
Leone's achievement, or diminish the pleasures it affords.

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I reckon there's a fat lot of movies that were shortened or changed or, in some cases, hacked to bits for one reason or another.   

→ Hard to keep track of them all;  there's so many films that were intended to run longer before Pre-Release Cuts took hold!  Like THE WAY WE WERE (1973).   I recall there's a pre-release version of THE BIG SLEEP (1945/46) before it was re-tooled a bit. 

ROADSHOW VERSIONS versus GENERAL RELEASE VERSIONS such as "It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World".  (There's 3 versions of "It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World" extant at this point). 

I think RAINTREE COUNTY (1957) had a Roadshow Version and a shorter 'General Release' version, too.  → And that Billy Wilder movie about Sherlock Holmes from 1970 whose title escapes me was meant to be a much longer film.  And SPARTACUS (1960) has at least 2 versions.  I'm pretty sure RYAN'S DAUGHTER (1970), the David Lean film, had cuts made because it was really l-o-n-g.  Same with LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (1962) and the '69 rock doc WOODSTOCK.   THE SAND PEBBLES (1966) definitely had a longer Roadshow version running 196m.  before being edited to 182m. for its 'General Release'.   

WOLFEN (1981) was supposed to run 145 minutes instead of 115 minutes.  When you see credits for actors you didn't see in the movie over the closing of the film you know there were sli/ces made prior to release.  

WUSA (1970) was supposed to be longer than  115m., too.  But there were c/u/t/s!  

THE CHEAP DETECTIVE (1978) obviously had some very late cuts made to it.   Carole Wells is billed as the "Hat Check Girl".  She does not appear in the movie.  Phil Silvers as 'Hoppy' has 1 line.  Look at all the actor credits over the closing scroll and you'll wonder who those people were because they are not seen in the movie.  

HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971) was cut shortly before release -- note Cyril Cusack as 'Glaucus' has about 10 seconds of screen time.   Cyril gets a billing in the opening credits . . . but he ain't really in the movie! 

OH GOD! (1977)  Donald Pleasence was mostly cut out of "Oh, God!" because, apparently, his scenes with John Denver were judged not to work very well just prior to release.  Or something.  But Donald is only seen briefly despite his prominent billing.  

THE VICTORS (1963) had some cuts made after its premiere if I've read correctly.  Some 15 minutes or so was chop/ped out.

PAT GARRETT AND BILLY THE KID (1973) has 3 versions extant that I know of.

→ One movie that was hacked to bits at some point was the 1979 box-office bomb GOOD LUCK, MISS WYCKOFF.  I've seen the original version and it ran some 105 minutes; the chopped-up version released to video under the title THE SHAMING ran 81 minutes (the Karl-Lorimar Video box said 90 minutes, but I timed it).   Rather large hunks of plot bit the dust! 

The early '70s Presidential comedy HAIL is listed at 85 minutes, except the version released on Monterey Home Video runs 76 minutes.  I timed it.  There's a still on the back of the video box depicting a scene not in the movie because Joseph Sirola's part was cut down to almost nothing . . . yet he's billed 4th over the opening credits.  He's barely in the version of the movie released by 'Monterey', tho!  I guess Joe was *expendable*!  So he's 90% gone.  But who cut what and when?  Who knows . . . ?

We know the censors disapproved of a few minutes of footage for A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE that was restored back to the film decades later.  THE STRANGE ONE (1957) and GOD'S LITTLE ACRE (1958) had censored material restored decades later.  So did CARRIE (1952). 

An earlier version screened of THE BEAST WITHIN (1982) had more gore -and- character development in regards to Paul Clemens' character.  I couldn't help but notice there's 3 editors credited for "The Beast Within".   "Additional editing" by David Garfield it says over the closing despite there already being 2 editors credited (Robert Brown and Bert Lovitt).   CHOP CHOP!

EVILSPEAK (1981) was shorn of gore prior to release because the MPAA was displeased with the ♥ heart-ripping scene among other things -BUT- there were also non-gore scenes cut out just prior to its U.S. theatrical release -- which is why you see a credit for "LEONARD D'JOHN" over the closing credit sequence . . . but he's not in the movie.  He plays the 'pig keeper' who talks with Clint Howard.  I've seen the 'restored version' of EVILSPEAK where you do see him having a chat with Clint Howard. 

To say nothing of the myriad versions extant of STAR WARS and BLADE RUNNER . . .

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The following was originally envisioned as a three hour animated epic, but after the many many cuts made to it by (surprisingly uncredited) editor Marv Newland just prior to its formal release, the end result would be...

 

 

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I just remembered I have the DVD of My Darling Clementine. It's not a new release, but it says it has the "Alternate Pre-Release Version of Movie," as well as other extras, including a behind the scenes featurette about the alternate version.

 

 

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If anyone reading this enjoys the 1989 movie SEA OF LOVE there's an alternate pre-release version of it extant.  It restores Lorraine Bracco's part -- she gets here opening scene credit back in this version, btw. -- along with an extra scene with William Hickey as 'Frank Sr.' and another scene featuring Al Pacino's 'mid-life' crisis paranoia.  I rather like this pre-release version over the 'regular' theatrical version.  It's nice to have a ♦choice♦ which version you prefer.  :)

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