John Ford's My Darling Clementine Offers A Poetic Vision of the Settling of the West
January 8, 2013
Director John Ford is regarded as America's greatest director of Western movies.
But for almost a decade, from 1938 to 1946, he made no Westerns. Instead he contributed to the war effort by filming documentaries for the U.S. Navy, and his studio films of this period - among them The Grapes of Wrath, How Green Was My Valley, The Long Voyage Home, and They Were Expendable - all were set in modern times.
So in 1946 when he decided to return to Westerns, he chose a classic story to tell: The infamous shootout at the O.K. Corral.
Ford recreates that incident in My Darling Clementine, screening on Sunday, January 13, 2013, at 1:30 p.m. at the Plaza Branch, 4801 Main St., as part of the Movies That Matter film series.
Introductory and closing remarks are provided by Robert W. Butler, for more than 40 years film critic of The Kansas City Star and now a member of the Library's public affairs staff.
Ford's best Westerns were about more than gunplay and horses. He used cowboy clichés to explore big themes.
On its surface, Clementine is familiar enough, being the story of Wyatt Earp.
But in Ford's hands it becomes a meditation on the westward surge of American civilization, on the stabilizing effects of church and school and law.
Here the famous lawman (Henry Fonda) comes to rough and tumble Tombstone, Arizona, to create order out of the chaos of frontier society. He's opposed by the primitive Clantons (led by Walter Brennan at his scuzzy best) and finds an unlikely ally in the killer Doc Holliday (Victor Mature), who has fled the refinements of the East to indulge his self-destructive proclivities.
My Darling Clementine isn't just a Western. It's poetry on horseback.
Admission is free. RSVP at kclibrary.org or call 816.701.3407.
Other titles in the series:
January 27: Bringing Up Baby (1938)
February 10: All About Eve (1950)
February 25: Dr. Strangelove (1964)
March 10: The Circus (1928)
March 24: Rear Window (1954)
April 7: Wings of Desire (1987)
April 21: Singin' in the Rain (1952)
May 5: Sunset Boulevard (1950)
May 19: Metropolis (1927)