My Darling Clementing (John Ford, 1946)Adam & Sam's Take
The difficult transition between a wild, lawless world and civilized society : that theme is present in basically every western I've encountered, and there's a reason this isn't titled "Showdown at O.K. Corral" : Clementine, or rather what she represents is what's at stake here. We recognize the names Wyatt Earp and Tombstone, so we know where this is all going, but what makes this the best film of this marathon so far is how patient Ford is. He takes the time to have the town feel lived-in and for the characters to grow past their initial broad characterization.
The characters of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are key in that they are both somewhere in between the Old West and the New West. Earp is a classic old West character on the surface, in that he's a gunslinger looking for revenge, but he does so within the boundaries of the law, and he always seems intent on defusing every situation. I strongly disagree with the FS guys on Henry Fonda : I think he's very good here at straddling that line. We get the sense that he longs for a quiet life, a more civilized life. The scene where he's swinging on the chair sums this all up rather amusingly, as do the jokes about his perfume. Adam notes that he doesn't think he's being sincere at the end when he tells Clementine he'll come back : I absolutely think he means it.
Doc is a bit of a mirror image to Earp. He is obviously educated, able to finish Hamlet's "To be or not to be" tirade, but he's clearly running away from society, displeased as he is to see Clementine show up, and seemingly making plans to run away to Mexico with his prostitute (I'm guessing) girlfriend. Once again I have to disagree with the FS guys, I thought Victor Mature was great, especially in that first confrontation with Fonda in the saloon. We immediately sense the melancholy of the character, even though he's at first set up as a clear adversary of Earp.
And then we get to O.K. Corral. I love the parallel drawn between Earp and the Clantons : both are seen leaving their quarters blowing on a oil lamp. I'm probably reading too much into it, but added to the rather prominent lamps in the saloon (the place of community), it seemed to me like another sign that the shootout is a thing of the past, something that has to be done one last time but doesn't belong in this new world. The shootout itself is pretty good, relatively tense though... it's hard for me to really love these, as I can't help but compare them to those in Sergio Leone's films. Unfair, I know, but there you have it.
Now, I do have to agree with Adam & Sam with regards to the narrative problems of the film. The conflict between Earp and the Clantons is set up immediately, then forgotten until it becomes necessary to bring it up again to get to the conclusion. 8/10